Fudge & Jury has our culinary heroine Juliet "Jules" Capshaw,along with her mother Helen, running a booth at the Oregon Chocolate Festival, an annual event that not only attracts new business and keeps up with old contacts, prizes are awarded as well.
While Jules is happy to showcase her sweets and drum up more business for the family bakery,Torte(which is being renovated during the festival), she is quickly displeased by fellow exhibitor and judge for the festival Evan Rowe.
No matter how well crafted his chocolate creations are, Evan's snobbery and vicious critiques, especially of a food blogger whose Unbeatable Brownies are new to the circuit, are an appetite killer. Unfortunately, upon tasting one of Torte's display cakes, he goes into anaphylactic shock and dies on the spot. Turns out that Evan had a dangerous allergy to nuts yet the cake he sampled was free of that fatal ingredient.
Evan's demise brings about a number of questions such as "Where was his Epi Pen?" and "Where was his assistant Carter at the time?" along with wondering if, due to rearranging the supplies at Torte, could a nut based product have unintentionally ended up in that last piece of cake Evan ate? This possibly deadly error could not only affect the future of Torte but the whole Chocolate Festival to boot:
None of the other sweet treats that Evan tried that day,even the brownies that he harshly disliked, had nuts and yet his death was directly linked to his allergy. Jules does a little investigating and discovers that Evan has quite a few secrets, one of which could jeopardize the rest of his chocolate making career.
That's far from the only major item on her agenda as pressure mounts from the expansion of Torte, the wait for her mother's beau(the charming head police detective known as The Professor) to pop the question and a not so surprising romantic overture from Thomas, her old high school boyfriend and detective in training.
Carlos is a charmer, to be sure, but I'm a Jane Austen gal and sweet talkers who keep secrets for reasons that only benefit themselves are typically not the best bet for future happiness. That whole "I just couldn't tell you about my son" deal still sticks in my craw.
Thomas, on the other hand, sincerely regrets breaking up with Juliet back in the day and clearly, his feelings for her have never wavered. I also appreciate that for the most part, he hasn't interfered with Jules' reunion with Carlos(although, his jealousy did flair up a bit). I know that she doesn't need a man to complete her but I can't help feeling that Thomas is meant to be Captain Wentworth to her Anne Elliot(as it happens, Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel):
Back to the book at hand, I thoroughly enjoyed this melt in your mouth mystery as well as seeing more of the other folks in Jules' world such as her staff at Torte,who click together so smoothly it's hard to imagine any them, particularly Sterling, ever leaving. I don't know if that's going to happen in a future book but I certainly hope not!
It's also fun to see Jules having a partner in crime like Lance, the engagingly over the top theater director, and for their friendship to blossom as it has. A platonic bond like this nicely off sets any of Jules' love interest plot points, not to mention that Lance is quite the scene stealer in the best sense there! Trust me, I will be revisiting Torte some time soon as there are still plenty of questions that need answering about Jules and company:
I did see the movie but more importantly, I have to keep up with my mother when it comes to the Hannah Swensen books. She's been on a reading kick lately and while I'm happy to share my books with her, Mom is ahead of me on this series! Granted, she's skipped a Christmas themed entry or two but I need to be in synch with her on this in order to have a proper chat about them.
Perhaps I can get her to watch the movies with me(I do have all of them on DVD) and make this a book club of two there. It makes sense that a series like this would hook my mother's occasional reading interest; it has three elements that we both enjoy-food, family and fictional murder mysteries to solve: