My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Nell Hampton‘s Kale to the Queen, the first book in the new “Kensington Palace Chef” mystery series. I thoroughly adored this book and am very excited to see how this new series does in the coming years. A definite read for cozy fans, especially those who love a mystery set in England.
Carrie Ann, a mid-20s American chef from Chicago, has a chance meeting with the English Duchess, and finds herself with an invite to become the royal family’s new personal chef. She moves to London and sets up shop in Kensington palace, where she serves the future King of England, in her own kitchen with two assistant chefs. After meeting several colleagues, and finding a few a bit too snooty and some with a grudge against her already, Carrie Ann settles in; however, she soon finds one of her assistants dead on her kitchen floor. She gets to know 5 or 6 key staffers at the palace, deciding for herself who to trust and who to steer clear of. After several days of minor sleuthing, trying to clear her second assistant who is accused of murdering the first assistant, Carrie Ann finds herself embroiled in quite a mess of black market gambling. As she learns the ways of the palace, she gets to know the victim’s family, learning his wife was in love with someone else and sick with cancer. When she comes closer to solving the case, and putting her job in jeopardy, Carrie Ann unwittingly stumbles upon the killer and finds a way to escape with little harm. Along the course, her boyfriend of 6-years, whom she took a “break” from at his suggestion when she moved to London, tries to maintain their relationship, but she’s finding others she might be attracted to in her new role. How will she get out of this dilemma? Just you wait…
1. From the moment I picked up the book until the end, I found every page easy to read, every character interesting and each plot line solid. It’s a strong opening cozy. Not once did I stop to think “which character was that?” as each one is clear and memorable. And there are at least 10 supporting players to keep track of. Nice work, Miss Hampton!
2. You’d think it would be a bit tedious dealing with all of the rules in the palace. But it’s woven together in such an easy way, you find it believable. And kinda fun, trying to figure out how Carrie Ann would adapt to the barricades set around her entire day, from no men in the bedroom quarters, to home by 11pm or sleep elsewhere, to not speaking unless spoken to when near the duchess. Craziness!
3. The relationships between everyone are so fun! Carrie Ann battles with almost everyone on different levels, but she also bonds with everyone at some point, too. I can’t decide who I want her to end up with… the gardener, the royal chef, the head of security, the gardener’s brother! It’s a feast of options.
The ultimate culprit and plot were fine, but possibly a little weak. I’d have liked to see a few more layers of complexity thrown in. It was good, and I enjoyed it, but I think it could have been a little better. For example, maybe there were some different red herrings that led us further astray. Or maybe the family connections were a little more surprising.
I’m really surprised at how much I loved this cozy. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was very strong for a new series, and I’m a bit sad I’ll likely have to wait a whole year before the next one. Noooo!!!