Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cinnamon Toasted by Gail Oust | Blog Tour with Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway

The Blurb

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Case in point: Piper Prescott’s former mother-in-law Melly. Beneath her twin sets and pearls beats the heart of a geek — a geek whose programming changes for the point-of-sale software in Piper’s shop have the owners of the program ready to make her an offer she can’t refuse. “Trusty” Rusty Tulley and Chip Balboa swing by Brandywine Creek — just in time for the town’s annual Oktoberfest, which has cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom flying off Piper’s shelves in record numbers. News spreads faster than a text message, and Melly is the toast of the town.

But it isn’t long before Melly’s status changes to public enemy number one when Chip’s body is found at the foot of her basement stairs. Questions start to pile up when handsome police chief Wyatt McBride arrives on the scene and the coroner sets the time of death for the previous evening. McBride wants to know why it took Melly so long to report the incident — especially after she admits to arguing with Chip about the contract he wanted her to sign. Piper knows Melly would never hurt a fly, so she enlists the help of her BFF Reba Mae to clear her name — but can they find the real killer before Melly gets sent away for good? A mouth-watering entry in Gail Oust’s delicious Spice Shop series, Cinnamon Toasted is sure to delight cozy fans of all stripes.

Cinnamon Toasted by Gail Oust
Series: A Spice Shop Mystery, #3
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Culinary Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books / Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 125001106X
ISBN-13: 978-1250011060
e-Book File Size: 1348 KB

Click here for a sneak peek! You can read Chapter 1 
of Cinnamon Toasted on Macmillan Publishers' website.

The Review

I just read a really good book, y'all — Cinnamon Toasted by Gail Oust. Let me tell you a little about this cozy mystery.

Cinnamon Toasted is the third book in the Spice Shop Mystery series, following Rosemary and Crime (#1) and Kill 'Em With Cayenne (#2). I have really enjoyed this series — Four Kitties for each one   and am looking forward to getting Curried Away in December.

Piper Prescott, the main character in the Spice Shop Mysteries, is the owner of the Spice It Up! spice shop in Brandywine Creek, Georgia. Piper is earning a reputation in town of finding dead bodies — not by choice, mind you — and is quick to point out that her dog found one of them. 

Piper has a large supporting cast, which includes

  • Reba Mae Johnson: Piper's BFF, owner and operator of the Klassy Kut beauty parlor 
  • Lindsey Prescott: Piper's daughter, high school senior, cheerleader   
  • CJ Prescott: Piper's ambulance-chasing, skirt-chasing ex-husband of 20+ years, a lawyer, not actually supportive of Piper and her shop-keeping ambition
  • Melly Prescott: Piper's ex-mother-in-law, CJ's mother. Piper was never good enough for him. I'm not sure that anyone could be good enough for him, though, according to Melly.
  • Doug Winters: Piper's "gentleman caller" (at their age, she thinks "boyfriend" sounds silly), local veterinarian
  • Wyatt McBride: Police Chief of Brandywine Creek, a local boy who moved away and became a police detective in Florida, returned recently to take the job as chief. Tall, dark, and handsome. Piper thinks about him an awful lot, for a woman who's dating someone else — I'm just sayin', Piper. 
  • Precious Blessing: one of the dispatchers at the police station. Actually just a minor character, but I love her name! She is very supportive of Piper, though, whenever Piper's calls to the PD are answered by Precious. Piper calls rather frequently, and not just about the dead bodies. 

Cinnamon Toasted can be read as a standalone. I know you could follow the mystery storyline with no trouble, if you are new to the series. I think there's just enough detail from previous books given, so that you know about Piper's past and getting her shop established, but don't learn spoilers about the previous books' murders. 

In reading Cinnamon Toasted and the previous books in the series, I noticed how richly developed the characters are — not just Piper, but all of them. Author Gail Oust's Guest Post, below, reveals her secrets to character development. She puts a lot of thought and work into each person's backstory, and it has really paid off in terms of continuity. Her characters are all interesting and realistic, which adds a great deal to the enjoyment of her series.

One part that I especially like in Cinnamon Toasted is the close relationship that Piper and her ex-mother-in-law Melly are cautiously developing. Piper may be divorced from Melly's son, but Melly will always be Lindsey's grandmother. 

Here are a few of my favorite passages, redacted when necessary for your protection from spoilers.
● Precious is the sort who almost always wears a smile. I'd often thought her disposition would be better suited for a Walmart greeter than as a welcoming committee for miscreants and felons.
 The closed basement door called my name. Nothing I hated more than movies where a girl without a lick of common sense and too stupid to live creeps down creaking stairs while the audience screams a warning. And here I was, a grown woman too stupid to live.
● I searched for something to use as a weapon. A jug of bleach, a box of detergent? All those would achieve was clean clothes.

Since this is a culinary mystery, there should be recipes, and there are! Following the last chapter, there is a short essay on cinnamon, plus recipes for Melly Prescott's Gingersnaps, Doug's Sauerbraten, and Piper's Lebkuchen. Melly's delicious gingersnaps are famous throughout the town. The sauerbraten and lebkuchen were prepared for the annual Oktoberfest.

I recommend Cinnamon Toasted to all fans of cozy mysteries, particularly culinary mysteries. I think it will have special appeal to fans who are computer geeks, chefs, foodies, residents of small towns, and/or those who love cinnamon toast.  

I really enjoyed Cinnamon Toasted by Gail Oust, and grant it Four Kitties!

Four out of five kitties
 Note:  I received a complimentary copy of Cinnamon Toasted in exchange for my honest review. 
All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Click here, to read other reviews and Author Guest Posts, plus Author Interviews! 

The Guest Post

She’s Got Character

Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel. So reads a throw pillow in my living room. Everyone who enters my home is forewarned.
I’m often been asked how I come up with story ideas. And I’m happy to oblige by telling people that sometimes stories materialize out of thin air. Sometimes they’re ripped from the headlines. Other times, I have to mine them from deep in my imagination. But stories and plots would fall short without the right characters to bring them to life. Another question I’m asked, though not as frequently, is how do you come up with your characters? Do you model them after people you know? Are they TV or movie stars? Celebrities or models?  Do you cut photos out of magazines to keep in a binder or tack on a bulletin board? If this question was multiple choice, my answer would be all of the above.  

Most of the time, my characters are a composite based on certain physical attributes and personality traits. Have I ever modeled characters after someone I know? Yes, I’ve done that three times that I recall — and not always in a complimentary fashion. Interestingly, in two instances the people I’ve caricatured didn’t recognize themselves as the “bad” guy. The exception to the “uncomplimentary” is a friend who bid at a silent auction to be a character in one of my books. Sandy, along with her husband Craig, makes an appearance in Cinnamon Toasted. I recognized the potential in Sandy’s character so I’ve booked her for a return engagement in Curried Away (December 2016.)   

My first mystery series, the Bunco Babe Mysteries, features a group of twelve women who get together to play bunco, a purely social dice game. The bunco group which I’m a member of just celebrated its tenth anniversary. The characters in the book are strictly fictional and not based on any particular individual. But have I convinced my friends? No, way! Some of them are still trying to figure out who’s who. I’ve even had emails pleading with me to disclose the true identities so they can stop the guessing and get on with reading. For those unfamiliar with the Bunco Babes, I’m happy to report that in conjunction with Beyond the Page Publishing, all three books have been republished in digital format as the Kate McCall Mysteries. They have a whole new look with different titles and fabulous covers. 

Names of characters are an important consideration for me, too. Without the proper moniker, characters seem glued to the page and refuse to budge. When naming characters, I consider their age, the region of the country, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. The Social Security website offers a plethora of information regarding the popularity of names by birth year, decade of birth, or individual states. I keep reference books close at hand for babies’ names as well as surnames. I try hard not to overuse names beginning with the same letter. It’s not only confusing to the reader but the writer as well. When searching for the perfect name for Piper’s sidekick, I settled on the name of my local, small town pharmacist — Reba. This might sound ghoulish, but I also check the obituaries in the weekly paper for unusual names and add them to a growing list.

When developing my characters, I use character profile questionnaires — a longer one for main characters, a shorter version for secondary ones. These profiles force me to delve deeper and get better acquainted with the “people” in my stories. In addition to name, age, and physical attributes, questions in the longer form range from style of dress, financial status, education, to past relationships. My characters aren’t perfect and have flaws. As I often say, perfect people are boring. It’s especially important when writing a cozy to keep your protagonist likeable, to create a person to whom readers can relate.
And last but not least, how do I know when I’ve come up with the right formula? It happens when I cease referring to them as “characters” and start calling them the “people” in my book. My sincere hope is that my readers enjoy getting acquainted with Piper and the people of Brandywine Creek.

The Author

About Gail Oust

Friends often accuse Gail Oust of flunking retirement.  While working as a nurse/vascular technologist, Gail penned nine historical romances under the pseudonym Elizabeth Turner for Avon, Pocket, Berkley, and Kensington.  

It wasn’t until she and her husband retired to South Carolina that inspiration struck for a mystery.  Hearing the words “maybe it’s a dead body” while golfing with friends fired her imagination for the Bunco Babe Mystery series, originally published by NAL.  In conjunction with Beyond the Page Publishing, the Bunco Babe series has  been republished in digital format as the Kate McCall Mysteries, complete with new titles and a whole new look.  

Gail is currently writing the Spice Shop Mysteries for Minotaur/St. Martin’s.  When she isn’t reading, writing, or sleeping, she can usually be found on the golf course or hanging out with friends.

Find Gail on the web at

The Giveaway

Gail will award an autographed hardcover copy of Cinnamon Toasted
to one randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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