Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vanilla Beaned - Jenn McKinlay

Vanilla Beaned
A Cupcake Bakery Mystery
Jenn McKinlay
Berkley Prime Crime


It’s a bittersweet truth that, many times, business partnerships function best during the startup period.  At that point, each partner has the same mind-set.  Everyone is working day and night; hustling to make the business a success.  Once there is a measure of success, the partners may have very different ideas about where to take the business (if anywhere) from there. 

In this case, Melanie (Mel) Cooper is thrilled with the success of Fairy Tale Cupcakes.  Her partners, Angie and Tate (who are now real-life partners, too) are eager to capitalize on this success by opening franchises.  Mel is opposed; she wants to be hands-on, not a long-distance owner.  The recipes and baking methods are largely hers.  She’s very worried about quality control, among other issues.

Angie and Tate have the majority vote, but they want to convince Mel, not force her.  They’ve decided on Las Vegas as the location of their first franchise.  It’s close enough to Scottsdale to feel not-quite-long-distance; but still far enough away, and in a high-traffic town.  Their prospective franchisee is Holly, an almost-former showgirl.   Mel’s knee-jerk reaction is to turn her down immediately.  But, after spending some time with Holly, she sees the woman beneath the showgirl.  She has a young daughter now, she’s going through a divorce, and she’s ready for her life to take a new direction.  She’s also a gifted baker, even creating some new cupcake flavors.

Since they’re in Vegas, the group decides to check out possible franchise locations.  At the first location, opening the front door sets off an explosion that seriously injures both the realtor and the local lawyer who had accompanied them.  It’s definitely a shock, and most likely an accident, and maybe even some kind of warning from the universe.  Later, at the second prospective shop, a car leaps the curb and crashes through the front window.  The driver, wearing a helmet, manages to flee the scene.  That’s more than definitely a purposeful act.    Holly breaks down and admits that she’s being terrorized by a stalker.

 This latest installment (see list below) puts the three main players in direct danger.  Since their personal relationships have been strained lately, the danger serves to pull them all together again.  A common enemy will do that.  It’s nice to see them all on the same page again.  The action is fast-paced and the pages seem to fly by on their own.  Holly turned out to be quite an interesting and likeable character.  She’s a good addition to the cast, and I hope we get to see more of her.  As always, don’t miss the recipes at the end of the novel.  I haven’t found a bad one yet.  

Rating: 7
April 2016

ISBN# 978-0-425-25894-1 (paperback)

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