Trade Paperback
HenschelHAUS Publishing
Large Print
Gale Publishing


Massart farm at  Heritage Hill State Historical Park, Green Bay, Wisconsin. 'Belgian Farm' by William J. Schneider 1998. Used with permission of the Heritage Hill Foundation.

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'Bruges, Les Dentellieres,' circa 1920, Guggenheim & Co., Zurich. Kathleen Ernst collection.

“Something is burdening you," Libby told Roelke McKenna. "Spill it. Now."

"Nothing's wrong."

Libby's eyes narrowed. "I don't believe you."

Roelke turned to the kitchen counter where an old-fashioned percolator burbled with promise. Trust his cousin to just know


Thus begins the ninth story in the award-winning Chloe Ellefson series, and thirty-seventh published book by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst.

The Chloe novels combine history and mystery with a little romance. They are written for adults and mature teens who enjoy reading stories without explicit sex, gratuitous violence, or gore.

This page offers a rich mix of background information about the people, places, and the past that went into making The Lacemaker's Secret.

Story Description

This book features two separate timelines, delicately laced together.

The modern story takes place in late fall 1983 in the City of Green Bay, nearby Door County, and the Villages of Eagle and Palmyra, Wisconsin. The historical story begins in the Kingdom of Belgium during 1848 and continues in Door County from 1854 to shortly after World War I.

Greed, Uncertainty, and Death
Get Tangled in the Mystery
of a Rare Piece of Belgian Lace

Museum Curator Chloe Ellefson needs distraction from the unsettling family secret she's just learned. It doesn't help that her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, has been troubled for weeks and won't say why.

Chloe hopes a consulting job at Green Bay's Heritage Hill Historical Park, where an old Belgian-American farmhouse is being restored, will be a relaxing escape.

Instead she discovers a body in a century-old bake oven.

Chloe's research suggests that a rare and valuable piece of lace made its way to nearby Door County, Wisconsin, with the earliest Belgian settlers. More importantly, someone is desperate to find it.

Inspired by a courageous Belgian woman who survived cholera, famine, and the most devastating forest fire in American history, Chloe must untangle clues to reveal secrets old and new . . . before the killer strikes again.

The Lacemaker's Secret includes photos of historic objects and places mentioned in the story, plus a locations map, and cast of characters.

This story is available as a 408-page trade paperback, a 547-page large print hardcover, and in Kindle and Adobe EPUB3 ebook formats. 


What Others Are Saying

Kirkus Reviews logo. Kirkus Reviews 

"In this heartfelt tale of labor and love, Ernst produces one of her most winning combinations of historical evocation and clever mystery."
Mystery Scene Magazine logo. Mystery Scene Magazine
Review by Debbie Haupt

"The Lacemaker's Secret is a gem, a blast from the past, and a cozy with a kick.

The multifaceted characters are all memorable and well developed, but it's the series' star, Chloe, and Roelke, her cop beau, who stand out. The multiple story lines are decidedly demarked, tightly plotted, and picturesquely painted. The even pace, superb writing, plus a few surprises  and a-didn't-see-it coming ending keep the pages turning."
Logo of the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur Wisconsin. Barb (Englebert) Chisholm
Historian, Belgian Heritage Center
Sandy (Lampereur) Orsted
Treasurer, Belgian Heritage Center

"We thoroughly enjoyed this book!

The Lacemaker’s Secret is an intriguing mystery that is full of fascinating historical details and perfectly captures our local culture. The challenges, determination and triumph of the early Belgian settlers are brought to life, as well as the enduring respect of generations of descendants who continue their traditions and love of the land. As supporters of the Belgian Heritage Center and descendants of those courageous Belgians, we couldn’t ask for a more entertaining way to share our story."
 image of the Escape With Dollycas Blog logo. Lori Caswell
Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book Blog

"A fantastic story filled with characters that are truly believable. They will draw readers deep into their lives. This is an amazing read!"
Photo of Alan C. Pape. Photographer unknown. Alan C. Pape
former Restoration Chief, Old World Wisconsin

"The Lacemaker's Secret...allows readers rare access to Wisconsin's old country heritage through a factual and picture-perfect manner.  ...My old log cabin maker's hat goes off to Kathleen for bringing attention to many important stories and sites of pioneering, and those who risked everything to begin again in the New World."

About the Author


Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction for adults and young readers.

Her work has earned numerous honors, including two lifetime writing achievement awards, an Emmy for educational television, and an Edgar Allan Poe and multiple Agatha Christie mystery award nominations.

To date nearly 1.8 million audio, ebook, and print copies of Kathleen's thirty-eight published books have been purchased. more>>



Related Blog Posts

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings. Note: additional posts will be added below over time.

Belgian Heritage Center in Namur Wisconsin. The Belgian Heritage Center 

"When I first started considering a setting for a Chloe Ellefson mystery about Wisconsin’s Belgian immigrants, I knew it would primarily feature..." more>>
John Baptist and Theresa Massart family farm in town of Rosiere in Kewaunee County Wisconsin. The Belgian Farm

"Every Chloe Ellefson Mystery is set at a real historic site or museum. This lets me celebrate special places, and allows readers to visit the scene of the crime. When I planned the..." more>>
Massart Family Farm at Heritage Hill Historical Park in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Why Belgians and Lace? 

"The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker's Secret, is set in Green Bay and southern Door County, Wisconsin. It features the Belgian immigrants who arrived in that area in..." more>> 
Postcard view of convent in Bruges Belgium. Lacemaking in Belgium

"As someone who gravitates toward folk arts, I knew almost nothing about Belgium’s lacemaking industry before starting research for The Lacemaker’s Secret. But one of the best..." more>>
Wisconsin Belgian roadside chapel alter. Roadside Chapels

"Belgian immigrants brought many religious traditions to North East Wisconsin. Signs of faith are still visible among their descendants, such as this shrine in front of a home…" more>>
Sepia photo of Adele Brise. Our Lady Of Good Help

"In October, 1859, apparitions of the Virgin Mary occurred to Adele as she was walking through the woods. Mary instructed Adele to teach local children in the faith. Adele devoted the..." more>>
Belgian carved wooden shoes, called Sabots. Sabots

"When I went to work at Old World Wisconsin many years ago, one of my first assignments was working at the 1860 German farm. The curator who’d furnished the building left a couple of..." more>> 
Wikipedia photo of Lotus brand Speculoos cookies. Belgian Spice Cookies

"The latest Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, celebrates Belgian heritage, so of course my research included foodways. I quickly came across references to..." more>>
Photo by Kathleen Ernst of Belgian cherry pie from Door County Wisconsin. Belgian Pies

"There are lots of fun things about writing a mystery series that celebrates ethnic heritage. One of those is the chance to explore food traditions. When I started researching..." more>>
Photo of Libby's famous Banana Bread Pudding by Kathleen Ernst. Libby's Legendary Banana Bread Pudding

"Sometimes you just need some comfort food—something steaming and fragrant and utterly delicious. The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, begins at just such a..." more>>
Photo of bestselling author Kathleen Ernst at Old World Wisconsin taken by Kay Klubertanz. Immigrants

"People sometimes ask why I so often write about 19th-century immigrants. My fascination began in the 1980s when I worked at an outdoor ethnic museum called Old World Wisconsin..." more>>

Author's Note

One of the pleasures of writing a series is the opportunity to delve more deeply into the main characters with each new book.

Chloe and Roelke’s struggles often mirror issues that the historical characters face.

Themes in this book—reflected in both the modern and historical timelines—include challenges of faith and forgiveness.

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst at the Belgium Massart family log barn at Heritage Hill State Historic Park, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Faith helped Belgian immigrants face the enormous obstacles they encountered, beginning in the 1850s, establishing new lives as farmers in the thickly forested wilderness of northeast Wisconsin.

Their faith, and incredible hard work, created the largest rural settlement of Belgians in our country.

As Chloe researches their history, she becomes dangerously tangled in a pattern of modern murders tied to their Belgian American descendants, and lace. 

                       Kathleen Ernst's signature graphic

P.S. -- Roelke spends much of this book in the Village of Eaglepursuing a cold case and wrestling with his own challenges of faith and forgivenessbefore uniting with Chloe to help her bring the modern story to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.

Book discussion logo. DISCUSSION GUIDE
Questions to help spark
a group conversation.


To help readers understand on a personal level some of what the Belgian immigrants experienced, I created the character of Seraphine Moreau.

You’ll first meet her in the Kingdom of Belgium when she and her twin Octavie, newly orphaned, are sent to a convent.

There they learn the delicate art of making bobbin lace. Seraphine discovers she has a talent for the work, and dreams of being a piqueuse—one who creates lace patterns.

Belgian woman making lace. Cropped black & white carte postale image circa 1920 by Nels, Bruxelles, Series Laitiere No. 14 in the collection of author Kathleen Ernst.

Seraphine grows into an accomplished lacemaker, and becomes engaged to her childhood friend; Octavie's faith deepens, and she commits to becoming a nun.

Seraphine's fiancé, Jean-Paul LeJeune, announces he is emigrating to Wisconsin to start a farm, and asks her to join him. Reluctantly she bids farewell to Octavie, the convent's sistersand to lacemaking. Perhaps forever.

What follows are the stories of their lives, as seen through Seraphine's eyes and letters the twins exchange over decades. 


Many scenes in this book are set at places in the Namur Belgian-American Historic District, and at Green Bay's Heritage Hill State Historical Park, that you can visit. 

I'll add a custom interactive Google map below so you can also virtually visit key public locations where scenes are set.

Green Bay & Door County, Wisconsin

Custom Google Map with pin on Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The Past

Historical events and objects, and heritage crafts and traditional foods, are staples in each one of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The Lacemaker's Secret is no exception.

In most of the Chloe mysteries I include a folk art from the featured ethnic group, but a tour of the Smithsonian Institution’s superb collection inspired me to spotlight Belgium’s famous lace industry. 

I'll add a slide show here featuring images of some of my favorite things from the book, including examples of Belgian lace. 

Photo of Williamsonville Wisconsin 1871 fire memorial plaque.

And More

Thanks to the magic of digital media, you can now eavesdrop on me discussing Chloe, Roelke, and Seraphine on this popular Wisconsin Public Radio show.

Larry Meiller Show Larry Meiller
Wisconsin Public Radio
37 Min. 45 sec.
October 9, 2018

Where To Buy

You can order The Lacemaker's Secret in trade paperback and large print formats from indie bookstores and large vendors.

Author signed and personalized trade paperback copies can be also requested directly from me by clicking HERE.

NOTE: Due to a change in publishers, eBook copies are not currently available, but will be re-republished.

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