Publisher: Minotaur Books
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: December 29, 2015
Challenges: Finishing the Series Reading Challenge | NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit* | iTunes* | Barnes & Noble
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Blurb from goodreads:
Welcome to Torte-a small-town family bakeshop where the treats are killer good.
It's the dead of winter in the sleepy town of Ashland, which means no tourists-and fewer customers-for Jules Capshaw and her bakery. But when she's asked to cater an off-season retreat for the directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, business starts heating up...until Jules finds a dead body in the freezer.
"An intriguing new series."-Reader to Reader
Someone at the retreat has apparently iced the bartender, a well-known flirt with a legendary temper-that is, before a killer beat him to the punch. Then, from out of nowhere, Jules's own ex-husband shows up at the shop-and soon becomes a suspect. With accusations piling up higher than the snow-and thicker than a chocolate mousse cake-Jules has to think outside the (recipe) box to find the real culprit...and make sure he gets his just desserts.
"A delectable tale of murder and intrigue."-Portland Book Review on Meet Your Baker
I enjoy this series the more I read it. Jules, Helen, Andy, Stephanie and Sterling are now well established characters but with room to grow. The interactions are delightful and most of the characters feel real and believable, like people you'd know. Lance, the head of the local Shakespeare theater is over-the-top and I like him better when he drops his act. But all the characters mesh well together and Alexander slips in some philosophy along the way via the characters.
The mystery wasn't complicated but it kept me wondering. I figured out parts of it but not all of it. Despite being a cozy mystery, the story is really character driven with the mystery being secondary. It's not until near the end of the story that Jules actively gets involved in the investigations though she's a part of it all along as she finds the body. Mostly the story is Jules and her relationships - her and her estranged husband Carlos, her and her mother Helen, her and her employee Sterling, her and police office/high school love Thomas, etc. "On Thin Icing" a little bit of romance, some mystery, and a slice of life all blended together into a tasty sweet roll.
Ashland is a quaint setting, a small rural town struggling to survive on tourism. While Alexander sometimes slips into an idyllic view of small towns, she also captures the struggles and pros and cons of small town life. Most of this story occurs outside of Ashland, showing us another side of the state of Oregon. I loved seeing more of Oregon and the contrast between the small relatively sophisticated town of Ashland and the rural hunting and fishing resort of Lake of the Woods.
There are some sour notes. Carlos is mostly cliches and stereotypes; the Latin lover, sexy, romantic and charismatic. I hope Alexander will develop him, give him some depth. Also, she has a habit of equating his Latin, swarthy looks with his being sexy. Again, I wish she'd go further, dig deeper, really show us why he's so sexy and good-looking.
I'd love to see Alexander branch out and move away from relying on the theater for her stories. Three stories and every one has involved the theater. While the theater attracts interesting people and makes a handy spring board for stories, it's starting to feel like a crutch.
And there's the matter of the police. Alexander sets the story outside of the town of Ashland where the series is set but imports many of the characters - Jules, Sterling, Carlos, Lance and two of Ashland's police. The latter is problematic because they get involved in the case in a most unrealistic and unlikely way. It simply wasn't feasible or believable. No one, not even the locals where the retreat is located, question the presence of the out-of-town police officers or why they are handling the case. That really bugged me. It would only have taken a few sentences to address the issue and make it work but Alexander didn't do that.
"On Thin Icing" was entertaining and kept me reading. The series is gelling now, coming together, and I am eager for the next book. There was a excerpt for it at the back of "On Thin Icing" which whet my appetite. Despite its problems, the series is enjoyable and I like spending time with the people of Ashland.
I was just about to take the pudding off the stove, when the kitchen door swung open. I froze in mid-whisk. I recognized the face and familiar Latin accent immediately. “Julieta,” Carlos, my estranged husband, said as I dropped the whisk on the floor.
My knees buckled. I grabbed the counter to steady myself. The altitude must have been going to my head. Was I hallucinating? That couldn’t be Carlos standing in the doorway. Could it?
“Mi querida.” Carlos looked concerned as he came closer. “Are you okay?”
Sterling picked up the whisk and grabbed the pudding from the heat. I could feel my body start to sway. My heartbeat pulsed in my head. This couldn’t be happening. Carlos was supposed to be on a ship somewhere in the middle of Mediterranean, not standing in a thick high neck cobalt cable knit sweater that brought out his the blue in his eyes in the middle of nowhere in Oregon.
His relaxed cadence was so familiar. I wanted to rub my eyes.
Sterling cleared his throat. “I’ve got to check on how things are going at the bar. I’ll be back in a minute.” He nodded a curt greeting to Carlos, gave me a knowing look and left me standing with my mouth gaping open.
Carlos’s cheeks were bronzed with sun. His eyes burned with a look of longing. He strolled to me and enveloped me in an embrace.
I let my body collapse into his, breathing in the scent of his aftershave.
His lips brushed my forehead. My knees went weak again. Carlos wrapped me tighter in a hug and stroked my hair. “Did you get my messages?”
I shook my head. What messages? Carlos had been sending me letters for the past few months, but I hadn’t opened any of them. I wasn’t ready, but maybe I should have. I never expected that he’d just show up.
“Mi querida, I have missed you,” he whispered in my ear.
My heart pounded so hard I thought it might explode from my chest. Keep it together, Jules, I warned myself.
Carlos released his grip on me and took a step back, still clasping both of my hands. He caressed my ring finger, then paused, and looked at me with a pained expression. “You are not wearing your ring?”
The question lingered between us. Carlos glanced at the brushed silver band on his left hand. I thought about trying to explain, but he met my eyes and nodded in understanding.
“You look even more beautiful than when I last saw you,” he said quietly.
“You look good, too.” I swallowed, trying to steady my breath.
“It has been too long, mi querida.” He leaned closer and rested his lips on my forehead.
I closed my eyes. I’d been dreaming of this moment for the past six months, imagining what I might say when I saw him again. Now here he was, and I couldn’t find a single word to say. It was like my brain and mouth were disconnected. There were so many things I wanted to say but nothing would come out.
Our bodies swayed in rhythm to Sterling’s music playing in the background. Everything felt fuzzy and surreal. Carlos lips remained locked on my forehead as his hands massaged my hips. We were both lost in the moment.
We may have stayed that way indefinitely, but our mini reunion was interpreted by Lance. He flung the kitchen door open with his usual dramatic flair.
“Juliet, darling, I can smell your divine cooking from…” he trailed off and gasped. “Well, well, well, who do we have here?”
Carlos stepped to the side and placed his arm around my shoulder.
“Lance, this is Carlos.” I wasn’t sure how to introduce Carlos. Should I call him my husband? My estranged husband?
Carlos was the easy answer. Plus, I knew that Lance would know exactly who Carlos was.
Lance massaged his goatee. “Ah, so this Carlos.” He strolled over and extended a bony hand. “No wonder Juliet has been so hush hush about you. I’d want to keep you all to myself too.”
I shot Lance a look, begging him to knock it off.
Carlos grinned and shook his hand. “That’s what I say about Julieta.”
“Julieta?” Lance looked to the ceiling and clasped his hands together. “Oh, this is too much, Julieta and her lovely Latin leading man here at this little lodge for the weekend. I couldn’t script this.”
“Lance.” I furrowed my brow. “Did you need something?”
“No, no, not a thing, darling. I just wanted to see how things were coming along in the kitchen.” He appraised Carlos from head to toe. “I can see they’re heating up quite nicely. Quite nicely.” Turning toward the door, he blew me a kiss. “I don’t want to keep you from whatever it was you were in the middle of, ta ta.”
“He is in the theater, yes?” Carlos asked, watching Lance prance away.
“How did you guess?”
Carlos’s eyes sparkled. “He knows beauty when he sees it.”
A lump formed in my throat. I’d forgotten—more like pushed from my mind—how romantic Carlos is, and how often he comments on my looks. It was unsettling.
I had to do something. I needed to bake.
About Ellie Alexander~
Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.
Giveaway: Triple chocolate cookie mix, Alpine spiced cider, Collection of Stash teas, Collection of gourmet hot chocolates, Oxford tea towel, Signed copy of On Thin Icing US only Ends Jan. 20, 2016 Prizing provided by the author. Must be 13 or older and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.
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