Release Date: Sep 12, 2017
Series: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Charity Penn, who goes by her last name of “Penn”, is confused when she receives a letter congratulating her for winning a trip to Camilla Beach, South Carolina. The prize includes free cooking lessons at “The Chocolate Bar”, which sounds intriguing to Penn except she never entered a contest. Her friend “Skinny” travels to South Carolina to do some digging for her, but ends up dead! Penn feels guilty that Skinny died doing a favor for her and is determined to take action. She soon follows to the small beach town to look into her friend’s death and solve the mystery of how she won a contest she didn’t enter.
I am a fan of the author’s White House Gardener series and thought the premise of this new series sounded fun. After reading the book, I still think the series has promise but the debut book isn’t up to the standards of the gardening series. Part of this is because it’s hard to connect with Penn. Her upbringing wasn’t ideal and she is constantly afraid people are taking advantage of her for her money. Her rehashing of the past and her suspicions get old and slow down the investigative part of the story, which is already slow to unfold. Once Penn starts looking into Skinny’s death, too much time is spent seeing her going over the same ground with the locals with everyone accusing each other and Penn believing whichever story she hears last. It takes a while before any real progress is made in the investigation.
Things pick up toward the end and although the ultimate solution is somewhat predictable, it is satisfying and sets the stage for a sequel. With all of Penn’s backstory out of the way in this book, new books in the series have the potential to be very good. The setting is interesting and Penn makes a likable friend in Althea and also has a potential love interest for the future. So even though the book is flawed, this is a series to watch.