But strange things are happening on the show’s set: accusations of sabotage, a black cat that shadows Poppy, suspiciously unsociable residents at Broomewode Hall—and the judges can be real witches.
There are murmurs that Broomewode is an energy vortex. It certainly makes Poppy see and do things that aren’t exactly normal, and seems to draw interesting characters to the neighborhood.
When a fellow contestant dies in mysterious circumstances, Poppy has more to worry about than burned pies and cakes that won’t rise. There’s a murderer on the loose and it’s up to Poppy and her new friends to solve the crime before it becomes a real show-stopper.
From USA Today Bestselling Author Nancy Warren, this delicious series of cozy paranormal mysteries will have you guessing until the end. Includes recipes.
As life-changing moments go, getting the call that I’d been chosen to compete in The Great British Baking Contest was right up there. I’d practiced, auditioned and practiced some more. I was a decent home baker, but was I really the best in Britain? Probably not. But I didn’t have to be.
The contest was my way of getting into Broomewode Hall, where the show was filmed. I had my own reasons for going there that had nothing to do with baking.
Still, it hadn’t been easy to be chosen. There were thousands of applicants every year and then an excruciating selection process, where the show’s producers chose twelve from the short list and made us bake on camera. Some people went to pieces; some were just really boring. They randomly selected bakers off the short list and tried out different combinations of personalities, a bit like baking, really, seeing which ingredients created the most interesting results. I quickly learned that the trick was to be a good character, try to be funny, be a good sport, pretend you didn’t notice that cameras were on you and a clock was ticking down the minutes, and still turn out a decent jam tart.
Easy peasy! Not.
One of the reasons they chose me for the show, I think, was that while I was British, I’d grown up in the States, which was kind of fun, as the show had become a huge hit in America. I’d also started life in a bakery. Or, more accurately, in a cardboard box outside a bakery in Norton St. Philip, a charming village near Bath in Somerset.
I like to think my mother, whoever she was, chose the bakery so she knew I’d be warm and, since bakers start work so early, I’d be found. And I was. When Gareth Philpott came to work that morning, he said he looked into the box and found me wide-awake, staring up at him. Not crying, not fussing, just staring as though I’d expected him. They named me Poppy. The Philpotts would have kept me if they could have. They’re a nice family, but they already had three children, and the authorities don’t just give a family a baby because they happened to stumble across one. First they tried to find my mother or any information at all about my origins. When that proved impossible, I was adopted by Agatha and Leland Wilson, and they became my parents.
They were both teachers. They’d tried for years to have their own children, and their delight in getting me was reflected in the way they pretty much turned their lives around to give me the best upbringing they could. They were loving parents, kind and patient. Strict when they had to be. We lived in Bath for the first eight years of my life, and then my dad was offered a teaching job in Seattle.
I grew up there, mostly, lost the British accent, became a typical American teenager, and then when I finished high school, my folks retired and moved back to the UK. I could have stayed in Seattle. I had friends, and I could’ve gone to college there, but I chose to come back to England. I think, deep down, it’s always felt like home. Besides, like a lot of adopted kids, the mystery of my beginnings haunts me.
Soon after returning to England, my folks moved to the south of France to bask in warmer weather, grow lavender and cook gourmet meals. My dad, who taught history, was writing a book. My mom was learning French.
They’d saved up a nice chunk of change for me to go to college but, in spite of having teachers as parents, I never felt the urge. I was always more artistic than intellectual, so I went to an art and design college for two years, and they let me use the rest of the money toward buying a tiny cottage in Norton St. Philip. It’s probably crazy, and nobody even thinks my mother was from there, but I started my life in that village and so it pulled me back. The Philpotts still ran the bakery and were my second family. I guess you’ll always have a bond with the person who picked you up off the street as a newborn. Besides, growing up as an only child, I was fascinated by their sprawling, noisy family.
I became a freelance graphic designer, which allowed me to work from home.
Gina Philpott was my age and my best friend. She was also the only one who knew why I really wanted to get on that show.
It went all the way back to when I was just a baby in that cardboard box. I’d been wrapped in a curious blanket.
I saw my baby blanket one day when I was watching The Great British Baking Contest. They always filmed at Broomewode Hall, a Georgian manor house that wasn’t open to the public. Broomewode Hall was the seat of the Earl of Frome, Robert Champney and his family. During one of the behind-the-scenes segments on the show, Lady Frome, showed them around her home.
As the camera panned around the great dining hall I was instantly transfixed by a woman in an oil painting who seemed to be wearing my baby blanket! I saw now that, in fact, it was a shawl. But the pattern was the same. I was certain of it.
And from that very moment, I began my quest to find out more about Broomewode Hall. Lord and Lady Frome guarded their privacy tenaciously, and it was impossible to get access to them and their family home. Besides, what would I say? “I think one of your ancestors once wore my baby blanket? The best way I could think of to spend time there was to qualify as a baker on The Great British Baking Contest.
I’d done it. Against incredible odds, I’d been chosen as one of twelve bakers. It was one step toward finding how who I really was. All I had to do now was figure out how to get the rest of the way.
Excerpt from The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren. Copyright 2019 by Nancy Warren. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Warren. All rights reserved.
Nancy Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of more than seventy novels, including the best selling Vampire Knitting Club series and the Toni Diamond mysteries. She’s from Vancouver, though she tends to wander. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, appeared on the front page of the New York Times when her book Speed Dating launched the Harlequin/Nascar series. She was also the answer to a clue in a crossword puzzle in Canada’s National Post newspaper.