Guest Author, Janet Chester Bly, guest post giveaweay and more #Books #Author


Polly Eng – Chinese citizen of Road’s End; mother of Kam Eng; EMT; manager of apartments; caterer

Between Polly Eng and Maid- ie Fortress, they cultivated spectacular vegetable and flower gardens. “Road’s End could sell tickets for tourists to see them,” Cicely Bowers suggested more than once when the city park needed reno-vation.

Polly Eng and her daughter, Kam, the only ones in town besides Maidie who could grow healthy gardens with the short growing sea- son, bent over steaming woks full of stir-fried vegetables and pork. She steamed the best stir-fry and rainbow trout with Teriyaki sauce, said the citizens of Road’s End. Now Polly frowned at her daughter. “A car load of intoxicated juveniles drove around town last week light- ing M-80s and scaring our dogs. Fireworks got shot off our deck.”

“They thought it was Chinese New Year.” Kam blushed a pretty pink.

Up the hill beyond Lisl Monty’s white wood frame house, he passed Polly Eng’s gray stone and brick home where daughter Kam pulled clothes off a line. He returned her wave.

By the time EMTs Lisl Monte and Polly Eng 

In her bedroom, mattresses from the high oak bed, made by Polly Eng’s local Chinese ancestors before the turn of the century

The Model T stopped. “Who will take care of the trailer park?” Tucker yelled back.

“Polly and Kam Eng said they’d look after it and we’re all packed.” 

“It’s the Year of the Sheep. Polly Eng told us.”

She collapsed on the high oak bed made by Polly Eng’s Chinese ancestors before the turn of the century 

They stayed for lunch when Polly Eng and daughter Kam brought fresh vegetables from their garden in a steaming wok with stir fry Teriyaki Rainbow Trout and a fortune cookie cake. Quite an outdoor feast for the workers and guests. 

Reba opened the screen and wooden doors when she thought she heard a tap. She tried hard to conceal a gasp of surprise. She hadn’t expected any of this crew standing there. 

Polly Eng quickly explained, “I’m here to observe only, as part of the Chinese Year of the Sheep. Seemed like this theme might fit in.”

She knocked at the apartment door, alert to any sign of activity. Finding no one stirring, she hiked up the hill behind the apartments to check with the manager, Polly Eng, at the gray stone and brick house with the only outdoor clothesline left in town. She resisted the temptation to swing close enough to feel the cool, wet sheets swirling in the breeze and smell the fresh, clean sweetness. 

“Sue Anne’s gone all right.” Polly thumbed a gold necklace with a whimsical goat preening on an octagon shaped locket. “The funny thing is, I helped her do a garage sale last week. Everyone in the apartments contributed, like we did last year. Campers from the park bought lots of stuff. We all made a tidy sum. I couldn’t help ask questions when she had Norden carry out furniture and all her clothes into a U-Haul when it was over. She clammed up. Wouldn’t say a word.” She twisted the necklace chain round in quick, sharp jerks. “My daughter Kam was taking care of the kids. Sue Anne said Tim would pick them up and off she went.”

“Was Norden with her?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he returned to his store and she drove away like she was headed out of town.”

Reba’s stomach lurched as she tossed her purse across her shoulder and tromped down the incline toward the Outfitter’s store at the end of Main Street. Polly’s account made it sound starkly real. 

Moments later, the town’s fire alarm blared and a scurry of people rushed the streets, peering around in excitement.

“Anybody need assistance?” Polly Eng yelled, as she held up her EMT bag, used to treat more bee stings, heart attacks, and pregnancy runs than natural disaster trauma wounds.

Champ hired Charlotta Mathwig and Polly Eng to cater the special outdoor banquet he planned in his backyard for the Runcie family reunion. 

They pronounced her dead at the scene and EMT Polly Eng gently shut her lids.

Jace and the gals, plus Polly Eng, crept in the darkness toward the cellar, guided by flashlights cutting orbs of large circles at their feet. Reba and Pearl opened the broken double door. Rats and cockroaches scurried around in the sudden streak of light. They found not only Archie, but Abel too. Phone wire tied their feet together and hands behind their backs. Archie’s forehead bled from a gash and when they untied him, so did one of his arms. 

Polly fashioned a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding.

Polly Eng’s Fortune Cookie Cake

Janet Chester Bly

Polly Eng is a Chinese descent citizen of Road’s End, Idaho, the fictional town in my Trails of Reba Cahill Series. She has a teen daughter, Kam, and a husband who spends much of the summer 1991 in China caring for his elderly parents.  

While Polly remains a minor character in Beneath a Camperdown Elm, Book 3, she plays an important role in Road’s End. She manages the main apartment rentals and cultivates a spectacular vegetable and flower garden, despite the short growing season on the high mountain prairie. As an EMT, she shows up for major injury crises. In addition, she provides yummy food for potlucks and caters special events. Her specialties include woks full of stir-fried vegetables and porkand Teriyaki Rainbow Trout. 

But she really wows everyone with her vanilla buttercream Fortune Cookie Cake. She scallops the frosting on top the spongy cake with rosette designs. Then she fills the center and sometimes the top with homemade fortune cookies tucked with inspirational sayings or birthday or anniversary greetings, depending on the occasion.

A side-note: actually, fortune cookies didn’t hail from China. Somehow they originated in the United States, with some sources stating the treat started with Japanese immigrants. Along the way, Chinese restaurants began serving them as dessert with tea and it became an enduring tradition. 

Polly started the tradition of the cake version in Road’s End. Her recipe had long been a well-guarded secret. However, another caterer in town, character Charlotta Mathwig, watched her make the creation for the Champ Runcie family reunion and discovered the ingredients. So, Polly relented and allowed the recipe to be shared to a special few. 

And here it is for you, with added Charlotte Mathwig adaptations, such as baking instead of steaming …



1) SPONGE CAKE (or use box mix angel food cake as easier substitute)


215 grams or 1 3/4 cups cake flour

250 grams or 2 cups caster (super fine) sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

6 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, almond, or coconut extract


Polly’s version ….

Arrange a large bamboo steamer or regular steamer over simmering water, large enough to hold cake tin. Line 23 centimeter or 9” round tin with greaseproof paper.

Separate eggs. Place yolks in large bowl with sugar and water. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until mixture increases three times in volume. 

Whisk together flour and baking powder. Sift over egg mixture. Fold in gently. Blend in almond extract.

Whip egg whites in clean bowl to stiff peaks. Fold into yolk mixture. Pour cake mixture into prepared tin and smooth out to edges. Tap tin a couple times to remove large air bubbles.

Place tin into steamer. Cover top of steamer with tea towel and place lid on top. Steam for about 20 minutes or until skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Charlotte’s version …

Beat egg whites until they form stiff (not dry) peaks. Add cream of tartar, vanilla extract and almond extract. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Repeat five times. Gently combine egg whites with the dry ingredients. Pour into ungreased aluminum 10-inch tube pan (do not use non-stick pan). 

Place cake pan in a cold oven. Turn oven on, set to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Bake for one hour or until cake is golden brown.

Invert cake and allow to cool in pan. When thoroughly cool, remove from pan. 


For 9” one-layer cake or 8” two-layer cake, or 6” three-layer cake.


2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla, almond, or coconut extract

4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, room temperature

1 M piping tip for rosettes

Use stand mixer with a whisk attachment.

Really whip the butter until creamy.

Sift powdered sugar. Add slowly, 1/2 cup at a time. Whip well each time. When all the sugar added, whip again at least 3 minutes. Add cream, one tablespoon at time, as needed for desired consistency. Whip again until smooth and silky.

Practice a few rosettes on parchment first. Polly covered her whole cake with rosettes (see photo), by starting at the bottom row and offsetting each row of roses to fill in the gaps. You can make as few as you want, or on top, and still make an awesome, beautiful cake.


​Note: of course, you can also purchase ready-mades & carefully replace ​commercial paper messages with your own

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Grease 2 9×13” baking sheets or line with parchment paper and spray with vegetable cooking spray.


1 cup butter, melted, and at room temperature, 

​OR app. 6-9 tablespoons sesame seed oil

6 large egg whites

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons warm water


First, write your own messages by hand or computer on 3 1/2” long x 1/2” wide slips of paper, trimmed to size.

In medium bowl, lightly beat egg white, vanilla and almond extract, and butter (or oil) until frothy and foamy.

Sift flour, salt, and sugar in separate bowl. Stir in butter or oil. Add water and stir until smooth.

Add flour to egg white mix and stir until smooth and will fall from wooden spoon, but not too runny. 

Place level tablespoons of batter onto cookie sheet. Space them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt baking sheet back and forth, side to side, so each tablespoon of batter forms circle 4 inches in diameter.

Bake until outer 1/2 inch of each cookie turns golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Working quickly, remove with spatula when cooled 15 minutes, and flip over in your hand. Place paper message in middle of cookie. Fold cookie in half. Gently hold sides together and push to bend … or pull edges downward over rim of a glass, wooden spoon, or edge of a muffin tin into desired shape. Place finished cookie in cup of muffin tin to keep its shape. Repeat with remaining batter. If cookies become too hard, return to oven for one minute to soften.

Slip cookies into the hole of the cake and/or around the top of the cake. 

Beneath a Camperdown Elm, Book 3, Trails of Reba Cahill Series
Contemporary Western Romance with a Zing of Mystery
Paperback or EBook Here:

BOOK 1 & 2 — Download 5 Free Sample Chapters each!
Contemporary Western Mystery with a Touch of Romance
Wind in the Wires, Book 1, Trails of Reba Cahill Series
Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2, Trails of Reba Cahill Series
Paperback, EBook, & Audio here:

Facebook Author Page:
Facebook Personal:

Copy of book available for giveaway—either paperback (USA only) or PDF edition.   All you have to do is leave a comment :). What is your favorite icing?