My Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Age Category: Adult
Type of romance: MF
Out of the frying pan, into the fire . . .
Courtney Archer is known for hosting the show Cooking with the Farmer’s Daughter . . . despite the fact that she’s actually a pediatrician’s daughter. Now she’s signed on for a role on The American Baking Battle. On this reality show, she can start developing a more authentic image for herself—and as a bonus, the usual backstabbing and manufactured drama isn’t part of the Baking Battle script. But genuine drama is heating up behind the scenes . . .
During a film shoot in the scenic Pocono Mountains, Courtney has to juggle career commitments like pots on a six-burner stove. Adding to the stress is Mick, a contestant who finds out about her fake farm-girl story. Determined to succeed at her new gig, she whips up a cherry cobbler in a cast-iron fry pan one evening and leaves it out to cool. But the next morning, it’s Mick’s body that’s cooling—right next to Courtney’s pan, now classified as a murder weapon . . .
I received a free copy from the publisher through Netgalley and voluntarily reviewed it.
I liked the set-up for this book with the baking show and I requested this one soon after I spotted it on Netgalley. It’s a fun cozy mystery set around a baking competition. However the mystery fell a bit flat and that among with a few other things prevented me from enjoying this one as much as I had hoped.
The mystery started off interesting, with one of the contestants found dead. He is hit upon the head with the main characters cast iron pan and cobbler. Which ofcourse makes the main character one of the suspects and she sets out to clear her name. The rest of the mystery just wasn’t as engaging to me. There’s two obvious unlikable characters who with their unlikable behavior hit a spot on the suspects list. But most of it was actually guessing. There just weren’t many clues to point to the murderer or suspects that got ruled out. And the reveal was just a bit anti-climactic, although there were a few interesting twist along the way, the overall mystery just fell flat to me. While I hadn’t predicted who the murderer was, I also wasn’t too surprised.
It made sense how the main character got involved, but I thought her actual involvement was still pretty mild. She mostly asks a few questions and researches things online. There aren’t many clues she finds in person. And while her producer kept warning her to keep her noose out of it, compared with some other cozy mysteries I thought she didn’t put herself in danger too much. Most of the time she was pretty smart about. Asking questions in public places or researching things from the safety from online. Most of the bigger clues and reveals are all kept to the end, which made the earlier part of the story feel a bit slow. I did guess the murderer wrong, but I think there aren’t many good clues to figure it out. Even the obvious suspects lack a clear motive. I liked how the detective on the case seemed capable enough and also was friendly enough to the main character.
I did like the food theme and the baking contest focus. I also like how the set-up for book 2 is done at the end of this book. I had mistakenly believed the main character would be one of the contestants, but she is actually the host. So there isn’t as much of her actually cooking and baking things as I had hoped. We mostly see the contestants do some baking and descriptions of what they have mad,e but not much of the actual baking. The contest itself also was less interesting as we don’t get to know a lot about most contestants, so it’s hard to get invested in who does well, who is send home and who wins.
Courtney was a decent main character. I liked how she handled things. Her curiosity into the murder made sense. I also liked how she wanted to come clean to her fans about her not being a farmer’s daughter, but I have to admit I didn’t really care about the whole drama/ trouble surrounding her not being a farmer’s daughter, but having to pretend she did. There wasn’t much that made me really like her though, there just wasn’t much that really made her stand out somehow.
There are some side characters, but few who are really interesting. It was a bit difficult at the start to remember who was who as there are a lot of characters and not many of them really show a lot of personality of things to distinguish them form one another at first, but as the story progressed this resolved itself when you get to know the characters a bit better.
It was nice to see Courtney struck up a friendship with Shannon, although I didn’t really feel like we got to know her much, it was clear these two quickly considered each other friends. Courtney also is pretty close to her producer Eric. And then there is Drake, the owner of the security company. Courtney has an eye on him, but is he interested in her or only because she’s a suspect? The other host, judge and the contestants all stay to the background a bit, although there are some interesting scenes of glimpses into their personalities at times.
The setting at the castle for the filming was interesting. It was a bit of a locked room mystery feel as you know someone who was there is the murderer and one of the characters there has done it. It also was nice to get a bit of a feel for the setting and surrounding area. And it was fun to read about a show like this being filmed.
To summarize: this cozy mystery has a fun theme with a cooking/ baking show. I liked the food theme and seeing the show being filmed. The mystery fell a bit flat for me, with there being only a few obvious suspects and very few clues. The biggest clues and reveals all come at the end of the story. I had guessed wrong who the murderer was, but then again with very few clues to go on I just guessed on someone. I liked Courtney well enough, but I never fully cared about her and what she was going through. I liked how she handled most of the investigating in a relatively smart manner. I didn’t really care for the whole drama around her not being a farmer’s daughter and her having to pretend she is, while actually wanting to reveal her secret. I was a bit surprised at the start of the book that Courtney wasn’t a contestant as I had expected, but the host of the show instead, so there was less actual baking she did than I has expected. There is a hint of romance and a few side characters that play a role in the story as well. The castle setting for the filming was interesting and gave the mystery a bit of a locked room vibe. All in all a fun food themed cozy mystery, but it fell a bit flat for me.