This week I review the second in the Vampire Chef mystery series just in time for Halloween. I reviewed the first book, A Taste of the Nightlife in the series (click here) and interviewed the author (click here) as well. If you are looking for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, just scroll down to the next blog post.
Copyright: April 2012 (Signet) 320 pgs
Series: 2nd in Vampire Chef Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: paranormal cozy
Main Characters: Chef Charlotte Caine, Owner of Nightlife Restaurant catering to day-bloods and night-bloods both.
Setting: Modern day, New York City
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
The book opens with Felicity, a friend of Charolotte's, barging in Nightlife's kitchen in tears. She is a wedding and event planner whose chef quit on her with only days till the wedding event of the social pages. Felicity talks Charlotte into stepping in as chef for the wedding of a wealthy witch and a vampire. Dollar signs were in her eyes or she would not have taken a job that Chef Oscar Simmons had run from. Charlotte soon discovers that this isn't just any witch family, it is the Maddox witches, headed-up by grandpa Lloyd Maddox, who has been pushing to deny legal rights to vampires and make killing them legal again.
Then there is a fake ICE raid during one of the dinners at the mansion, supposedly to catch unregistered vampires from the groom's family, but turns out to provide a distraction for the theft of a powerful witch talisman. Then Chef Oscar dies of a stroke, or was it poisoning? On top of that, the bride's family is crazy dysfunctional, with a vengeful sister-of-the-bride and secrets everywhere. Charlotte is up to her eyeballs in this volatile situation. Brendon, her kinda-sorta boyfriend, is on the case too, as well as the golden haired vampire Anatole. Anatole is still trying to woo Charlotte away from Brendon.
Charlotte is developed better in this book. It still bugs me that the character is full figured and dark haired, but the covers insist on a pencil thin blond. Charlotte deals with her relationship with her brother more in this book, realizing that she may be older, but Chet has some things right. That is an interesting break through for her. I liked Chet much better in this book. She is not very successful in resisting Anatole's charms even though she is clearly falling for Brendon. I am not sure about the chances of her relationship with Brendon based on this book. They just don't seem to really connect meaningfully. Brendon needs to have more "page-time" for the reader to get to know him. I enjoyed Charlotte's staff, they are a great group with a lot of potential there. A breakout character is the groom's brother, Jacques, who is a great surprise with some depth.
The mansion of the Bride's family is where the majority of the story unfolds. It adds to the story mostly because it is outside Charlotte's comfort zone. This was a perfect setting to add a few gothic suspense touches, but no.
I did take issue with one scene towards the end of the book. Charlotte has been staying at the mansion so her roommates have not been part of the story on any level. Charlotte stops by her apartment and her roommate gets demanding of her. It seemed completely out of place. Otherwise, the plot kept moving and there were enough suspects and secrets everywhere to be entertaining.
The killer confrontation is devised as a trap for Charlotte that isn't obvious. It was suspenseful and even tragic. The wrap-up has touches of bittersweet, some may need a tissue. It does make me want to read the next book immediately.
For the second entry in a new series, this one tops the debut for drama and twists. This was nicely developed and kept me reading.
Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.
Now for the Monster Mash, you knew it had to be included!