excerpt from The Peppermint Mocha Murder

Chapter One

Do you know what Christmastime means to a chocolate expert?

It means a little (much deserved) time off, that’s what.

You might not have noticed this before, but there’s not all that much Theobroma cacao involved in your typical yuletide celebration. Sure, chocolate Santas make an appearance in a stocking or two. Delicious peppermint mocha drinks pop up, and (maybe) homemade fudge. But aside from those chocolaty treats, almost all of the sweets involved in the festive season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are of the nonchocolate variety.

Frankly, it’s a missed opportunity for deliciousness, I’d say. But I didn’t make up the system. It just so happens that other treats—fruitcake and mince pies, most conspicuously—got there first. They achieved prominence with old-timey treats-loving types before chocolate even got out of the starting gate. After all, chocolate desserts date only to the 1700s or so, when British sailors first brought back drinkable chocolate from South America, launching a worldwide love affair with cacao beans and all their super scrumptious permutations.

Professionally speaking, I benefit from that chocolate amore. That’s because I know all about chocolate…and everything that’s made from it. See, I’m a bona fide chocolate whisperer—the first in the world. I work on a (typically) referral basis, helping my clients make the most of their cupcakes, confections, gelati, candies, and other creations. One day, I’m developing new products for a powerhouse global corporation; the next, I’m perfecting triple-chocolate cookies for a mom-and-pop bakery.

Large or small, I adore my clients. That’s why I’m willing to give one hundred percent to my work on their behalf. For me, there’s no mousse too melty or truffle too tricky; no matter how difficult the job, Hayden Mundy Moore never quits. When the going gets tough (or crumbly, or sticky, or irredeemably gluey), I have a tendency to dig in my heels and try even harder.

Maybe that’s why I keep getting into nonchocolate-related trouble, though. If I see something that’s wrong, I can’t help intervening. Even when the thing that’s wrong involves…how do I put this delicately?…murder, I somehow wind up mixed up in it.

At the moment, though, my (amateur) investigations into the darker side of life had been neatly wrapped up. I was officially at loose ends, facing nothing more perilous than an ordinary day in mid-December. That’s probably why I jumped at the first invitation I received to do something. Anything. The fact that the invitation in question came from my favorite husky-voiced number cruncher (aka Travis Turner, my friend and advisor) was just a bonus. I was in before I’d even heard all the details.

Continue reading

excerpt from Dead and Ganache

Chapter One

Have you ever tasted a dry, disappointing brownie? A flat, greasy chocolate-chip cookie? A chocolate cream pie that was neither creamy nor chocolaty? Me, too! The difference is, when I encounter less-than-stellar baked goods, candies, drinks, or treats, I have to fix them. And I always do. Because that’s my job.

I’m a “chocolate whisperer” (the world’s first!). That means that I specialize in Theobroma cacao—and everything that’s made from it. My clients come to me (sometimes secretly) whenever they need to turn subpar chocolate goodies into culinary superstars.

Never heard of me? That’s exactly the way my clients (and I) like it. See, I mostly work on a referral basis, troubleshooting chocolates on the QT for a carefully selected group of consultees. Sometimes that means developing new product lines for multinational corporations. Sometimes it means creating chocolate ice creams, cheesecakes, or elaborately plated desserts for restaurateurs. Sometimes it means getting my hands dirty in the back-of-house at a local mom-and-pop bakery, helping it compete with a rival pâtisserie or encroaching fast-food chain.

I don’t take jobs because they’re lucrative. I take them because they’re challenging. Or interesting. Or just because someone really needs my help. I’m a soft touch that way.

I just can’t say no. Especially not when it comes to sweet, heart-poundingly luscious chocolate, in all of its myriad forms.

Continue reading

The Semi-Sweet Hereafter by Colette London

excerpt from The Semi-Sweet Hereafter

Chapter One

When most people find out what I do for a living, they have one of two reactions. Either they think my life is a nonstop vacation (because of all the traveling I do), or they think I must have a sweet tooth the size of Texas (because of all the chocolate I sample). The truth is, those people are not wrong.

I do visit my share of exotic locales. The Taj Mahal. The Eiffel Tower. The Great Wall of China. All of them (and more) have starring roles in my Instagram feed. And I do taste more than the typical amount of chocolate. Caramel truffles. Triple mocha brownies. Cocoa cake with raspberry buttercream.

I’m guilty. Guilty as charged.

But that’s not because I’m an incurable vagabond or because I’m a glutton for Theobroma cacao. It’s because—in the first case—my eccentric uncle Ross’s will stipulates that I keep moving . . . at least if I want to supply myself with couverture spoons and Converse (and I do). It’s also because—in the second case—sharpening my renowned taste buds with all the latest chocolaty treats is my job. Seriously. It really is.
Continue reading

excerpt from Dangerously Dark

Chapter One

You should probably know one thing about me right up front: I’m not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. If it’s too early for traffic jams, tequila, and at least fifty percent of the taxi drivers in any given metropolis to be plying their trade, then it’s too early for me. End of story. But sometimes I have to make exceptions. Doesn’t everyone?

The fact of the matter is, I don’t always set my own hours. Sometimes, my clients do that for me. That’s because I’m a freelancer—a freelance chocolate whisperer. You might not have heard of me. I’m the first of my kind. My clients would probably prefer you don’t know I exist. But I definitely do. Continue reading