Monday, January 27, 2014

What I've Read This Weekend

What I've Read This Weekend. . .

Brownies and Broomsticks: A Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates -- Cozy Mystery

Katie Lightfoot is starting over in Savannah. Her fiance unceremoniously dumped her and broke her heart and she needed to get away from her small town. The timing was right since her Uncle Ben has retired and Aunt Lucy is opening a bakery. With a degree in pastry art and three years at a dead-end management job she's a natural choice for head baker. Katie loves Savannah and her new home. She likes her aunt's quirky book club friends and the adorable black Cairn Terrier puppy who seems to have adopted her. Then Mavis Templeton, the bitter, cranky head of Savannah's Downtown Business Association threatens to ruin the Honeybee Bakery if they don't cater to her demands. Lucy fears for her aunt and uncle and for her own future. When Mavis ends up dead outside the bakery, Uncle Ben is the prime suspect. Lucy calls in her book club ladies and reveals that they're actually a spellbook club, as in a coven of witches! Not only is Lucy a witch but Katie is too, and a powerful one. Katie is shocked that her parents never told her of her heritage. She's not even sure she wants to believe it. What she does believe in is cold, hard evidence and she's determined to find out who murdered Mavis and clear her uncle's name. She runs afoul of Detective Quinn, the officer in charge of the case and promptly ignores her promise not to go sleuthing on her own. With some help from the handsome, cocky reporter Steve and hunky firefighter Declan, Mungo the Cairn, plus some magic, Katie thinks she can crack this case.

This is a charming cozy mystery. I like the local color of Savannah and can easily picture it in my mind though I've never been there. I adore bakeries and the Honeybee sounds like heaven on earth! The mystery kept me interested enough but not breathless to find out who the murderer was. I actually guessed pretty early on but I had my doubts when I mistrusted another character. There's really no way to guess without knowing the motive though so it's a good, solid mystery. The reveal is kind of flat and unemotional though. I expected more tension. The magic is a cute addition. It's wiccan or white magic with some occasional bending of the rules. I'm not opposed to the possibility of that sort of magic. I was afraid the story would be too fantasy/paranormal but it's very grounded in reality and I really liked that. Everything is explained in an easy manner that doesn't bog the story down. The romance is kept light and on the fringes of the story. There's chemistry between Katie and both men but not overwhelmingly so. The author knows how to keep it clean and light. I didn't understand how one person could have so much power over an entire city. I suspected there was a reason for that but that sort of ended up being a loose end that wasn't explained. It took the characters a really long time to even think of it. I would think that after years of dealing with bullying, the thought would have occurred to someone in the book club. I also didn't like how Katie kept going off to investigate in dangerous situations. I know that's a hallmark of the cozy mystery but she seemed a little naive and reckless at times.

I liked the characters for the most part. I can relate to Katie's love of animals and baking, and of course her family. I love Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben. They're so kind and homey. Aunt Lucy is the type of lady you just want to hug you all the time and feed you when you're down. What I didn't like was Katie's inability to stand up for herself. She should have made her credentials clear to Mavis and then she should have stood up to the old bat. I liked what I know about Declan. He seems a good, dependable man if maybe not super bright. I did not like Steve at all! I found him creepy and smarmy. He's almost a sleazy stalker. My favorite character if, of course, Mungo, the Cairn Terrier. He doesn't act much like a real Cairn with the exception of refusing to eat dog food. (Our Cairn always looked at her bowl with the expression "You expect ME to eat this SLOP?") The other realistic thing he does is help Katie by yipping at her. Cairns are very intelligent and bossy. They rule the world and don't hesitate to tell you how stupid you are. Cairns are not small enough to go inside a large tote bag. Even a puppy, except for a very young one, is too heavy. They're short, but sturdy. No Cairn I know would actually rub noses with a cat but I'll allow it because of the magical connection.

I liked the book well enough to want to continue the series. I'd probably just read the books for Mungo and for the recipes even if I didn't like the story!

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