Friday, January 22, 2016

Aloha to Jenn McKinlay and the Cupbake Bakery Mystery Series - More Reviews

During my recent trip to Tampa, I found more books in Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery Mystery series.  The books were easy to read, especially in the scraps of time I had between meetings with the contractors who are renovating our condo.   I previously reviewed SPRINKLE WITH MURDER (Book 1) and RED VELVET REVENGE (Book 4) at this link.



Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura's Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery is gearing up for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately someone has iced Baxter Malloy on his first date with Mel's mother. Now Mom's a suspect, and Mel and Angie need to find time around frosting to dig into the man's shady past and discover who served him his just desserts.

If you're afraid of butter, use cream. - Julia Child

Melanie shows no fear in giving up her high paying marketing job to pursue a culinary career.  She recruits childhood friends Angie to join her in the kichen and Tate to invest in the business.  As they sample flavors, they also trade movie quotes.  The trio make a formidable team in creating delicious treats and growing their business ... but stumble when they continue acting as amateur sleuths.  But that's where the fun begins as they investigate the inconvenient murder of a slick entrepreneur during his date with Mel's mother.   Likewise, the trio's bond is tested when Angie is distracted by the victim's son, a rock star.

McKinlay continues to develop these likable characters while sharing secrets of baking cupcapes. She even offers recipes at the end of the book.   



Sugar and spice and murderous vice.  That’s what pageants are made of…

Normally Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura wouldn’t be caught dead at a beauty pageant, but when Mel’s mom asks them to provide cupcakes for the seventy-fifth annual Sweet Tiara contest as a favor for her best friend, they can’t say no. Plus, between cooking up a daily display for the three-day event and sponsoring a cupcake creation challenge for the participants, Fairy Tale Cupcakes will get great publicity.

But the world of pageants is even hotter than Mel’s kitchen. A high-strung judge and a pushy stage mom target Lupe, a young friend of Mel and Angie’s, at the competition and aim to take her out—by any means necessary. When the same judge shows up dead underneath Mel and Angie’s cupcake display, Lupe is crowned the lead suspect. Now Mel and Angie will have to find the real killer quickly or Lupe may be strutting the catwalk in prison pinstripes…

Eric Matthews: Listen to me, you old fruitcake!
Victor Melling: How dare you, you cupcake!
- Miss Congeniality

The mayhem continues when Mel and company are invited to serve cupcakes at the Sweet Tiara beauty pageant.  Not only it is a business boon, the daily deliveries give Mel, Angie, and Tate the "excuse" to support a skateboarding teen, Lupe, as she enters the pageant for the scholarship money.   McKinlay allows secondary characters to shine, including Mel's mom as Lupe's mentor.    

SUGAR AND ICED is a welcome addition to the series.  It pokes fun at beauty queens, stage moms, and Italian brothers while delivering the trademark movie quotes throughout the plot.   McKinlay takes an unexpected twist with Mel's love life, adding an emotional dimension to Mel's character development and the overall series progression.   Just like sugar, McKinlay left me satisfied but still craving for more.



Scottsdale, Arizona, may not be the liveliest place on earth, but it’s never been as dead as this. Hundreds of fans have gathered together for the first annual Old Town Zombie Walk, and Mel, Angie, and the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew are donning their best undead attire to sell some horror-themed desserts to the hungry hordes.

But the fun turns to fright when Mel finds a real dead body in a prop casket outside of the bakery’s truck—and the corpse looks alarmingly like a zombie of their own. Knowing that Joe, Angie’s brother and Mel’s former flame, has been working on a dangerous mob case, Mel worries that the murder is a hit gone wrong and that someone near and dear was the real target. To keep any of her friends from winding up six feet under, Mel will do whatever it takes to find a killer—no matter how scary things get...

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. - Charles M. Schulz

Mel finds solace in chocolate when her life turns upside down at the Old Town Zombie Fest - she discovers a dead body in the coffin used to attract attention to her cupcake van.   Mel suspects it was a hit gone wrong - the murder itself is disturbing; the publicity is bad for business; but the possibility of who was the intended target gives her chills.  As she nurses a broken heart and bristles from being restricted to the bakery for her own safety, Mel finds the strength from within to take control of her life and find the murderer.

McKinlay breaks from the "cozy mystery" boilerplate to venture into Stephanie Plum territory.  The secondary characters add comic relief even as Mel's life implodes.   McKinlay pays tribute to Zombies in pop culture while delivering mouth watering sweet treats.   The creme de la creme is the movie quotes between the three childhood friends - Mel, Angie, and Tate.  I am looking forward to the gang taking the action to Vegas in Book 8, aptly named VANILLA BEANED.


I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash to one randomly selected commenter.  To enter the giveaway, leave a comment about beauty queens, zombie fests, and/or dark chocolate!  I enjoyed Miss Congeniality, I don't watch the Walking Dead, and I've learned to appreciate dark chocolate (and even given up milk chocolate for its darker cousin).  Comments are open through Saturday, January 23, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, January 24.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City


  1. What a fun series! I love chocolate....been eating more dark chocolate lately too.

  2. I like MISS CONGENIALITY too.

    Not a fan of zombies - way too scary.

    When I use cooking chocolate I always add dark chocolate to the milk. Tastes so much better.

  3. Oww, dark chocolate... Sooo delicious. I like to use it on my bananacupcakes. Melted on top, they don't always look a picture but they taste great!

  4. Love dark chocolate

  5. I think I'm one of the few that hate everything about zombies. Any time I see a show do a zombie whatever, I have to turn it, just not my cup of tea. As for dark chocolate, as much as I like eating it, I still prefer milk. Dark is just a little too bitter for my taste buds.

  6. Love love love dark chocolate and it's good for you too!

  7. I love dark chocolate!! It's just the most sinful treat and I love that it's got so many qualities that are good for you.

  8. That movie is the best! I love dark chocolate more than anything. :)

  9. What a fun mystery series! Great covers too. I love dark chocolate.

  10. LOL I totally agree with what you said.

  11. Those cupcakes are too cute. Oh and dark chocolate in cupcakes is so good.

  12. I loooove dark chocolate.. the darker it is the more I love it

  13. My daughters have their defense to zombie apocalypse planned

  14. I love dark chocolate. I make a mean bittersweet chocolate cake with gananche as well as cupcakes made with hersheys syrup and marsacpone filling. To. Die. For.

  15. I was in a few beauty pageants when I was younger, Warm Bodies is one of my favorite movies, and I LOVE dark chocolate!

  16. I used to enjoy watching Miss America pageant when I was younger. Love all kinds of chocolate. Not into zombies.
    Patty B43

  17. I don't think I've ever met a beauty queen (loved Miss Congeniality too!) - don't want anything to do with zombies - Love Dark Chocolate!

  18. I loved the talent competition in Miss Congeniality - it should be required viewing for all females! My high school Beta club sponsored our Miss VRHS competition and the teacher in charge of the Beta club got mad at me and one of my best friends when we refused to enter the beauty contest on moral grounds. ;-)

    Watched the first couple of Walking Dead episodes, but coudn't be bothered to keep up with it.

    I LOVE dark chocolate! It is a health food right? (Honestly, I love pretty much all types of chocolate.)

  19. I haven't watched Miss Congeniality and don't want to. I don't watch or read anything zombie related. Dark chocolate is okay but not my favorite.

  20. Nice reviews, Kim! I still prefer milk chocolate even though I know dark is better. Good luck on the renovations!

  21. Other than snickers bars and brownies am not too much into chocolate. But do like cupcakes, VANILLA - and these covers are so yummy looking.
    Karen T.