I’m so happy Vicki Fee could join us today to talk about her new series! Here’s a bit about My Fair Latte:
Broke, unemployed barista Halley Greer is shocked when she inherits an Art Deco movie palace from her great uncle, whom she met once when she was eight. She moves from Nashville to the charming tourist town of Utopia Springs, Arkansas to claim her legacy. In addition to the timeworn theater, she discovers she’s also inherited a trash-heaped apartment, family secrets, her uncle’s friends, a stealthy calico kitty—and an adversary.
With a whole latté help from her new friends, the feisty barista fixes up and re-opens the theater as a coffee and wine bar, showing classic films. She generates some steam with a hunky local—and risks getting burned. The opening night screening of My Fair Lady is a big hit, and her new life feels like a bit of movie magic, until a customer turns up dead during intermission. With the cops eyeing her as a suspect, Halley digs into the victim’s life and runs into a tangle of blackmail and secrets to unravel, much like a mystery in her friend’s escape rooms business. The theater and her budding romance could both be D.O.A. unless Halley can find a killer—before the curtain comes down for keeps.
Settings play an important role in cozy mysteries. My new Café Cinema series is set in Utopia Springs, Arkansas, a small, charming town in the South, but a very different kind of town from Dixie, Tennessee in my Liv & Di series.
Utopia Springs was inspired by Eureka Springs – a very real tourist town in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains, where my husband and I have vacationed a few times. So while Utopia Springs, like its inspiration has a half-million visitors a year, the full-time population is only a couple thousand people, with a small, close-knit business community.
Catering to tourists allows Utopia Springs to feature many more and varied kinds of businesses than a typical small town, including the movie theater my protagonist Halley unexpectedly inherits and reopens with a coffee/wine bar, showing classic films. It also includes, Hidden Clue Escape Rooms, across the street from the theater, owned and operated by Halley’s new bestie, Kendra. Add to that, Utopia Springs boasts an art gallery owned by the best friends of Halley’s late uncle’s, George and Trudy.
The town in the series also has several other art galleries, a wide variety of eateries, a handmade candles and soaps shop, and a scenic railroad (which we’ll take a ride on in the next book). You wouldn’t typically find all these kinds of businesses in a small town unless its economy is driven by tourism.
One touristy business might be a novelty photography studio. The photo of my husband and me (shown here) many years ago as the sheriff and a dance hall girl was taken in Eureka Springs on an anniversary trip. It’s the sort of photo people might have taken on vacation in a tourist town that they wouldn’t typically take at home. I’m speaking just for us, of course. Hubs and I don’t normally dress up in Wild West costumes, but what other people do in the privacy of their own homes is their business – no judgment here.
I decided to fictionalize the town so I have the freedom change details to suit the stories. My inspiration town of Eureka Springs has more than 100 bed and breakfasts (many of them old Victorians), along with some lovely hotels, including the historic and purportedly haunted Crescent Hotel. The real town has a charming, quirky vibe and I hope I’ve captured a bit of that in my fictional version.
I’ve enjoyed my visits there, and I’d encourage you to visit Eureka Springs if you have the chance. I’m also enjoying writing about Utopia Springs, and hope you’ll pay a visit to Halley and her friends at the Star Movie Palace and Café Cinema.
Is there a place you’ve vacationed or lived that you thought was a perfect setting for a cozy mystery? Please share in the comments.
Bio: A decade ago, author Vickie Fee moved from Memphis on the banks of the muddy Mississippi River to Marquette on the shores of chilly Lake Superior, taking her accent, her sense of humor, and her recipe for Jack Daniels whiskey balls with her. She pens cozy mysteries with fun, feisty heroines. My Fair Latte is the first book in her new Café Cinema series. When she’s not dawdling on social media and swilling coffee, you can find her at www.vickiefee.com and in the coop at www.chicksonthecase.com.