Friday, April 22, 2016

Aloha to Jenn McKinlay and VANILLA BEANED - Book Review


In the eighth in the New York Times bestselling series, the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew goes double or nothing in Vegas...

Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura are taking a gamble by opening their first franchise of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery, so where better to hit the jackpot than in Vegas? Business manager Tate Harper has lined up a meeting with Holly Hartzmark, a former showgirl who’s looking to bring Mel and Angie’s sweet treats to Sin City, but Mel isn’t so sure she’s ready to hand her recipes over to a complete stranger—especially one as brash as Holly.

But after the potential bakery location gets blown up, Mel begins seeing another side to Holly—one that reminds her very much of herself. Determined to help a kindred spirit, Mel sets out to discover who is trying to keep the bakery from cashing in. But with a murderous mischief maker on the loose, the odds are stacking up against a happy ending for Mel and her friends.

Lady luck please let the dice stay hot - Elvis Presley, Viva Las Vegas

Melanie Cooper gave up a lucrative career in Corporate America to open her own cupcake bakery in her hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. She shares her dream with two school friends - Angie DeLaura and Tate Harper. In the previous seven books, they created sweet treats while solving murder mysteries. The status quo changes when Tate proposes marriage to Angie and expansion to Melanie. Neither proposition sits well with Melanie. She is happy for her friends' couplehood, but wonder how the wedding and franchising will impact the cupcake business that feeds her current contentment.

When the trio travel to Las Vegas, mayhem follows them during their meeting with a prospective franchise licencee. VANILLA BEANED follows the typical cozy mystery path - a few red herrings, laugh out loud comedy, and predictable climatic action where the killer is unveiled. VANILLA BEANED stands out with its Vegas setting. McKinlay checks off every cliche of Sin City. Mel, Angie, and Tate check into the fictional Blue Hawaiian in the middle of an Elvis convention. While Angie and Tate are absorbed in Vegas' distractions, Melanie and Holly forge an unexpected friendship, tackle the ongoing mystery and bond over vanilla cupcakes. VANILLA BEANED leans towards character development of series regular Melanie and new addition Holly at the expense of the cozy mystery. I learned more about Melanie's unspoken fears about her future and Holly's desire for a "regular" life, making the characters more likable through their emotional conflicts.

VANILLA BEANED offers elements of Lucy & Ethel, Stephanie & Lulu, and Gracie Hart & Sam Fuller - slapstick comedy of two girlfriends as they bumble through the investigation. VANILLA BEANED kept my attention even though the murder mystery was weaker than previous books. 

VANILLA BEANED will tease fans of the series with a long standing unresolved issue (no spoilers here).  As such, I recommend readers new to the series to start with Book 1, SPRINKLE WITH MURDER, to appreciate the plot twists in VANILLA BEANED.

As a fan of the series, I was satisfied with VANILLA BEANED as an comfort read with familiar characters. McKinlay also includes recipes of cupcakes featured in the story. What's not to love about cupcakes?!?!

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

I am giving away a book choice from my convention stash. To enter the giveaway,

1. What employment would you seek in Vegas - showgirl? dealer? waitress?

I'd probably be the tour guide to Hoover Dam.

2. Comments are open through Saturday, April 23, 10 pm in Baltimore.

3. I'll post the winner on Sunday, April 24.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Hoover Dam
Public Domain (link)


  1. none really. just visit

  2. I don't have the legs or body or voice or dancing or... to be a showgirl, but it would be fun just to try - lots of layers on though. Don't want to scare people.

  3. I would pick something in the background - I don't like to be noticed. LOL

  4. I love games so being a dealer appeals to me!

  5. I would be a Hotel Receptionist. That way I would meet lots of interesting people.

  6. Since I enjoy card games, I would like to be a dealer.

  7. Definitely NOT showgirl... Maybe bartender?

  8. I want to work at the airport and fly for free!


  9. How about the person who turns on the switch for all the fabulous lights?


  10. Dancer mmmm I think I got the moves

  11. Would like to just visit.
    Patty B.

  12. I am ok with pets and dog