Hi all! I have been lazy, there is no other excuse. And shame on me, because Daryl Wood Gerber is one of my favorite cozy authors recently. Her Cookbook Nook series is a blast, with beautiful Pacific coast setting, a bookstore, and a trusty cat (my dream, basically). While I didn’t love the last book, Shredding the Evidence, I am happy to say that Wining and Dining really brings the series back. So without further ado…
From the Publisher:
Crystal Cove is buzzing with the launch of its fifth annual Art and Wine Festival, when local wineries are paired with local artists to show off their latest creations. Jenna’s thrilled to be showing one of her own amateur paintings at the fair, but her excitement quickly fades when an up-and-coming artist is murdered. What’s more, all the evidence points to a good friend of Jenna’s as the culprit, and she’ll have to use all her wits to prove his innocence before he paints himself into a corner.
Certain that her friend is being framed, Jenna tries to blend in as she starts digging into an array of colorful suspects, including a tech guru with a penchant for stalking women, the mayor’s wayward son, and an older art instructor who might have been closer to the victim than anyone would have guessed. Jenna will have to wine and dine her way through all the clues before she can see the full picture and put the real killer behind bars—all the while avoiding her own brush with death . . .
What I Loved:
- The Art. One of Jenna’s side passions that has cropped up in the series is a love of art, from oil painting to watercolors, and in Wining and Dying, we finally get to see her painting in earnest for a competition. While the murder victim Quade is the resident winning artist, I loved seeing Jenna, the character we have been rooting for for ten books, doing what she loves most. Also fun was meeting the other art contestants and learning more about the real artists that Gerber drops into the narrative (Diego Rivera, Roland David Smith), who I then immediately Googled. One of the fringe benefits of reading cozies is that they often throw in gems of knowledge like this, and Gerber is no exception.
- The Murder. There is something to be said for the unlikeable murder victim. Agatha Christie was a huge proponent of the unlikeable murder victim, and every time I encounter one in cozies, I perk up a bit. I love how much it expands the suspect pool, and I love it when the narrative peels back the person’s life and backstory like an onion, leaving behind a still unlikeable, but more relatable character. Quade was the perfect example of this – an unlikeable, arrogant, moody artist who has deep-seated issues stemming from being an orphan and meeting his birth parents later in life. The suspect pool is limitless, and Quade’s death is as sensational as he was in life – forgery, theft, blackmail, oh my!
What Didn’t Work as Well:
- Rhett and Jenna. I know it is just me, but Rhett and Jenna just don’t do it for me. They seem to live vastly separate lives – they literally have been engaged for months and have both been in major relationships, yet don’t want to live together until marriage? Whenever Jenna does something dumb in her quest to solve murders, Rhett “won’t let her out of his sight” but seems to be back at his restaurant within a day or two. Now the wedding is postponed, and while the scenes with Rhett and Jenna were cute, they were few and far in between. I hope that with more page time, I will “get” them more.
- Jenna’s Reckless Abandon. This has been a pretty constant complaint throughout this series (and frankly most cozies), Jenna has basically no regard for her safety, her friend’s safety, or law enforcement. This isn’t a cozy series where the police are inept or cruel; Cinnamon the police chief is very good at her job and a great friend to Jenna. That is almost what makes it more infuriating when Jenna goes off to confront a killer with a quick call to the police, who she just hopes will follow closely behind. This is book ten of the series, and the tenth time Jenna has almost gotten herself or her friends killed by rushing headlong after murderers.
Wining and Dining was delightful, and I am so happy to get the honor of reviewing the ARC (despite being terribly, horribly late). Because I am so late, you don’t even have to pre-order – Wining and Dining is available now! Order here, or if you want to check out book one, order Final Sentence, here in paperback!