Amanda Flower is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning author of over thirty-five mystery novels. Her novels have received starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Romantic Times, and she had been featured in USA Today, First for Women, and Woman’s World. She currently writes for Penguin-Random House (Berkley), Kensington, Hallmark Publishing, Crooked Lane Books, and Sourcebooks. In addition to being a writer, she was a librarian for fifteen years. Today, Flower and her husband own a farm and recording studio, and they live in Northeast Ohio with their two adorable cats.
Q How did you get the idea for the story?
Amanda: I wanted to write a novel set around Thanksgiving. I never had written that holiday in a story before. The story begins with Thanksgiving, a holiday the Amish and English could celebrate in a community dinner. I also wanted to focus on the character Margot because she is in both series I write for. She is always getting someone to do something they do not want to do. I explained in this book how she became the person she is today including her backstory.
Q Could you tell us more about Buckeyes candy?
Amanda: In the fall they are a very popular candy, especially around football season. Buckeyes are a confection made from a peanut butter fudge partially dipped in chocolate to leave a circle of peanut butter visible. Buckeyes are like peanut butter balls. Originally named after the state tree of Ohio. This is where the college team got its name.
Q How would you describe Margot’ mother, Zara?
Amanda: Very driven and accomplished. She was a judge when not a lot of women were judges. In fact, it is still rare in rural Ohio. She is not afraid to step on other people to get what she wants. She is used to getting her way. She enjoys power which included the Amish coming to court in front of her. She liked to create fear in them. Zara is a perfectionist who could be harsh, obsessive, blunt, and not kind, yet elegant.
Q What about the relationship between Margot and her mom, Zara?
Amanda: She was a tough mom on Margot. She saw Margot as the antithesis of what she did since Margot got married and had children. Basically, Margot has led a simple life in Amish country. Zara has viewed Margot as regressing.
Q You had Charlotte leaving the Amish. Can you say more?
Amanda: By and large people born Amish stay Amish, approximately 70%. But people do leave so I wanted to include that in my stories. She was the best candidate since she is with Bailey all the time and idolizes her. Charlotte considers Bailey like a big sister. Because she is so curious, she felt stifled by being Amish. In the second book she left the Conservative Amish community and joined Bailey’s grandmother’s parish, but now has left that as well.
Q In this book you point out that the Amish are human beings who have their faults. Would you agree?
Amanda: Yes. Women cannot hold leadership positions, only one man (the bishop) can make decisions for the whole community. They can choose to leave but at what cost since they will be shunned or looked down upon. There will always be tension. Also, even though they are pacifists and are non-violent, they are people who can have the full range of emotions. Some of them do have anger and are violent. Either it does not happen very often, or we do not hear about it happening because Amish are a closed community. In my previous “Matchmaker book,” Marriage Can Be Mischief, there was spousal abuse. They are basically a community of people.
Q What’s your next book?
Amanda: The next book comes out December 27, an Amish “Matchmaker Book,” Honeymoons Can Be Hazardous. Lois and Millie are the amateur detective team that are solving a murder. Lois’ last ex-husband, Gerome, comes to Amish country with a new wife who will be murdered. Lois is a suspect and it is set during Valentine’s Day. The next Bailey book is Blueberry Blunder and is out this time next year. Bailey is building her candy factory. She fired a shady contractor, and he is found dead. Bailey is the main suspect. Charlotte’s family will be involved. Readers will see the repercussions of her leaving, especially with her parents.
Peanut Butter Panic by Amanda Flower brings to life the wonderful characters she has created. This story opens during the Thanksgiving holiday, but it seems that some are not going to be very thankful. The main character is having boyfriend issues, and someone dies during the festivities.
Those working at Swissmen Sweets, the main character Bailey, her Amish grandmother Clara, and their cousin Charlotte, are front and center in the plot. But also, is the secondary character Margot Rawlings. Margot is the community organizer and this year she has decided to put on a community Thanksgiving dinner between the Amish and the English. But the bossy Margot is thrown a curve ball when her mother Zara decides to attend. Zara is considered a harsh critic of the Amish community. She was the first woman judge in Holmes County and has made her feelings about the Amish well-known. Being rude, outspoken, and always showing disappointment in Margot she is not only an overbearing mother, but also someone who unfairly sentenced the Amish.
After picking her up at the airport, Margot gets a surprise when she is accompanied by her much younger boyfriend Blaze Smith who will soon become Zara’s fiancé. Unfortunately, after the announcement at the dinner, Blaze suffers an allergic reaction to peanuts and dies on the spot.
As Bailey puts on her amateur sleuth hat, she must also deal with her long-distance boyfriend Aiden. He now works for the Ohio Bureau of Investigation and was sent to help in the murder inquiry. They are struggling to make time for each other and to see where the relationship is going.
This is a solid whodunit with a great mystery. The plot twists will keep the reader guessing. Besides the suspense this cozy story will also put a smile on people’s faces with the humor, secondary characters, and of course the pets.