Monday, March 9, 2015

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Dying for a Cupcake (Devereaux's Dime Store #4) by Denise Swanson

When Devereaux “Dev” Sinclair hosts a cupcake contest at her five-and-dime store, she discovers that someone is just dying to win...

Kizzy Cutler finds it so delicious to be back in her hometown of Shadow Bend, Missouri, that she seems to have forgotten why she fled twenty years ago. For now, she’s excited to kick off her new line of cupcakes with a competition, which Dev has agreed to host in her shop. But before the first yummy cupcake is even baked, Kizzy's assistant Fallon dies from a mysterious ailment.

While the medical examiner attempts to discover what killed Fallon, Kizzy declares that the show must go on. However after Kizzy escapes several near misses, Dev is convinced that someone in Shadow Bend has it in for the Cupcake Queen. Is the secret from her past so dark someone still wants to kill her for it?

With a list of not-so-sweet suspects, Dev’s in a race against the timer to solve the murder before someone else gets iced. 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Cupcakes

1.       Be open to new experiences. When I started writing Dying for a Cupcake, since it was about a cupcake contest, I looked for recipes with unique flavors and ingredients. Up until that point, I had only made my mother’s chocolate or my grandmother’s silver-white recipes. While I still love the old tried and true chocolate and white cupcakes, I have to admit that the cream cheese cupcakes with guava buttercream were mighty tasty. (See recipe below)
2.       Never take shortcuts. Boxed mixes and canned frostings seem like a timesaver, but like everything in life, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
3.       Be sweet, but not cloying. As children, most of us liked really sweet desserts and really sweet people. As an adult, I like a little zip or zest in my cupcakes Sweet can be a little boring.
4.       The best things in life don’t last forever. Be it a freshly baked cupcake or your favorite jeans or the people you love, enjoy them while you can because the cupcake will get stale, the jeans will wear out and the people will eventually be gone.
5.       Perfection is highly overrated. For a long time, I wouldn’t make cupcakes for parties or potlucks because mine never looked as perfect as the ones in the pictures. They all weren’t exactly even and the frosting wasn’t swirled just right. Then one day, my husband took a batch that I had rejected as not good enough to his office. They were a huge hit. Most of his colleagues were used to store bought bakery and couldn’t get enough of my homemade treats. 

If I had never gotten over my perfectionism, I would have   never gotten past the first chapter when I started writing. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to learn from your   early efforts, rather than refuse to try.

In cupcake making, just as in life, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. You may have all the fancy equipment from the Food Network, you may be using a recipe that’s been in your family for generations, but stuff still happens. A too hot kitchen, high humidity, or a faulty timer can destroy all your work

But instead of vowing never to try again. Clean up the mess and make a fresh start. When I was submitting my first book to agents, I received two hundred and seventy rejection letters. And while a lot of them had valid criticism, much of what they didn’t like was out of my control because when it all comes down to it, most things in like, like cupcakes, are a matter of taste.

Cream Cheese Cupcakes with Guava Buttercream

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup softened cream cheese

1/4 cup and 2 teaspoons shortening
1/4 cup and 2 teaspoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups and 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon milk
pinch of salt
1/3 cup guava marmalade

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well, add cream cheese. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

Butter cream
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and vanilla. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Separately blend guava until smooth, then add to butter cream a little at a time. Place in the fridge. After cooling place in piping bag and swirl.

A former school psychologist, New York Times bestselling author Denise Swanson spent twenty-two years working in the public school system. She realized her experiences were actually excellent research for mysteries. Denise’s fourth book in the Devereaux’s Dime Store series, Dying for a Cupcake, debuted March 3. Denise also writes the Scumble River Mysteries.  

Cupcakes? I'm sold! :)  This series has always been an interesting one for me.  I've always loved Denise Swanson's writing style and the world that she's built with Dev and her friends.  But what's made it so unique and close to home, is the fact that it's so familiar.  Why?  Because Missouri is right across the border from me in Kansas - so the way of life in that state is something I witness every single day.  And the reason that's significant?  Shadow Bend is Dev's fictional town in Missouri!  Love it :) 

I loved this offering of the series.  It was a perfect mystery wrapped up with a string of evidence that led Dev right to the killer.  Full of exciting twists and a competition that some felt was worth dying for, it's a great addition to this wonderfully written series. 

Rating: 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own.  

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