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Deb Poverly helps Annette overcome grief by forming the Sugar Mamas. After Annette's husband dies, Deb helps her cope with her grief all while opening her Sweet Suite Bakery.

Main Tropes

  • Widow looking for purpose
  • Grief and loss of loved one
  • Friends for life
  • friends helping friends


Annette and her husband are planning the vacation of a lifetime to celebrate their marriage. But when Annette comes home from work to an unexpected surprise, her life is changed for forever.

Disappointed in love forty years ago, Deb starts her own bakery to using her life savings. She drops everything to help her friend overcome grief and loss by starting the Sugar Mamas, a group of women of a certain age who wear tiaras and gowns to every community event.

Intro to Chapter 1

Ten years before The White Christmas Lie

Debbie Poverly used the last of her life savings to buy the oldest bakery on Main Street in Sugar Creek—the one that had been there nearly since the founding of their town with old glass cases still from the sixties and black and white tile floor. Once the title company handed her the keys, she opened the back door and inspected the industrial kitchen. She ran a finger across the dusty stainless steel center island. The whole prep area needed a remodel—missing white subway tiles, broken cabinets, and a sink that needed more than a shine were just a few of the items needing repair. A sweep of emotion raked her chest. What had she done? Was starting a business at fifty-eight a colossal mistake? But considering her meager income from a small pension from working the last twenty or so years at the bank, and without a husband to take care of her, she decided to take her retirement into her own hands.
She pushed open the squeaky two-way doors to the main lobby. The front dining area needed as much work as the back. The glass case needed to be updated, as well as the tables and chairs. The black and white floor tiles were serviceable until she could afford an upgrade, but the walls needed a fresh coat of paint. The light fixtures were good at least. A bug pinged into the single florescent light above the ancient cash desk.
But Deb imagined hosting all sorts of fun activities in the lobby filled with painted metal ice cream tables she would buy for the space. She could install shiplap around the walls, paint the top of the walls a light sage green. After a good power washing, the huge glass windows would invite anyone in. She could almost smell her mom’s recipes baking in the kitchen.
If she hadn’t won two Best of Show ribbons in the county fair for her cranberry orange scones and orange gingerbread cookies, she probably never even considered opening her own shop. But angelic Annette convinced her she could weather the risk.
Knocking on the glass doors startled Deb. She turned.
Speaking of angels, Annette, with hands cupped, peering in the dusty windows, stood outside and waved.
Deb crossed the room, unlocked and opened the door.
“You did it!” Annette clapped her hands and covered her mouth. Although a few years younger than Deb, she kept her hair chin-length and dyed it the dark brunette of her younger years. Reading glasses on a chain and a worn tape measurer hung around her neck. “I love it that we’ll finally be next door neighbors!”
With a grin, Deb jangled the keys in front of her. “It’s all mine. Well, I still have to make payments to the bank, but it’s mostly mine.” She gave them a hefty down payment.
“What are you doing first?” Annette strode to the center of the dingy room.
Looking around at the drab, faded walls and dusty floors, Deb inhaled. “That is a good question. But I have a goal to have it open by Thanksgiving [Timeline].”
“Perfect. I can sew you curtains.” Annette touched a cobwebby window sill, rubbing her fingers together.
“That would be nice. Just a few pairs of white lace ones.” Thankfully, Annette could see the vision. Deb rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I’ll hire a few people to help me. I can’t do all the plumbing and electrical.” She already had estimates from the local tradespeople. The repairs would cost a pretty penny.
“Of course. Although I’ve convinced you can do anything.” Annette glanced around the empty space, crawling with springtime bugs.
Deb knew she meant it as a compliment but her words still stung. “That’s because I’ve had to. When you’re single, you don’t have a man to come to your rescue all the time.”
Annette nodded. “That’s true. But you know Hank would drop everything to help you with anything you need.”
Her husband, Hank, retired after he worked forty years as a master plumber. “I know that. He’s a good man.” Deb tried to keep her hint of bitterness out of her voice. She never married out of choice, she reminded herself. But a part of her longed for a life of what-might-have-been. If only the past had turned out differently…She didn’t need to bring up that old memory again.
“Yes, he is,” Annette mused with a far-off look. “He’s the best of men. Hey, are you going to the quilting bee at church on Friday?” The church’s women’s auxiliary sponsored a charity quilting bee every spring. Ingrid was in charge. She owned the quilt shop and donated all the materials.
“Oh,” Deb lowered her brows. “I have a lot of work to do around here.” She avoided social activities like the plague.
“Oh, no worries.” Annette’s shoulders slumped.
“It’s sewing. I’m not that great at that.” Deb felt so silly showing up to things by herself—walking in the room, trying to find a chair, wondering who to talk to—all of those things pained her. She was sort of known as the town’s recluse.
Annette nodded, brushing her turtleneck sweater. “And speaking of sewing, I have to get back to my shop! Someone might come in wanting a whole quinceñeria party, and I would be here jabbering.” She opened the door. “Ta-ta! I know you’ll make this bakery over-the-top special!” After waving, she disappeared next door where she owned the dress shop.
Once again alone, Deb felt the weight of the quiet. A long laundry list of to-dos filled her mind. She’d better get to work. Time and money were a-wasting.

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