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Charmed by the Cook’s Kids–a chef with hidden talents

Charmed by the Cook’s Kids

by Melinda Curtis

Charmed by the Cook's KidsHarlan Monroe’s many descendants have personalities and passions that are as diverse as the snowflakes that fall on the dying Idaho tourist town of Second Chance, but they have one thing in common. The terms of their beloved grandfather’s will led to their parents’ firing them from family businesses. They now must agree on saving their grandfather’s hometown or selling it off.

Ivy was rescued from an abusive marriage by Harlan and is now raising her children by running the Bent Nickel, the town’s only restaurant. She supports herself as a short order cook, but she indulges her culinary passions in her secret kitchen. Cam Monroe, who has a coveted Michelin star, arrives in the little town only to discover that his family wants him to cater out of Bent Nickel’s  marginally adequate kitchen for a crowd of celebrities at his cousin’s wedding. 

Ivy and Cam lock horns over different culinary goals and methods before they get to know each other. They both have likable sides and honorable goals, but they have histories that they have to work through.

Melinda Curtis tells their story in Charmed by the Cook’s Kids where you, also, will be charmed by R.J., an aspiring 8 year old chef, and his 5 year old brother Nick. Foodies at heart, they are protective of their mother and have her rules and routines engrained in their psyches. I have enjoyed all the books in the Mountain Monroes, and Charmed by the Cook’s Kids is no exception. If you have read the other books in this series, you will enjoy meeting up with old friends. If this book is the first for you, I think you will find enough information provided that you will not puzzle over characters who are not central to the storyline. Although a clean and heartwarming romance, this book addresses head-on emotional and verbal abuse and the damage they cause. The main storyline has closure, but a few threads are left dangling to entice you to join the denizens of Second Chance to see how situations play out in the next book in this fun series that will leave you smiling.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #6 in the Mountain Monroes, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   June 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

…she’d felt a shock when he’d taken her arms and shifted her out of his way, a jolt like the first tart taste of lemon in a finely made meringue.

Don’t touch my dish, Ivy. You’ll just ruin it. Her ex-husband’s voice echoed in the kitchen, in Ivy’s head, in her very bones. He’d yell and whisper and hiss that she should stay away, and then he’d contradict himself. You knew my sauce needed more basil. What kind of idiot lets it go out that way?

Diane fixed Ivy with a stare cold enough to freeze the Salmon River.

Murder on the Chopping Block–movie set turns violent

Murder on the Chopping Block

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the Chopping BlockThe Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is always open to new adventures because the main character, Penelope Sutherland, is the owner of a catering company that provides meals and snacks for movie productions. So, Penelope and her crew have to travel to wherever the setting for a film is. In Murder on the Chopping Block, they are in Salacia Beach, California, near Monterey. 

Author Shawn Reilly Simmons really knows how to move a cozy mystery along. She uses fairly short chapters, but they end up making you want to jump into the next one. This book has just the right amount of character focus, intrigue, and action combined with a little romance and settings that range from cliffs along the Pacific to beautiful homes of the wealthy. A fun character in this cozy is Mirabella, a cat with an important role.

When a shot rings out on the movie set, the blood is not fake, and Penelope jumps into action. She also overhears a domestic incident that later leads to violence. She picks up on  a lot of clues that others might miss by being observant when she is in the right place at the right time. When others notice her perceptiveness, however, things get dangerous for her.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone as this plot is not dependent on understanding an extensive character background.

Publication:   September 17, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Come on, sweetie,” Penelope said in a soft voice. Mirabella stared at her, acting like she wasn’t going to follow, then rose up on stiff legs and strutted toward the gate as if it was her idea in the first place.

“I never even thought about what happens to animals after…” “The unexpected happens,” Brice finished her thought. “You know how it is. A lot of people have pets. Even criminals have pets. When stuff goes down, these guys are impacted too. Kids and animals, they suffer the most, if you ask me.”

“Forgiveness is its own reward,” Joey said. “It’s easier and healthier to forgive than it is to carry around a grudge forever.”

Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery

Penne Dreadful

by Catherine Bruns

Penne DreadfulA cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters. 

Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.

“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”

That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.

Sconed to Death–another fun writers’ retreat

Sconed to Death

by Lynn Cahoon

Sconed to DeathIt’s hard not to want to be Cat Latimer. Who wouldn’t enjoy living in a small Colorado college town far enough from Denver to avoid the big city traffic but close enough for occasional trips for shopping and dining? Oh, to completely own a large Victorian house where you can write in a third floor turret and host periodic writers’ retreats! What satisfaction in sharing your business with your best friend who manages the household and cooks gourmet foods for you on a daily basis. She also feeds breakfast to the retreat guests while keeping the retreat stocked with drinks and homemade goodies. The only thing better would be to reconnect with your handsome, very nice, high school heartthrob who can landscape, perform handyman jobs, and chauffeur guests to the airport. Cat has it all!

In this engaging mystery, Cat’s guests are a group of cozy mystery writers from Chicago. They thoroughly enjoy their week at the retreat with an additional day devoted to cooking lessons by resident chef Shauna who is also writing a cookbook. I think I gained ten pounds just reading about all the delicious cookies they consumed.

The murder of a famous Denver chef is the central focus of Lynn Cahoon’s Sconed to Death. What is he even doing in little Aspen Hills and who would want to kill him? Despite Uncle Pete’s warning to stay out of the investigation, Cat finds herself asking questions and using her online research skills to assess motives and alibis. Look out for a dramatic surprise ending to this page turner that’s sure to appeal to mystery lovers and especially cozy aficionados.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery

Notes:  1. #5 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone as Lynn Cahoon has a talent for bringing the reader up to date without boring.

  2. Includes a recipe for Cranberry Scones.

Publication:  May 28, 2019—Kensington 

Memorable Lines:

“So, cozy mysteries? What are those?” Seth had finished the paper and pushed it into the center of the table as he finished his breakfast. “Low on gore, low on sex, high on fun.”

The trees were just starting to drop leaves and the crunch of dried leaves under her feet made her think about all things autumn. Chilly nights with a bonfire. Hot chocolate in the evening by the fire. More time to read. All these memories made her happy.

She took a big bite of the pasta. This was one of her favorite dishes that Shauna made, and yet, today, it tasted like sawdust. She kept her head down and willed away the tears.

False Account–family entitlement

False Account

by Veronica Heley

False AccountBea Abbot is the owner of the Abbot Domestic Agency and has a talent and good reputation for choosing honest, hard working domestic employees and matching them up with suitable employers. In this mystery she is approached by the very wealthy Tredgolds, an elderly mother and her quite unlikeable daughter, to replace several employees.  Initially Bea wants to have nothing to do with them, but so many things seem out of whack that she decides to help. Two cats have been killed and several staff members dismissed for criminal behaviors. Mrs. Tredgold is a mystery herself appearing at times to be weak and at other times manipulative. 

The plot of False Account by Veronica Heley is complicated and fast moving. More crimes occur, some putting Bea, her ex-husband Piers, and her ward Bernice in danger. Mrs. Tredgold’s family spends money as if there is a never ending supply and have developed a strong sense of entitlement which makes them unpleasant to be around. There are many surprises as the plot unwinds over the course of several chapters resulting in a quite satisfying conclusion.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #12 in the Bea Abbot Agency Mystery Series. It could be read as a standalone, but would probably be enjoyed more having read others in the series. I have read 6 out of the 12 in the series, and there has never been a problem in keeping up with the characters.

Publication:   April 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Someone clunked a mug down on Bea’s bedside table. She realized it was time to wake up. She didn’t want to wake up. She might not have her eyes open yet but she already knew that a large black cloud was hanging over the day. 

“The thing is, you can’t stop people being stupid, can you?”

“Is that bacon you’re cooking? I was thinking of going vegetarian but maybe I won’t start just yet.”

Restaurant Weeks are Murder–competition in the kitchen

Restaurant Weeks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Restaurant Weeks are MurderOnce again Libby Klein treats her readers to the adventures of Poppy McAllister, creator of wonderful, gluten free pastries and owner of a B&B, and her octogenarian Aunt Ginny, a spunky lady with an attitude. In Restaurant Weeks are Murder, Poppy competes on her ex-boyfriend’s team of three with other restaurant teams on a taped production of a competition. Chefs are provided baskets of mystery ingredients which must be incorporated into the culinary creations. What could go wrong? Plenty!

The characters in this series are always fun, and there are a variety of romantic attractions. Restaurant Week is a full seven days which makes the story perhaps a tad too long, but with different disasters occurring each day, and with complicated backgrounds and motives, attention stays high. A cozy mystery to pique your interest and appetite!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Poppy McAllister Murder Series, but works as a standalone.

Recipes are included.

Publication:  February 26, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

I plopped down on the floor in the sunroom and ran a brush through Figaro’s black smoke fur. He hummed like a Harley, his copper eyes slitty like two winter crescent moons reflecting on the Atlantic.

When I’m with Gia, I feel like my heart explodes, and my brain goes mush. But when I’m with Tim, I’m home again. He’s all I’ve ever wanted, and the years just melt away.

“Don’t be salty with me. I’ve seen you without makeup.”

I could tell Miss New Jersey was trying to wrap her brain around what Gigi was saying. The strain of it was making a wrinkle in her perfect forehead. I had to intervene before she passed out from the stress.

One Taste Too Many–deadly rhubarb crisp

One Taste Too Many

by Debra H. Goldstein

One Taste Too ManySarah Blair may be the amateur detective featured in One Taste Too Many, but she shares the spotlight with her twin sister Emily who unfortunately is suspected of murdering Sarah’s wheeling, dealing, skirt chasing ex-husband, Bill. Also claiming top billing is RahRah, her ex-mother-in-law’s Siamese cat. When Mrs. Blair passed away, the cat happily ended up in Sarah’s loving care. Three years later, why would a co-worker claim the cat is legally hers? Who would want to murder Bill, Sarah’s ex? Well, lots of people, but who would actually perform the deed?

Emily is a line cook working in a restaurant and displaying her talents at a Food Expo in Alabama. Sarah is a receptionist for lawyer, Harlan, who comes to the legal rescue for the twins several times.

Things are very complicated with a number of cooks involved in murderous scenarios. Sarah tries to unravel personal, professional, and business interests before her sister is arrested for murder and further crimes occur. The ending was a surprise to me when the murderer was revealed. The complex plot and interesting characters assure that the first book in the new series by Debra H. Goldstein will not be the last!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery 

Notes: 1.  #1 in the Sarah Blair Mystery Series.

  2.  Two recipes are included that are perfect for Sarah, who has no culinary talents, to make.

Publication:   December 18, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

At one time she had added wife to her failure list, but after some reflection and a little counseling, Sarah concluded her problem in the marriage area was in her choosing ability rather than from any deficit in her performance.

“That sounds like Bill. He could take the shirt off your back and make you believe you’d given it to him.”

Hands intrigued her. His were strong and solid. She believed hands reflected the soul of a person.

Premeditated Peppermint–another cooking reality show?

Premeditated Peppermint

by Amanda Flower

Premeditated PeppermintI passed on the first two books in this series as the idea of a cozy mystery themed around an Amish candy shop just didn’t sound like it had enough excitement and pizazz for me. Then I read a few books by this author, Amanda Flower, from a different series and realized I should give the Amish Candy Shop Series a try. I’m glad I did.

Bailey, an Englischer, moves from New York City to help her Amish grandmother with the family candy shop. As Bailey, her grandmother, and cousin Charlotte get ready to display their peppermint themed goodies at the town’s Christmas Market, Bailey’s former boyfriend Eric, a pastry chef, invades the town of Harvest with a television crew. His motives are mixed and at odds with the Amish beliefs and traditions. The quiet town is soon upended by a murder. Is the murderer a local or one of the big city imports?

In Premeditated Peppermint, as Bailey tries to solve the mystery, we meet an interesting group of locals. Aiden is a deputy sheriff and he and Bailey seem drawn to each other. His mother, Juliet, is a hoot as she divides her time and attention between her adorable pot-bellied pig Jethro and possibilities of a romance for the young couple. Margot is on the town council and manages to keep everyone stirred up with exciting plans to promote the town. Emily is a young Amish girl with family difficulties. The Keims have a Christmas tree farm. There are an assortment of other characters who fill out the story.

This is not a purely Amish story. The Amish customs are contrasted with those of their Englischer neighbors. There are even mixed families, and the problems that causes are evident. At appropriate times, there is snowfall and it is easy to visualize rural Ohio and sense the frigid temperatures. Although not a cliffhanger all the way through, it doesn’t need to be. There is plenty of interest in solving the crime and in the personal relationships to keep the story going. The ending surprised me.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Amish Candy Shop Series, but I had no problem following the story as a standalone

  2. Recipe for Peppermint Bark included

Publication:  September 25, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

People in the big cities are craving a simpler country life even if they wouldn’t last more that three seconds outside their area code.

“It’s all here…The charming small town, the sense of community and family. Second chances at love. You know, the feel-good family stuff that TV watchers like to gobble up while ignoring their own families.”

“…there are Amish who get in trouble too, just like there are English who get in trouble. There is no cultural escape from trouble.”

Midnight Snacks are Murder–humor shares the spotlight with mystery

Midnight Snacks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Midnight Snacks are MurderAs Poppy McAllister struggles to renovate a Queen Anne Victorian into a B & B to support herself and her aunt who raised her, she finds herself in the thick of a lot of situations. Personally, she is torn between her old flame Tim, a local chef, and Gia who owns a coffee shop and has commissioned Poppy to make gluten-free treats for his shop. Poppy is also juggling some pretty quirky characters on the home front: Smitty, a handyman reminiscent of the Three Stooges; Aunt Ginny, an eightyish aunt determined to live life to the fullest; Georgina, her domineering mother-in-law; and Figaro, her cat who is always in the middle of things. Unfortunately, Poppy, recently returned to Cape May, finds herself embroiled in the second murder in less than a year. This time, however, she is not a suspect, but has to clear her rather kooky aunt of charges.

Libby Kein’s Midnight Snacks are Murder is a very funny cozy mystery with lots of amusing zingers sometimes addressed to others, but more often what Poppy is thinking. The plot moves along quickly as blame passes to a number of characters and the victim is shown in various lights ranging from evil to saint. Poppy has to find out the complex truth about him in order to vindicate her aunt. The first book in the series was lots of fun and so is this one. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   July 31, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I had a better chance of teaching a badger to ride a bike than winning an argument with Aunt Ginny.

Her supermodel good looks made me feel more schlubby the moment she floated into the kitchen. But then I was too tired to grouse this morning about what God had given me and Betty Crocker had perfected, so I moved on to acceptance faster than usual.

Those kids could text the Constitution in thirty seconds using just emojis.

Killer Green Tomatoes–building a family from a business

Killer Green Tomatoes

by Lynn Cahoon

Killer Green TomatoesAre the people biologically related to you your only family or can the people you choose to surround yourself with be another type of family? Angie, head chef and owner of the County Seat, tries to answer that question for herself and the reader in Killer Green Tomatoes. Lynn Cahoon’s latest work addresses this question along with several others.

Angie, somewhat of an introvert, finds herself surrounded with issues stemming from various relationships in her small community.  The kitchen and wait staff of County Seat are rocked by a death. The Basque community is selecting a new leader. A murder suspect disappears. Numerous women have conflicts with Angie because of small town gossip and jealousies. The sheriff doesn’t trust her. Even Mrs. Potter from across the street is ready to shake her walker at Angie. Felicia,  Angie’s best friend, and Ian, her boyfriend, are the two people she can count on.

Killer Green Tomatoes is a really good cozy mystery, and I highly recommend the series. I do have one issue with the book and that concern diminishes as the story progresses. Mrs. Potter comes to stay with Angie for a week, and Angie immediately finds excuses to leave the house because Mrs. Potter annoys her. Initially Mrs. Potter does nothing to cause that behavior on Angie’s part. Later there are some eyebrow raising incidents, but overall nothing to engender Angie’s behavior. It’s a week, for heaven’s sake, and the woman is physically independent! With Angie reconciling herself to the situation, the plot takes center stage and the reader is treated to a fun mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #2 in the Farm-to-Fork Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:   July 3, 2018—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

Family ties. They wrapped you up in emotions you didn’t even know were there.

Angie was an introvert, and having someone in her house all the time, well, it had been harder than she’d expected.

“There’s enough evil in the world that I can see and understand. I don’t have to go all underworld to be scared.”

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