With The Cookie Jar, Hannah Swensen has a mouthwatering monopoly on the bakery business in Lake Eden, Minnesota.  But when a rival bakery opens, tensions begin to bubble...

February is usually a slow month for Lake Eden businesses, but this year it's even slower for Hannah and Lisa at The Cookie Jar.  Their rivals, The Magnolia Bakery right across the street, are effectively putting them out of business with their unlimited financing and clever marketing.  It's coming very close to the point where Hannah will have to board up her windows, when one of the owners of the Magnolia Bakery winds up dead, stretched out on her kitchen floor next to an upended pan of her signature peach cobbler.

Hannah's at the top of the initial suspect list, especially when folks discover that her rival in baked goods was also her rival in boyfriends.  Hannah knows that she wasn't the only one in town with an axe to grind with her rival, and now it's up to her to track down whoever had the right ingredients to whip up a murder...

Original dessert and cookie recipes included.
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Shawna Lee Quinn has opened the Magnolia Blossom Bakery right across the street from Hannah’s own shop.  As most people know, Hannah and Shawna are not friends.  And if things don’t change soon, Hannah and Lisa might have to close their doors.  Plus Mike is often spotted at Shawna’s, much to Hannah’s chagrin. 

Shawna promises to bring her famous peach cobbler to Lisa and Herb’s wedding reception.  Hannah is not happy, but tries not to think about it.  Then Shawna doesn’t show up.  When Hannah returns to her shop later, she notices lights on at Shawna’s.  After calling and getting no answer, Hannah goes over to see if everything is okay at Shawna’s.  She finds Shawna dead.  

Knowing that everyone knows she didn’t like Shawna, Hannah realizes she is a suspect and had better investigate to find out who killed Shawna to clear herself.  Lisa, Hannah’s sister and Hannah’s mother, along with Norman help her work to solve the murder.  Most people were at the wedding with a great alibi.  Who could have done it? 

I always enjoy books in this series.  Minnesota is a great location for this series.  The characters are great.  I love the love triangle of Hannah, Mike and Norman.  Her friends and family are great and always keep the story hopping. 

If you haven’t tried this series, I recommend you do, especially if you like food.  One of these days I want to try one of the recipes.  They sound wonderful.  I highly recommend this book and the whole series.  You might want to start at the beginning of the series if you haven’t read any so you can see the progression of the characters through the series.

Dawn Dowdle

The Cookie Jar Bakery is experiencing some challenges. Competition has come to Lake Eden, Minnesota in the form of the Magnolia Blossom Bakery. Hannah Swenson and her partner Lisa try to cope as they watch their frequent customers patronize this new place.
Not only are these two women, Shawna Lee and Vanessa, taking their customers, it looks like Shawna may have her sights set on Mike. Mike Kingston is a detective and has been dating Hannah. These are only two reasons for Hannah not to like Shawna.

In addition, Lisa's wedding takes place in 12 days. Herb is the lucky groom and a cop. He is a reliable source and is the person who sees Mike's vehicle behind the 'other' bakery. The two men who Hannah dates are Mike (already mentioned) and Norman. Mike is in question now but Norman is faithful to Hannah. He is not quite the charmer that Mike is and certainly not as handsome, but that is okay. Even though Hannah can be bowled over by Mike, I think that Norman is the prize.

Hannah's sister Andrea agrees to spy on the Magnolia Bakery. The place is crowded, standing room only. Some of the customers are actually Hannah's friends and family. When Andrea buys samples from the other bakery and brings it back, comparisons are made. This food is not anything special, in fact it is quite ordinary. What is going on here? Andrea lets Hannah know that the girls wear very short dresses with low necklines. Also this bakery has contests. The more that Hannah hears, the more she knows she wants to wait out this current fiasco.

Delores, Hannah's mother, decides to have Moishe the cat get rid of her mouse problem. Moishe doesn't cooperate but Delores never receives that information. She thinks that the mouse is gone. Readily, she recommends Moishe's mouse-catching talents to others in the community. In a short time, others are seeking his expertise.

This is just one example of the type of tongue-in-cheek humor in this series. You see, Moishe does not like Delores. Everytime Hannah's mother calls on the phone, Moishe's hair stands on end. This cat is better than the caller identification service.

Hannah's five-year-old niece Tracey is always a great addition to each installment of the series as she banters with her aunt. Tracey's mother Andrea takes her duties as wedding detail expert very seriously. As irritating as Andrea can be, you have to love her. She even has Hannah pulling double duty when the chauffeur is disabled.

Hannah wears many hats and one of them is her propensity for finding dead bodies. This book is no exception. Lisa even returns earlier than expected after her wedding because she knows that Hannah will be sleuthing. In full swing with her investigation, Hannah delegates tasks to Andrea, Norman, and Norman's mother. Follow along closely because even though Hannah is an amateur sleuth, she knows what she is doing.

The strengths of this story and series are many. The characters are ones that have become so familiar to me and I enjoy seeing how they progress and change. I recommend that you read this series in order -- this is number seven. The climate in February is chilling in Minnesota and the author expertly paints the picture. I did have a blanket around me as I read the descriptions and I could feel cold weather coming from the story.

If you like reading about baking ideas, Joanne Fluke does not fail to deliver. I love to cook and bake so this series is very motivational in that area as well as being just plain fun to read.

Rita Ratacheck