Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, she’s baking her own wedding cake, and she’s leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiance playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks.
Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiance slaps a restraining order on her. When he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny.
Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn’t know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.
So. Troubled young woman falsely accused of murder, plus hunky lawyer man, along with (you don’t really get this from the product description, but it’s full-on, I promise) a heavy Southern angle. Cozy mystery with romance, a Southern accent, and an emphasis on cooking and baking, too. Like I said, not my usual style of mystery – I go for the dark and gritty ones more than the cozies – but I was a bit tickled by the Southern thing and I thought, what the heck. Put a little diversity in my reading.
For most of the book I was entertained, if not engrossed. Teeny is, indeed, a cute character with a good dose of Southern charm to her. She’s native to Georgia (grew up on a peach farm), but relocated to Charleston, South Carolina to be with Bing, the murdered fiance. She loves to cook, and bake; dreaming up fanciful recipes, as well as actually cooking, is how she and her female family members have always dealt with stress or for that matter, emotion of any kind. She’s a guilt-wracked Baptist, too, which I guess adds flavor, although it felt a bit remote from my Southern experience. Coop, the lawyer/ex-boyfriend, is indeed hunky.
But for me, the attractions ended there. Teeny is a bit too wishy-washy, timid, and hand-wringing for my tastes; I was exasperated with a series of poor decisions she made, and she thus fell a bit short of being a sympathetic character, or even a complex or multi-faceted or very human one. Coop was worse: hunky does NOT compensate for one-dimensional and bumbling. But the worst part was a series of completely unexplained turn-arounds. Red hates Teeny! Now Red is giving Teeny brotherly pecks and good advice! Teeny hates the house! Teeny loves the house! And what’s up with her sudden and unprecedented sympathy and nostalgia for the odious Bing, late in the book? Any attempts at “plot” are thwarted by loose ends flopping about, and characters and events flip-flopping with no semblance of explanation or reason. I guess if you can’t find a plausible way to explain a change of heart you just… don’t? The heart just changes?
I wanted to like this book, and certain aspects of the Southern frame were sweet and gratifying. My frustrations didn’t really kick in til the final pages, I guess because I trusted West to tie up the aforementioned loose ends, and I didn’t realize until late in the game that she had no intention of doing so. (Yes, she. Michael Lee West is a woman. It took me a minute, too.) But when I finished the book, Husband can tell you I stalked off in a tiff that I’d wasted precious reading time on this unsatisfying cream puff of a book.
On the other hand, there are recipes included at the end, if you like that sort of thing.
Good job, product-description-writer. You got me. Perhaps you should have written the book, too.