Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates
Back Cover Blurb:
Between brewing magically spiced treats at Honeybee Bakery and volunteering with a local conservation group, Katie Lightfoot has barely any time to see her firefighter boyfriend, Declan McCarthy, much less delve further into her destiny as a witch. But avoiding her fate won’t be as easy as whipping up a new recipe-especially when Katie finds herself once again mixed up in murder.
When a fellow volunteer for the conservation group is found dead, Katie’s mystical senses tell her that there’s more to the death than meets the eye. Her suspicions are confirmed when members of her coven are targeted next. Katie will have to embrace her powers quickly…or she might find herself chewed up and spit out by some serious black magic.
Charms and Chocolate Chips is the third book in the Magical Bakery Mystery series. It has some of the common elements found in contemporary cozy mysteries:
1. The detective is an amateur who does her sleuthing on the side.
2. The detective has a dream job in a creative field. In this case she is part owner of an adorable bakery. I think this is a bit of wish fulfillment for readers. We all love the idea of making a living doing what we love, but let’s face it, running a small business is a tough gig. Most of us would rather dream about it than do it.
3. While romance is definitely relegated to subplot there is a romantic triangle and I’ve noticed this in a number of other recent cozies.
4. As in most culinary mysteries, recipes are included! I am not a baker but would definitely be willing to taste test. 🙂
In genre fiction, the format is pretty much a given. But what the author can do within the format is what matters. Cates has woven a delightful story over hers. This is what makes the Magical Bakery Mysteries stand out from similar cozy mysteries:
1. There is a story arc that covers all the novels. Although you could read each as a stand alone, it is better to follow the story starting at the beginning. In the first book Katie discovers that she is a witch and that magic is real. She also finds out that she’s a catalyst. In the second book she discovers that she is a light witch, a powerful sort of witch that can only do white magic. In Charms and Chocolate Chips Katie tries to figure out what it means to be a light witch and what distinguishes white magic from black. She volunteers at Georgia Wild, a conservation organization, to avoid dealing with the whole “light witch” issue but discovers that she cannot escape her destiny when a murder occurs there.
2. Cozy mysteries often allow the reader to learn about things like baking, needlework or home renovation while enjoying the mystery. In the Magic Bakery Mysteries the reader learns about magic. This is a bit different from learning about antiques or cake decorating, but Cates has done a good job of it. I suspect that she, like Katie and her coven is wiccan, but I don’t know that for sure. While following Katie on her adventures the readers can learn about hedgewitchery, or the use of plants in magic. Katie and her aunt use their magic to enhance their baked goods with what they feel their customers need. Other witches in the coven practice other types of magic including voodoo and color magic.
3. Pets are another common feature of cozy mysteries and part of the reason I love cozies. But the pets in the Magical Bakery Mystery are more than furry companions. They are also familiars, or magical helpers. While the animals are not anthropomorphized in any way, they definitely have their own personalities and you can see how each one matches their owner.
4. The books are well written, lighthearted and charming. The characters are three dimensional and very likable. The common locations in the books, mainly the Honeybee Bakery and Katie’s house, are indeed cozy and places readers like to imagine themselves in. In contrast the murders that occur are dark and disturbing and the mysteries are challenging puzzles. This may seem like a given but there are novels out there that get by on strong narrative drive rather than a well developed, well written story.
In short, I can highly recommend any or all of the Magical Bakery Mysteries:
1. Brownies and Broomsticks
2. Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti
3. Charms and Chocolate Chips
And coming in July–