Cocoa Curses – Winter Witches of Holiday Haven: Rudie’s Collection Book 1 By Erin Johnson

Cocoa Curses
Winter Witches of Holiday Haven:
Rudie’s Collection Book 1
Erin Johnson


Rudie Hollybrook’s killing it (pun intended) directing her family’s funeral home with her two zany sisters and her adorable pet snow fox in Holiday Haven, near the North Pole.

In her personal life, though, Rudie’s self-conscious about her unique ability to see spirits in a quaint town that considers such talents less than merry and bright.

But while volunteering at the Christmas Market, a few days before the big holiday, a woman drops dead–poisoned by her hot cocoa! When the woman’s ghost demands Rudie find her murderer, Rudie teams up with her crush at the local paper to discover the culprit.

Can Rudie embrace her gifts to find the cocoa killer before they ruin Christmas for the whole town?

Rudie Hollybrook’s story is in three parts in the Winter Witches of Holiday Haven Multi-author series. I purchased them as a boxset and I am reviewing them individually.

Rudie and her sisters run the Hollybrook Funeral Home, having taken over when their parents died. Rudie is very active in the communitee, working with Santa’s Little Helpers a volunteer group working to raise money for local charities. It’s at one of those venues that this story opens.

They have a Christmas Cookie Chalet at the Christmas Market and today, Rudie along with Dr. Dash, Nikolas Sage, John Merriman, and Hayley who had managed to put herself in charge were working that first day. Hayley is Rudie’s nemesis and assigned her to trash duty, so she was running back and forth to the bins across the way next to the tower. She spent little time in the Chalet, so she wasn’t there when the Chair and Co-chair of the organization arrived. Connie Blitzen and Phillipa Lightstep while always arguing over something, were both devoted to making every event a success.

Phillipa had taken a drink of her cocoa and suddenly collapsed, and no number of spells from Dr. Dash could revive her. I should mention here that Rudie can see and communicate with ghosts. Phillipa’s appears to her and demands she find her killer, or she’ll haunt her until she does.

Now on top of everything she normally does, Rudie has to figure out how to find a killer. One of the first things she needs is a suspect list the next is someone to help her sort everything out.

The first people she puts on her list are Phillipa’s granddaughter Noelle and her boyfriend Xander. She found the whole of the consultation for the funeral to be a bit off. Of course, she’d have to add everyone at the Cookie Chalet when Phillipa died as well.

Archer Olsen is the owner and editor of the local paper, Hark the Herald. Rudie frequently visits him with obituaries to be printed, and she even flirts a little. He serves her favorite coffee in a Santa mug while they do business. I think he likes her too.

This is a favorite scene.

After volunteering, I stopped by the newspaper on my way home to check the proofs for the obituaries. As usual, Archer welcomed me with his warm smile—and a hot cup of cocoa this time.

We settled into our seats by the front window as shoppers passed by, hurrying through the cold. I sipped from the rich, chocolatey liquid and moaned. “This is delicious, Archer.”

He grinned, lopsided and adorable. “Glad you like it, Rudie.” He slid a few pieces of parchment my way. “Here are those proofs.” He handed me a quill and a pot of red ink.

As he worked on an article beside me, I read the proofs over and made a few minor adjustments, then handed it all back to him. I glanced at the article and realized he was reporting on Phillipa’s murder. No doubt it’d be front page news tomorrow.

Mostly as an excuse to prolong my time with him, I blurted out the fact that I’d seen Phillipa’s ghost.

He put his quill down and turned to give me his full attention. “A pleasant encounter, I hope?”

One of the reasons I liked Archer so much was that he didn’t treat me differently because of my abilities. He just accepted it in stride.

I curled my lip. “Not exactly. She wants me to find her murderer.”

The whites showed all around his blue eyes. “Come again?”

I filled him in on her threat to haunt me if I didn’t and then told him about Redd’s advice. “So today I did some sleuthing.”

He grinned and leaned closer. “What’d you find?”

I leaned in too, lowering my voice, though we were alone. “Nikolas Sage, our club’s treasurer, said that when Phillipa’s husband died, she came to him for help. He wouldn’t elaborate, but I got the feeling she had money troubles… and that he was hiding something.”

Archer raised a bushy brow. “Club treasurer? Hiding something he was doing in cahoots with the club chairwoman?”

He waited for me to fill in the blanks, and I gasped. “You think he could be cooking the books?” I thought of all that money we were raising for the reindeer sanctuary—was he going to siphon it off for his own benefit? I groaned. “I’m in over my head with this.”

Archer rolled his chair closer and rested his hand on mine. My heart froze—then beat away at double speed as he looked into my eyes.

“I am a journalist, you know—we’re trained in investigating and getting information.” His eyes twinkled. “I’d be happy to help.”
Johnson, Erin. Winter Witches of Holiday Haven Boxset Books 1-3: Rudie’s Collection (Winter Witches of Holiday Haven: Rudie’s Collection) (pp. 67-68). Kindle Edition.

From the funeral to the investigating, this is a page turner. Each little hint leads to more questions until the answer is found.

In spite of the murder, this is a fun read with just a touch of romance.

I’m already reading the next book.

5 Contented Purrs for Erin!

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Erin Johnson

A native of Arizona, Erin loves her new home in the Pacific Northwest! She writes paranormal cozy novels– stories that are mysterious, magical, and will hopefully make you laugh.

When not writing, she’s hiking, napping with her dogs, and losing at trivia night.

Erin’s had a ton of different jobs, from blackjack dealer to PA on a horror movie to Pilates instructor but has finally embraced her true calling as a writer. Thanks so much for your interest and for supporting her!

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