THE PEPPER PEACH MURDER
LUSCIOUS DELIGHTS MYSTERY, #1
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: January 16, 2023
Page count: 296 pages
ISBN-10:1509246924 / ISBN-13: 978-1509246922
Page count: 265 pages
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Roxy Constantine is the jam queen of Shavano, Colorado, and she’s fine with it. Not that things couldn’t be better. Her social life is a bust, and she’s still recovering from a bad experience as a line cook in Denver. But things are looking up when she meets local chef Nate Robicheaux. Roxy would like to get closer to Nate, but she’s fending off the unwanted attentions of another local, Brett Holmes, who won’t take no for an answer.
When Brett threatens to derail Roxy’s appearance on a national cooking show, the two have a very public fight. A few days later, Brett is found murdered in his restaurant kitchen, and suddenly Roxy’s a prime suspect.
Now Roxy, Nate, and her other friends must find out the truth about Brett’s background and his murderer before the town of Shavano decides Roxy’s reign as jam queen is over for good.
READ AN EXCERPT:
I rounded the last curve in the path, heading toward the parking lot. And stopped cold.
My truck, which had previously been cleanish if not immaculate, was now caked in mud. I looked like someone had taken handfuls from the nearby riverbank and thrown it full force at the truck’s sides. There were clumps on the doors, the windows, the fenders and all along the locking cover over the back. If it hadn’t been for the cover, the booth I’d left in the truck bed would have been splattered, too. I didn’t want to think about how hard that would have been to clean up.
But the pièce de résistance was the word smeared across the windshield: slut. Done in shades of grayish black. My stomach clenched tight as I stared, and my mind tried to make sense of what I was seeing.
Who? Who did this? The words kept echoing through my mind. Did people in town really think I was a slut? What had I done to make them think that?
Nothing. I took a deep breath, pulling myself together. This hadn’t been done by the citizens of Shavano, who probably had no particular opinions about my sex life, given that I didn’t have one. This was done by somebody with a grudge. And the most obvious person in that category was Brett Holmes.
When the toxic head chef of a local restaurant meets his end, Roxy Constantine becomes suspect number one!
The Pepper Peach Murder is an entertaining debut to Meg Benjamin's new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights. While having all the fun hallmarks of the cozy mystery genre front and center, the story also explores a darker theme: sexual assault/harassment.
The protagonist, Roxy Constantine, is a great character. She's had her life disrupted, and her dreams smashed but is slowly coming back to life and taking a new direction with her career. What happened to her was horrible and unforgivable, but she refuses to let the assault and the betrayal which followed define the rest of her life.
Nate Robicheaux, Roxy's delectable love interest, is healing as well but doing so in the kitchen of his family's restaurant, now run by his brother, Bobby, and they don't quite see eye to eye on their business. I was glad there was a glimmer of them coming together by the book's end.
Susa is Roxy's "ride or die" best friend and is a competent and capable partner in crime-solving rather than the comic relief sidekick, which I thought was terrific. And perhaps, there's a little spark between Susa and the new police chief to fan in future books?
The plot builds when Roxy feels Chief Fowler isn't looking hard enough at other possible suspects for Brett's murder. There is little information forthcoming from that sector, so Roxy and Susa must create their own line of questioning based on who and what they know about the people in Shavano. I liked how Susa developed an online method for the two women to record and share with each other the results of their separate inquiries, and laughed over Susa's later discussion of the proper way to fill it out! With Brett's reputation as a jerk and a womanizer, there are quite a few avenues to pursue.
Since this is the first book in the series, many townspeople were introduced, and although many did not appear to have anything to do with the current murder, they were still easy to keep track of or follow as needed. When all was revealed, I thought the resolution made sense, and the case was wrapped up without going down a bunch of unnecessary rabbit holes. I am already looking forward to more of this series.
I enjoyed hearing about all the various jam flavors and enough of the jam-making process to know it was something I wouldn't want to tackle myself. I'll stick to trying out some of those amazing-sounding concoctions when I run across them at local farmers' markets and craft shows. Pepper Peach is absolutely on my shopping list, too.
I highly recommend THE PEPPER PEACH MURDER to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of romance. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box and Brewing Love trilogies are set in the Colorado Rockies (all are available from Entangled Publishing).
Her new cozy mystery series, Luscious Delights from Wild Rose Press, concerns a jam-making sleuth based in the mythical small town of Shavano, Colorado.
Along with contemporary romance, Meg is also the author of the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk trilogy from Soul Mate.
Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at email@example.com.