Vanilla Beaned

A Cupcake Bakery Mystery #8

By Jenn McKinlay


Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele

Synopsis:  Vanilla Beaned

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…(Goodreads)


Fairy Tale Cupcakes is about to be a franchise, but Melanie is not as sold on the idea as her friends and partners, Tate and Angie.  Tate has arranged a trip to Las Vegas to meet with the potential franchisee Holly Hartzmark.  Holly has made it in Vegas as a lead showgirl but is now ready to settle into a more normal occupation and routine to spend more time with her daughter Sydney, but Mel is not impressed with the beautiful woman with no real culinary training at their first meeting.  When the two women narrowly escape being injured in an explosion at a potential storefront, Mel sees another side of Holly and reconsiders her harsh opinion.  Though the women are unhurt by the blast, the local realtor there to show the property is not so lucky and is severely burned and later dies.  The next day, another near death incident occurs at yet another property, and everyone must face the fact that they are not mere coincidental accidents but targeted attempts at someone in the group.  Could Holly’s stalker have escalated to violence?  Does someone associated with her casino show want to keep her from leaving the production so badly that they would resort to all of this sabotage?  Are Mel, Angie, and Tate really the targets as payback for Angie’s brother Joe’s prosecution of mobsters?  Or is it something else entirely?

In addition to Mel’s reservations about franchising the bakery, she is struggling with feelings that she is a third wheel now that Angie and Tate are engaged to be married.  She is also missing Joe (are they together or not).  She’s lonely and frustrated with her current romantic situation.  Then there is Detective Manny who still seems to carry a torch for Mel…or does he?

Vanilla Beaned is the fun eighth installment in the long running Cupcake Bakery Mystery series, and it is a quick, entertaining read.  The change of setting from the bakery to Las Vegas breathes some fresh air into the series, but it does not lose any of its charm.  Most of the recurring characters still manage to make an appearance.  Marty dressed as an Elvis impersonator makes me giggle.  Also different this time around is that the plot revolves around the sabotage rather than murder.  Though there is a death, it is not really considered murdered until the end.  Thus, I feel that some of the urgency and thrill of investigating are missing.   I began to suspect who was behind the trouble and why before Mel did, but it was still interesting and a fine climax to the story.

Vanilla Beaned is not short on laugh out loud moments.  Ms. McKinlay is a witty writer, and her love for her craft shines through each page.  Mel and Joe’s predicament at the close of the book made me chuckle, and now I must wait (im)patiently for the next installment.  I have my fingers crossed that the “love triangle” is at an end.

I enjoyed Vanilla Beaned and recommend it to fans of the Cupcake series and McKinlay’s other works.  The reader is sure to be entertained from the first page to the last.