Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Review: Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James (Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting main character, good twists in second half
Cons: Set up slows down mystery early on
The Bottom Line:
Mysterious prize
Sets up promising series
Overcomes slow start

Penn Finds More Truffle than She Bargained For

I can’t resist culinary cozies.  Oh, I am trying to expand my reading horizons and start some other types of cozy mystery series, but I keep coming back to these culinary cozies.  It’s why I picked up Asking for Truffle, the first in a new Southern Chocolate Shop series, and it’s a delicious debut.

Charity Penn, Penn to her friends, has learned not to trust anyone.  An unplanned child, she was left with her father, and his family has never forgiven her for, well, existing.  But the Penn family is rich, so she has also learned that other people are only interested in her for her money.  That’s why she is immediately suspicious of a letter she got announcing she’s won a trip to a chocolate shop in Camilla Beach, South Carolina, for cooking classes.  Since she didn’t enter a contest, she knows something is up.  She asks her friend to look into it for her, and he heads to the shop.  After leaving a voicemail that he has exciting news to share that he wants to hear her reaction to, he winds up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Naturally, Penn holds herself responsible for what happened to her friend, so she packs her bags and heads down to Camilla Beach.  But with everyone in town a suspect, who can she trust?  What is up with the contest?  And what really happened to her friend?

I will admit I was hesitant to pick up this book because I’d read early reviews from people who had trouble with Penn.  She certainly isn’t like normal cozy heroines since she has a very hard shell.  The book makes the reason behind it very clear.  In fact, I found her background quite refreshing just because it is something different.  By the end of the book, we can see her shell is beginning to crack, and there is definitely potential for great character growth in this series.

And the other characters more than make up for Penn.  While she is understandably suspicious of everyone she meets, she meets some truly wonderful people.  They are a bit eccentric, but who isn’t in a cozy mystery, right?  I’m anxious to get to know them better in future books.

My biggest issue with the book was actually the plot.  It was very uneven.  I’m not sure how it really could have been handled better considering everything that had to happen here, but it took a while for the mystery to really take off.  Once it did, however, it contains some nice surprises along the way to the climax, and it pays off the set up of the first half nicely as well.

And I love the setting – an island off the coast of South Carolina.  It’s the kind of location I want to visit on vacation.  A book is the next best thing, right?

Naturally, there are some recipes included at the end of the book.  We get recipes for chili, chocolate shots and hot chocolate, plus a dark chocolate hazelnut truffle.  That’s a good thing considering how the talk of chocolate made my mouth water.

Now that the series has been set up, I can see lots of potential in future books.  Like any good piece of chocolate, Asking for Truffle teases more delicious mysteries to come.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. I love the setting and I love that the mystery involves chocolate! However, an uneven plot and a main character that takes awhile to warm up to does have this one drifting towards the bottom of my TBR. I may wait for the 2nd one and see if it's better before grabbing this one.

  2. Penn reminds me of the main character of the one in The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (which is kind of a foodie read). Nice review.

  3. I just finished reading it and I totally agree with you. Penn has a hard shell that I found refreshing also especially since with her family history it makes sense.