Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am so happy to welcome Devon Delaney to Escape With Dollycas today!
In It To Win It
by Devon Delaney
Some have described the game of golf as a good walk spoiled. A similar sentiment could be applied to cooking competitions. Consider preparing a satisfying meal. The notion should conjure up a kitchen that fills the senses with pleasure and satisfaction. Listen to the crunch of the lettuce being chopped. Feel the fuzzy kiwi skin as you peel it. Smell the sizzling garlic as it dances in the hot olive oil at the bottom of an iron skillet. Roll the cookie dough in the palm of your hand, and note the texture of the chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips that will be the crunchy gooey center of the sweet treat. Referring back to the golf saying, that’s the “good walk” part.
Now, add to the equation chaos, commotion, pressure, severe time restriction and fellow cooks aiming to outdo your efforts with any means available and you have the basis of a live cook-off. Some may think staging cooking as a battle that rewards the victor with cash and valuable prizes spoils time in the kitchen and that it should be left the wholesome activity it has been for centuries. I’m not in that group.
I would never have guessed that years ago, as a thirty-something mother of three, it would only take one happenstance to transform the ages-old activity of preparing a flavorful recipe solely for a family’s health and well-being into a modern competitive obsession.
Let me explain. I began cooking in earnest when I was about eight years old. Back then, my mother wasn’t much of a cook and still isn’t. If I wanted to eat something besides oatmeal, boiled chicken breasts, or creamed onions, I was going to have to invade her aged and underutilized spice rack and figure out how to infuse flavor into her bland menu. Eventually, I took over dinner preparations completely.
Fast forward to my early years of motherhood. Not working outside the home at that point, and feeding a hungry husband and three active children, I gained a renewed sense of inspiration in the kitchen. Creating meals that pleased all manner of appetites became my focus at 5 pm each night and I was soundly rewarded for my efforts with loving accolades. But, while I was content in the kitchen, I wasn’t feeling totally fulfilled.
Oh, did I mention I’m a tiny bit competitive? I grew up with four siblings and we all competed for good grades, sports trophies, the last cookie in the cookie jar and my parent’s attention. Rewards were greatest for those who put limits to the test. To this day, I compete with other ladies on a tennis team, with neighbors as to who has the best-trained dog, and against family members for who knows the most answers on Jeopardy, (the answers are technically the questions if you are familiar with the game.)
With a baby, a near-toddler, and a toddler in constant motion, I was faced with the challenge of keeping myself sane throughout a severely icy stretch of winter, during which it was often unsafe to leave the house. On one of the few times, I made a journey to the grocery store, I picked up a handful of magazines to leaf through during naptime. In the back of was an advertisement for a recipe contest with the theme “What recipe can you create with a slice of bread.” I came up with Orange Dusted French Toast Fingers with Maple Dipping Sauce. After typing up the recipe for my concoction and snail-mailing it to the listed address, I forgot all about the contest. Six months later I received a two thousand dollar check in the mail as the grand prize winner. When I read I had beaten out hundreds of entries for the win I was hooked on cooking contesting. My appetite for the adrenaline rush I get when I compete had another source of supply.
Don’t get me wrong. I still am able to approach dinner preparations with calm serenity when I’m not gearing up for a cook-off or recipe contest. However, cook-offs are my escape to the world of like-minded cooks who have let their creativity flow as they turn a sweet potato into a savory biscotti or a cut of beef into a ranch steak bruschetta salad. Each of those ideas won me cash and valuable prizes. So, if its game on for, say, the National Mushroom Cook-off, the “good walk” is spoiled and I’m in it to win it. There will be time for a good walk after the judges choose the winner.
Thank you so much, Devon, for visiting today!!
Expiration Date (A Cook-Off Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Connecticut
Kensington (April 24, 2018)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Kindle ASIN: B074DGNNYM
After a short-lived marriage, Sherry Frazzelle is living single life to the fullest in her little Connecticut town, accompanied by her Jack Russell terrier, Chutney. Her new passion is competitive cooking—but it turns out that murder is the surprise ingredient . . .
With contestants from Maine to California and a ten-thousand-dollar prize at stake, Sherry’s latest competition, hosted by the CEO of an organic food company, is sure to be heated. But she’s more than ready to step up to the stove. After all, she did win the award for Most Creative Cupcake back in high-school. Today, she’s hoping her flavorful pork tenderloin will sway the judges. Instead, it seems someone’s decided to slay one of the judges . . .
After Chef Birns falls face first into the Seafood Flatbread Pizza, Sherry’s dish is deemed suspicious. Now she’ll have to stir through a stew of rule-breaking, corruption, and gossip to get herself off the chopping block, and find out who turned this food fight fatal . . .
Includes Recipes from Sherry’s Kitchen!
Sherry Frazzelle and her sister Marla Barras have entered the OrgaNicks Corporation Cooking Competition against 4 other home cooks from across the nation. It is time for the celebrity chef judges to choose a winner. Sherry looks on as Chef Birns takes a bite of her pork tenderloin, but he immediately crumbles into another entry. She rushes to help but the man is dead and she is now the prime suspect in his murder. He was eating her food. Amber Sherman, another contestant, agrees to stay in town to help her find out what really happened or the home she could be cooking in be “the big house”.
Sherry Frazzelle is an interesting lead character. She and her Jack Russell terrier, Chutney are starting over after her marriage fell apart. She works part-time for her dad at his hooked rug shop, Oliveri’s Ruggery. She is also very into competitive cooking. She has a few quirks, a very Type A personality. She hates it when someone mispronounces her name, Frazzelle (rhyme with la belly) and hates to be called ma’am and she tends to panic when she is not in control. Her soon to be ex is still hanging around. She has a room full of his stuff that he refuses to pick up. She is close to her sister but Marla lives in Oklahoma. She was thrilled that they were both finalists in the OrgaNicks contest. There they meet Amber and become fast friends.
This is a humorous cozy that suffers a little bit of the first book in the series – itis. The author has to introduce readers to all the characters and give us a mystery we can sink our teeth into. Not an easy job.
I found Sherry a little off-putting at first but she grew on me by the end. I liked her sister Marla and their new friend Amber but since they both were from out of town I don’t know how much of them we will see in future installments. We did meet Sherry’s dad too. I hope he is featured more going forward. I found his hooked rugs shop very interesting. I was really into latch hook rugs back in the day. The dialogue between the characters was a little off and didn’t ring true for me especially when Sherry was talking to police.
The theme of a cooking competition was very enjoyable. There is a lot of emphasis on the food. It was easy to visualize every step of the way. It is also nice to have the recipes talked about in the back of the book.
The pacing of the book became a little stilted in places. The mystery unfolded with plenty of twists and turns but I did zero in on the killer very early in the story due to clues that were a little too on the nose. The murder weapon itself was quite unique. Something I would never have thought of.
Like I always say, the first book in a series is a heavy lift. There are a lot of good things in this story and plenty of room left to expand and grow as the series continues. I really did enjoy the main premise of the mystery and the cook-off theme. A little editing and tightening up would have made this a 5-star read. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Your Great Escapes Travel Agent
About the Author
Devon Delaney is a wife, mother of three, accomplished cooking contester and a recent empty nester. She taught computer education and Lego Robotics for over ten years prior to pursuing writing. Along the way, she has been handsomely rewarded for her recipe innovation over the last twenty-plus years. Among the many prizes she has won are a full kitchen of major appliances, six-figure top cash prizes and four trips to Disney World. She has also won the grand prize in a national writing contest for her ‘foodie’ poem “Ode to Pork Passion.” Combining her beloved cooking contesting with her enthusiasm for writing was inevitable.
Check out Devon’s website at: www.devonpdelaney.com
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”