by Cynthia Chow
& Jenn McKinlay
This week we have a review of Jenn McKinlay’s latest food mystery, Caramel Crush, along with a fun guest post from Jenn about characters. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Caramel Crush. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Caramel Crush: A Cupcake Bakery Mystery by Jenn McKinlay
Review by Cynthia Chow
The path towards love often is a rocky one, and as evidence one needs only to look within the doors of Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery. Melanie Cooper’s best friend and business partner Tate Harper is finally marrying Angie DeLaura, but her uncharacteristic transformation into a bridezilla has everyone ducking for cover. Even more unsettling is the demand by Mel’s former UCLA roommate, Diane Earnest, to create and deliver engagement breakup cupcakes to her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. Diane is calling in a debt from college, and as a result Mel finds herself on the doorstep of Party On! supply company with a delivery intended to embarrass Mike Bordow at his workplace. Facing a dead body is perhaps slightly less preferable than an infuriated fiancé, but that’s what Mel finds in Mike’s office. When Diane becomes implicated she continues to call in her favor, pressuring Mel to investigate and once again be in the middle of a murder.
As Mel looks into the reasons why someone would have wanted to murder this prospective groom, she digs up his very lurid shenanigans and even more possible suspects. Marrying Diane for her money is the least of his crimes, as Mike may have been having affairs with coworkers, bridesmaids, and even Diane’s mother. The one benefit of mingling with the distinctly unpleasant bridal party is that it at least gives Mel an excuse to avoid Angie and her ceaseless demands and indecisiveness. Mel worries that there is a reason Angie seems unable to commit to making decisions in her upcoming wedding, but she may drive everyone insane before revealing it.
Except for the central characters, this latest installment features an abundance of enormously self-centered and rather abhorrent characters. Mel’s own engagement to the love of her life, assistant county attorney Joe DeLaura, is on the back burner as she allows Angie to have her moment in the sun. An investigating detective’s obvious crush on Joe makes her completely resistant to helping Mel in any way, and even Diane is less than cooperative as an unpaying client. The debt that Mel owes to Diane remains a secret shame, and Mel worries that it could change Joe’s opinion of her.
Readers who have grown to love these residents of the charming Arizona town will be fascinated by the further examination of their personal lives and the inner struggles. The affection and genial nature of Mel and her friends bring enough levity to ensure for a satisfying read, although a final twist may have readers feeling that Mel is far too generous. This series continues to take its characters in unexpected directions, guaranteeing that readers will look forward to see where they go next.
By Jenn McKinlay
Where do your characters come from? Are they really based on you? I get this question a lot. I mean A LOT. Here’s the short answer—No, they aren’t me. I mean, I don’t think they’re me. Maybe just parts of me? When I step back and look at the characters in the cupcake bakery mystery series, I see glimmers of myself in all of them. So, I suppose it’s sort of like your children, you know, when you don’t see yourself in them, but people keep telling you that the toddler—usually, when he’s screaming his head off —looks just like you. Um…thanks?
Melanie Cooper, the chief baker of Fairy Tale Cupcakes, is tall, okay, that’s me, blond, nope, not me, and very self-conscious, ha, totally not me. Her partner in baked goods, Angie DeLaura, is short, nope, not me, Italian, sadly, not me, and has a wicked temper as is evidenced if you mess with the people she cares about, okay, there I am! And then there’s Tate Harper, their male counterpart. Tate is brilliant in business, laughably no, not me. He’s level-headed and reasonable, okay, sometimes I can pull that off with three days warning and lots of practice. And he’s a dude, nope, not me.
Moving on to the entourage of side characters in the cupcake bakery series, there’s octogenarian Marty, who is a cranky curmudgeon. I am working my way there in another forty years or so. Marty is my hero! And there’s Oz, a young Hispanic skater dude and wannabe chef. We do share a love of the Ramones, skateboards, and baked goods, so while Oz is not me, he clearly is my people.
Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The bad people and the victims in my books are usually loosely based on people I do not like. They may be the jerk who cheated on my friend, the woman who slept through the green arrow when I was in a hurry, the boss I did not enjoy working for back when I had a real job, or the news story that caught my attention about a reprehensible human who was cruel to an animal who I desperately want to slap until my arm gives out…ahem. So, that’s the birth place of the bad people.
And lastly, how do I come up with what my characters look like? Magazines. Mel and Angie in particular came off the cover of Prevention Magazine back when I was working as a librarian at the Scottsdale Hospital and cobbling together the very first proposal for Sprinkle with Murder. I was doing some reference work for a doctor on bone spurs and my mind wandered—it happens—and I started thinking about what those two cupcake bakers would look like when I glanced down at Prevention Magazine, and there they were on the cover. Yes, sometimes it is just that easy.
So, that’s the long answer to the question of whether my characters are me. I guess I have to change my original answer. In a way, they are all me, but they are also all of the people in my life, good and bad. The shenanigans my people get up to are frequently turned into something the characters in the books would do. And sometimes when I meet a particularly interesting person, I take their whole backstory and use it for a character or two or three. I believe the moral of this tale is be careful what you say and do around a writer because you just might find yourself in a book.
Pro tip: You don’t want to be the dead guy.
Thanks for letting me visit! Happy Reading! Jenn
To enter to win a copy of Caramel Crush, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “caramel,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 15, 2017. US residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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