Published January 30th 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Published July 31st 2018 by Kensington
Published January 23rd 2018 by Lyrical Underground
Published June 26th 2018 by St Martin’s Press
I always enjoy my visits to Ashland, Oregon and to Torte. It is like visiting with old friends, they are so likeable and work so well together. Jules and her team at Torte have been very busy finalizing plans for the surprise wedding of Helen (Jules’ mother) and Doug (aka The Professor) under the guise of a grand reopening celebration of Uvo Winery owned by Jules, Carlos, Lance and Richard Lord (Jules’ nemesis). While this is going on, there are major renovations at Torte, even causing a closure for a few days. Carlos (Jules’ estranged husband) and his son are visiting to help with the preparations. The mystery in this book involves Lance and his family. It was nice to finally learn more about this quirky character. Lance has hired a private investigator because he is sure his brother hastens his father’s death, for money.
This book kept me turning pages quickly. There were several twists and surprises along the way. With more than one death, attempted murders and the introduction of Lance’s boorish brother, the reader is kept guessing. There is a hint of further romance between Jules and Carlos, as well as a possible love interest for Thomas, Jules’ childhood boyfriend. With some new characters introduced in this story, we continue to learn more about Ashland and the area. It definitely grows on you and makes me want to visit there more than ever. Another wonderful addition to the Bakeshop Mystery Series and one that left me wanting more. I can hardly wait for the next book in this series to find out where Jules, Carlos and the crew at Torte will go next. The publisher, St. Martins, generously provided me with a copy of this book after my request. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
Published September 11th 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Seven months since Charity Penn inherited her grandmother’s chocolate shop, and her family are still trying to prove she is not who she says she is. Legal wranglings continue to try and turn over Mabel’s will but Charity is trying to make a go of the shop, The Chocolate Box, in Camellia Beach, SC. Althea tries to help Penn forget her troubles by inviting her to observe with the “turtle watch team”. This is a serious activity as sea turtles are endangered and there are a lot of rules and laws revolving around sea turtle hatching time. When local real estate agent and playboy, Cassidy Jones, is shot dead on the beach, Jody is arrested for the killing. Penn has a very difficult relationship with Jody, as she is always threatening her shop and it’s ownership, but she promises Gavin, Harley’s son, that she will help get her out of jail in time for his first day of school.
This book had a little bit of everything that is good about cozy mysteries: chocolate, murder, lots of sleuthing, secrets, quirky characters, some romance and family dynamics. The mystery moved along at a nice speed, with plenty of suspects and twists. The plot isn’t overly complex, but held my attention. There is a lot going on in the second mystery of who is Penn’s mother, but I will not spill the beans about where that goes. Then there is the side story about Penn’s dog. She is working with a dog trainer to try and get her to listen, but there is still a ways to go in that story line. I really enjoy how Dorothy St. James’ series is more than just a quick mystery. There has been a lot of growth and development in Penn’s character and I have really liked that. You would be able to follow this story without reading the others in this series, but I recommend you start at the beginning to get the full story of Penn and the Chocolate Shop. I will definitely keep reading this series. Looking forward to the next book! The publisher, Crooked Lane Books, generously provided me with a copy of this book to read. The rating, ideas and opinions are my own.
Published September 12th 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
This is a fun and interesting beginning to a new series. When Charity Penn heads to Camellia Beach, South Carolina she has no idea what is awaiting her there. She feels responsible for the death of her friend “Skinny” McGee and wants to see if she can find out what happened to him. Penn comes from wealthy family on her father’s side, and has not idea who her mother is. When she arrives in town, she finds out that Skinny was found dead in a vat of chocolate, at the shop where she has supposedly won cooking lessons. The shop seems rather dilapitated and Penn assumes that the owners are trying to get her to invest money in the shop. When she meets the two older women who run the shop, she actually develops a friendly relationship with them and enjoys learning how to make chocolate. When Mabel, the owner who is teaching her, dies, things get even more complicated.
I love the unique characters and situations in this book. The setting of this story is a quaint beach town that is in need of some repairs, but the funds are not there. The town is full of people who love it, but they do not want it to become some big touristy area. I love Bertie and Althea, who live above the chocolate shop and Bertie helps run it as well. There is Penn’s lawyer, Harley Dalton, who might become a love interest in future books and the animals are also a fun addition to the story. Penn has a feisty dog who tends to sink her teeth into shoes, hands and pants, and Harley’s sphinx cat. The main character in this story is Charity Penn, aka just Penn. An heiress/illegitimate daughter of the family, she has never really had a place to call home. When she winds up in Camelia Beach and starts learning how to make chocolates from Mabel she starts wondering the real reason why Mable wanted her to come to Camelia Beach. She doesn’t actively investigate the murder so much as talk to people and end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She also does not know who to trust and speaks out when she should play her cards close to her vest.
Overall this was a fun book to read/listen to. I loved the descriptions and information about chocolate. It gave me a new appreciation of why chocolate goodies in these stores are a bit more expensive. The plot is nicely paced, with plenty of surprises. There were a few things I figured out pretty quickly, but I did not figure out the ending at all. The many suspects threw a lot of red herrings into the mix. The one thing I got tired of in this book was the constant whining and commenting about people being after Penn’s money, and about her grandmother who treated her quite badly. I know this is an important part of her background and is an important part of the story, but it was a bit much. I did enjoy this book and the narration of the audio book that I listened to. I recommend this series to cozy mystery lovers who enjoy small towns, culinary cozies, and those that have some family issues and secrets.
Published November 7th 2017 by Alibi
I enjoyed this third addition to the Pancake House Mystery series. Of Spice and Men by Sarah Fox is a fun cozy with more to the story than just solving a murder. Marley McKinney is a strong protagonist and is quite realistic. She could be anyone’s friend and business owner. One thing I like about this series, is that Marley owns a business and actually spends time at it, not just investigating a murder. She also has real feelings such as jealousy, when she finds out that the lead actress in the movie filming in town used to be her boyfriend Brett’s fiancee.
Wildwood Cove is full of excitment with the arrival of the Hollywood movie crew, producing a remake of a cult classic. Luckily for the patrons of The Flipside, Marley’s pancake house, the distraction does not ruin the delicious treats that come out of the kitchen. The descriptions of the food will make your mouth water. Marley’s staff have stars in their eyes and when they are invited by Christine, the film’s head make-up artist, to take a tour behind the scenes, Marley takes her up on the offer. Hoping the distraction will keep her emotions in check, after seeing Brett and Alyssa Jayde in a questionable hug, Marley heads over to the Christine’s trailer, and finds it on fire.
Marley dashes inside and drags Christine to safety, but she does not survive. When the coroner rules her death as foul play, (she was strangled), the leading lady, Alyssa is arrested. Brett is sure Alyssa is innocent, so Marley hits the streets to see if she can find the real killer, and repair her relationship with Brett
I like the background theme of this series, a pancake house. Marley is a great main character who uses her intelligence and friendly personality to gather information. The character has developed and matured as the series moves along. There were several suspects in the murder and the story did slow down a bit in the middle, but as the story started giving up its clues, it quickly showed who the culprit was. I also liked that there was no super rescue at the end, Marley was able to help herself so that when the police arrived, it was just another character that needed their help. For those of you that enjoy humorous cozies with quirky characters, this is not for you. If you enjoy a culinary cozy (with recipes) that are small town, with smart characters, then pick this one up. Overall, I enjoyed this story and will continue to read this series.