I recognized this cover art almost immediately when the book came across my desk for review! The cover art on the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen books are recognizable and stand out with their bold colors and fun graphics. The first book in the series is Arsenic and Adobo which was a Book of the Month selection last year when it first came out. I snatched it up but then basically forgot about it until this follow up book came across my desk.
The pops of color and the cute done on the front inspired me to pick it up and give it a go……regardless if I had read the first book in the series or not. I decided to just dive right in, in my experience it’s pretty easy to jump into a series with only one book proceeding the latest installment as the author tends to set the stage well for new readers and to refresh fans of the previous book so that everyone is on the same page. So I figured it wouldn’t be too lost picking this one up without having rad the first book.
I love cozy mysteries and if it features food so much the better. This book could easily make me a fan of Filipino cooking, everything sounded so great and I was hungry the entire time I was reading this book! But it wasn’t just the food that was a treat but the story too! This one did have some heavier themes that were a little unexpected in a cozy but over all I though it was a solid read with lots to enjoy and while I played catch up at times, overall I didn’t feel too lost in the story to enjoy it.
Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new cafe after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.
To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago–a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case–because it looks like one of them might be next. (summary from Goodreads)
I do enjoy my mystery books (especially cozy mysteries) with some romance. I think it’s a nice way to balance the characters. Meaning we don’t just get to explore the main character as a sleuth but we also get to know them on a more personal level through their love lives so that’s why I enjoy having at least some romance. This book has a nice little dose of romance for our main character Lila and I thought it broke up the story really well. Though I should note that the romance is NOT the focus of the book, it’s just a fun little extra element that helped keep the book moving and gave readers something else to focus on from time to time.
This book really focused on Lila’s back story, since I didn’t read the first book I am not sure if this was skipped over or not in book one, but in this book we get to examine the relationship Lila has with her mother and family and I thought for me this created a lot of character depth. There was reference to previous events in the first book that I felt a little lost on but overall I felt like I was mostly up to date on things happening with the characters.
While I liked this book, I didn’t love it. It was a nice little escape and I love cozy mysteries so generally I liked it but I am not sure that it was a ‘knocked out of the park’ book for me. It had fun food, a strong female character, an open discussion around mental health as well as cultural issues, but I felt like the author fell short of really using those things to her advantage. She has the right ingredients but could easily kick things up a notch and add some more spice to the mix. As I said this one had some more serious themes in it but I felt like the author didn’t capitalize on them as much as I expected. I liked Lila and enjoyed her journey but I would have liked to have seen more within the story itself to support this. That said I did enjoy it and would likely read more in the series, I gave it a solid 3 stars.
Book Info and Rating
Format: 304 pages, paperback
Published, February 8 2022 by Berkley Books
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: cozy mystery, mystery