Saturday, December 5, 2015

Flourless to Stop Him

Flourless to Stop Him (A Baker's Treat, #3)Flourless to Stop Him by Nancy J. Parra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gluten-free baker Toni Holmes is close to exhaustion, working too many hours to meet the demand for her GF treats, hoping the extra revenue over the holidays will keep her fledgling business afloat during the leaner post-Christmas months. The last thing she needs is to add "investigate homicide" to her To Do list, but that's exactly what happens when someone frames her brother Tim for the murder of his former best friend.

I liked this one better than the previous two books in the series, mostly because there was more character development. Grandma Ruth still drives me crazy with her irresponsible behavior, but at least she wasn't the focus of this story, and she did finally get Toni to see that she not only could but should ask her family for help with her bakery during her busiest times. That was a surprisingly difficult realization for Toni.

I am delighted that the character development with this one included Toni choosing between her two potential suitors. Hooray! For a while I was afraid Ms. Parra might write herself into a corner with that one, like Janet Evanovich did, so I'm thankful Toni did some soul-searching and made a choice.

One thing that freaked me out in this book was the part where Toni's cousin brings non-GF bread into her house and Toni says not only the toaster but also the dishes and utensils have to be isolated as permanently contaminated because the gluten can't be washed off. What?! Do I need to replace every dish in my kitchen and ban my family from eating gluten in my house?!

However, I got the chance to have an online conversation with the author shortly after reading this book, and I asked about the contradiction between that scene and the one where Toni eats fast food French fries and gets sick from the contamination. Ms. Parra explained that the French fry scene came from a weak-willpower moment in her own life--she has Celiac disease--and that although not everyone is so incredibly sensitive to gluten, she does know people who not only can't use dishes touched by gluten, they can't even walk down the flour aisle in a grocery store. Wow! That made me incredibly thankful to not be nearly that sensitive to cross-contamination. I can't eat most French fries, but at least I have no problems with freshly washed dishes or baking aisles.

Oh, and the mystery? It kept me guessing, although I did start suspecting the right person by the end.

For readers' advisors: character and story doorways. No sex or swearing that I can recall (or if there is any, it's very mild). A little bit of violence at the end, but not at all graphic.

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Murder Gone A-Rye

Murder Gone A-Rye (A Baker's Treat, #2)Murder Gone A-Rye by Nancy J. Parra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's almost Thanksgiving, and Toni Holmes is not only gearing up for the holiday gluten-free baked-goods rush, she's also trying to decorate a float for the annual Homer Everett Day Parade. Homer was a local celebrity--pro football player and war hero--and the parade is a big deal. But when Grandma Ruth goes to meet with a woman claiming to have information proving Homer wasn't all he was cracked up to be, she finds the body of her would-be informant and is accused of murder. All of which Grandma Ruth finds entertaining, though Toni does not. Toni wants to leave the investigating to the police, but Grandma Ruth's antics in sleuthing force her to get involved, not only to solve the case but also save her grandmother's life.

The potential love triangle between Toni, Brad, and Sam continues in Book #2, thanks to Toni's insistence on taking a year off from relationships after her divorce. Toni will have a hard time choosing there, I think. Both men are fantastic.

Grandma Ruth's character is both amusing and irritating to me. She's supposed to be fearless and eccentric, but her lack of consideration for other people--their feelings and their property--is appalling. She rides roughshod over everyone. You'd think after 90+ years on this earth, she wouldn't be quite so self-absorbed. Other reviewers have referred to her as an elderly teenager, and I totally agree. I'm not sure why Ms. Parra describes her as being well-respected when it doesn't seem like she behaves in a manner worthy of respect.

As for the mystery itself, I came close on guessing the old secrets and current killer but had a few details wrong, so that was a nice surprise.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways. No sex, bad language, or on-screen violence.

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