Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review: Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #6)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and plenty of fun
Cons: Mystery overshadowed by other stuff, ending veering toward soap opera
The Bottom Line:
Baking for pageant
Murder turns beauty ugly
And characters shine

Beauty Pageants, Romance, and Murder

At one point this year, I decided I was going to save three of Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery mysteries for next year, but after I finished reading book 5, I had to move on to Sugar and Iced as soon as I could.  The cliffhanger from the last book worked, so I bumped the book up to the top of my TBR pile.  Not that I am complaining too loudly since it was another good read.

The 75th Annual Sweet Tiara Beauty Pageant is coming up, and Fairy Tale Cupcakes has gotten roped into participating, against Mel’s wishes.  Not only are they providing cupcakes for the lobby every day, but they will be baking the cupcakes the contestants create as one of the rounds.  And, with a college scholarship as the prize, Oz’s friend Lupe has decided to enter.

However, not everything is beautiful, and on the first day, Lupe and the rest of the gang get into a very public fight with Mariel Mars, the head judge of the competition.  Naturally, when Mariel is found dead under the cupcake table the next day, Lupe jumps to the top of the suspect list.  Now Mel has to dig beneath the beautiful surface to find other suspects and clear Lupe’s name.  Can she do that?

If you haven’t started the series, this is not the book to start with.  You see, that cliffhanger I mentioned?  It involved Mel’s love life (and to a lesser extent some other characters and their love lives).  And, while the threads of the mystery are being introduced, they are buried under updates on what is happening with those characters.  Normally, that might bother me, but that is exactly why I picked up this book so quickly, so I couldn’t complain.  The romantic sub-plots also provided some great humor over the course of the book, which I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, between romance (in addition to the other couples, there’s a new relationship budding here), and the beauty pageant itself, the mystery gets a little buried even late in the book.  Don’t get me wrong, I was always entertained and never wanted to put the book down, but the mystery was weaker than it could have been.  Things do come together for a strong climax; in fact, that climax was one of my favorite things in the book, and there was much I liked about the book.

Obviously, it was the characters that drew me to read this book so quickly, and they continue to be strong.  In fact, fans of the series will be thrilled with how some relationships evolve here.  Mel’s growth is the most obvious, but some of the other characters grow over the course of this story as well.  I kind of like where one relationship seems to be going, in fact.  Again, if you are new to the series, you won’t appreciate this growth as much, so start at the beginning.  The series is so much fun you won’t be complaining.

But I do have to circle back to the romance for a minute.  The final ending of this book takes one of the romances into soap opera territory.  I’m not saying this ending wasn’t set up earlier in the book, but I had to roll my eyes at the latest complication that couple faces.  Knowing the premise of the next book, I can see we will get a great payoff for it, so I think the payoff will be worth it, but I hope things smooth out for them soon.

Of course, you can’t have a culinary mystery without recipes.  We’ve actually got 4 cupcake recipes here, and they all sound delicious, so fire up the oven and enjoy.

It really is easy to see why these books are so popular.  The characters are as strong as ever in Sugar and Iced, and series fans who haven’t read this book yet will be delighted to spend time with them.  If you aren’t a fan yet, start at the beginning and you’ll be hooked before you know it.

And me?  I’m aiming to read book 7 in a couple of months so I can read the newest as soon as it comes out in April.  So much for my plan from earlier in the year to space out these books over all of 2015 and 2016.

And if you aren't yet addicted to the series, here are the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries in order.


  1. I do like this series and all of her other series as well.

    1. I haven't started the Library Lovers series, but it's quite possible I will next year.

  2. I'm so behind in this series and really need to get caught up. I have all the books but just haven't read them yet. I do enjoy this and can never resist cupcake mentions but I must say it's not my favorite of McKinlay's series. Great review!

    1. I'm curious which of her series is your favorite?