If you can’t tell from my latest book review, I am on a cozy kick at the moment! While not known for being particularly deep or intense, cozies are one of my favorite genres because they are fast-paced and provide a fun puzzle.
I recently read Croissants and Corruption, by Danielle Collins. This book is the first in a series revolving around middle-aged widow Margot Durand, who owns a French patisserie in a small town in Virginia. In this first installment, Margot’s sister Renee sends her 19-year-old step-daughter Taylor from California to live with Margot for the summer so that she can work in the bakery and learn the value of a hard day’s work. But when Taylor gets implicated for murder, Margot must solve the case to clear her niece’s name.
Overall, this book was decent, but I hesitate to give it a full five stars. The things I liked about this book, I loved. But the things I didn’t like, I found to be so off-putting.
First up: what I liked. I really enjoyed how well paced the story was. Ideally in my mind, a good cozy should introduce the main crime within the first chapter or two, and each chapter should end on a note that leaves the reader begging for more. On that front, Collins delivers. Additionally, the author’s writing style was fantastic. I feel that she included just the right balance of descriptions, dialogue, and action.
Now the things I didn’t like so much: I found the protagonist, Margot, to be a tad sanctimonious and condescending towards the younger characters such as her niece. It was difficult at times for me to like the protagonist when she treated her 19-year-old niece like a child. Also, Margot was pretty victim-blamey towards Taylor, which I feel is unacceptable. For instance, in the beginning, Margot discovers Taylor being attacked by the young man who later ends up murdered, and it appears as though he is going to rape her.
Here is the passage in question, emphasis mine:
Danielle Collins, Croissants and Corruption
“Marco Rossario attacked my niece.” Margot felt the anger surge up in her at the thought of him taking advantage of Taylor like he had. Taylor had likely gotten herself into the situation with flirtation, but it didn’t excuse the fact that he had tried to force himself on her.
Even though there was no sexual crime in the end, and even though the appearance wasn’t even what it initially seemed, I found Margot’s victim-blaming stance to be wholly unacceptable.
There were a few things in the book that could have been edited better to make it more believable. For instance, the author seems not to know the difference between macaroons and macarons, which is a pretty serious error given that the protagonist is a professional French baker. (And, admittedly, an error that is a pet peeve of mine as a macaron lover).
As an educational aside, this infographic shows the differences between these two cookies:
Anyway, the final thing that I took issue with in this book was the relationship that Taylor and Margot’s deceased husband, Julian, allegedly had. Mind you, Julian was Taylor’s step-mom’s sister’s husband. Mind you also that Julian and Margot lived on the East Coast, while Taylor, her dad, and her step-mom Renee live on the West Coast. It’s not clear how long Renee has been Taylor’s step-mom, but we are to believe that Taylor, at the age of 14 (right before Julian died) was very close to her step-mom’s sister’s husband on the other side of the country. So close, in fact, that Julian wrote secret friendship letters to Taylor that Margot never knew about. Is it just me, or is that unlikely at best, and creepy at worst?
I was a 14-year-old girl with a step-parent once, and it is very difficult for me to imagine being close at all with my then step-father’s sibling’s spouses — across the country, no less. I get that every family is different, so this may just all stem from my own biased perspective, but it just rubbed me the wrong way, especially with the secret letters he would send her. Also, these secret friendship letters had no bearing on the plot whatsoever, so I don’t think they served any purpose.
All of that said, I would overall rate this book somewhere between three stars and four stars. The excellent pacing and otherwise good writing outweighed the issues I took with the book. This book would absolutely bump up a star if the author were to make some edits to the above issues I mentioned.
Free from the following content: graphic violence, language, sex, drugs, alcohol, infertility, pregnancy/childbirth, mental illness, eating disorders, divorce
Contains the following topics: implication of attempted rape (very brief), grief/loss sub-plot