Review: Strawberries & Suffering (Sweet Baked Mystery #2) by Catherine Hayton

Review: Strawberries & Suffering (Sweet Baked Mystery #2) by Catherine Hayton

Well, at least they know the butler didn’t do it.
When Holly and Crystal Waterston cater for a wedding with a gigantic guest list, they think the worst thing that could happen is putting the strawberry halves on the wrong cupcake. Instead, a series of unfortunate events leave them trapped in a manor house with no phone, closed roads, and a butler who’s dropped down dead.

After their cupcakes are blamed for the sudden demise, Holly must unpick the tangled relationships of stranded wedding guests to clear the family bakery’s good name.

But with an attentive man flirting, a goth teen sloping around the venue, and an old woman intent on stealing the family recipes, Holly might have bitten off more than she can chew. If she can’t prove the identity of the true perpetrator, then the day might end with her sitting in the slammer rather than tucked up in a nice, warm bed. (Goodreads)

I am a bit ambivalent about this book. I know for sure that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I did the previous book, but I am not sure if it’s just me who feels that way.

The second book in the Sweet Baked Mystery series . The mystery takes place in a manor house just before Derek and Sheila’s wedding. Holly and Crystal were commissioned by Wendy, Sheila’s mother and their friend to cater wedding cupcakes.
The day didn’t go as well as planned – Not only did Holly get lost on the way to the manor house and waste precious time to apply finishing touches to the cupcakes, a butler of the manor house meets his untimely death, supposedly poisoned. Holly was pinned as the prime suspect due to the personal touch she made at a split second just before the incident, and she tries to clear her name by finding the real culprit.

My first gripe arrived right from the beginning. I had issues with the overall writing in this instalment. I cannot exactly put my finger on, but I found there were a lot of ambiguities in the writing and its descriptions, not as clear as I would have liked. I also had the impression that some rationales or reasons that explain the characters’ behaviour or actions are a bit lacking . It would have been better if the author had made it clear.

The concept of the mystery plot was intriguing and deserves some credit. Our favourite ‘closed-room murder’ takes place in this book and this time, Holly the protagonist is pegged as a prime suspect with her cupcakes as a murder weapon. It certainly generated thrills and tension. Well-done.

That said though, the pacing is rather slow-burn on the whole. While I understand the author might have intended to generate a ‘helter-skelter’ maelstrom feel with the wedding gone horribly wrong sequence, it didn’t generate the desired effect and felt a bit dragging at times. Some side stories even came across as irrelevant and superfluous.

Despite my issues, the twists and turns in the latter part of the book held my interest until the end.
Again, I found the motive of the murder weak and lacking conviction, but I can brush it off given this is a light, cosy mystery.

My biggest issue with this book might be the characters, especially Holly.
This book is told in third person narrative but predominantly centred on Holly, so it is crucial we develop an emotional connection with her.
Frankly speaking, I didn’t think Holly’s character has been explored enough thus I don’t really get her thought-process nor do I understand her at all. A lot of personal revelations are made in this book for sure, ranging from bitter memories of her wedding day to her almost-finished marriage, but I didn’t feel I get connected with Holly. Not just yet. And why ‘the tick-tock’ all of a sudden? The sequence came across out of left-field.

It pains me to say I did not enjoy this book as much on the whole, but I did enjoy the sequence on her cupcake shop. The delicious-sounding cupcakes and the vibrant, energetic vibe generated through Holly’s friendship with Meggie are certainly the saving grace of this book. I would have liked to see more of that.

This book left me in two minds about it and now I’m torn whether to let it slip as a little blip. Should I go for the next book for the sake of the bakery element which is quickly taking hold of a small corner in my heart? Possibly, but maybe not. I am still wavering thus 2.5 stars.

6 thoughts on “Review: Strawberries & Suffering (Sweet Baked Mystery #2) by Catherine Hayton

  1. I can totally understand your rating after reading the issues you had, and I think I would’ve had the same problems. It definitely sounds like there were some clarity issues. Plus, I really have to be in the mood for a slow-paced story. Thanks for your honest review, Noriko! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Yesha! I had an impression there was way too much going back and forth in the book, like running around like a headless chicken. It would be totally fine to a degree but I found it a bit too much with this book.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry this one wasn’t as good as the first, Noriko. That’s happened to me before, too, and I’m reluctant to continue on in the series as well. If you do go for book 3, I hope it will be a hit. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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