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Kale to the Queen
Kensington Palace Chef #1
Nell Hampton

Crooked Lane
April 11, 2017/ ISBN 978-1-68331-104-1
Mystery/Cozy/Amateur Sleuth

Reviewed by Laura Hinds


In her debut mystery, author Nell Hampton introduces readers to Chef Carrie Ann Cole as she starts a new life in England. She has a one-year contract to work as the family chef to the royal family at Kensington Palace. Carrie Ann has left her longtime boyfriend, hoping that distance will make his heart grow fonder and that he'll eventually come to join her. Will John come to England, or decide to stay in America?

The Chef has barely settled into her new home and job when one of her two assistants is brutally murdered in the palace greenhouse just off her kitchen! Poor Carrie Ann is the first one to find his body. Frank Deems was a man with a young family and everything to live for. Her other assistant, Michael Haregrove quickly becomes the chief suspect, but Carrie Ann feels in her heart that the kind young man cannot be a murderer.

As she snoops around, asking far too many questions, Carrie Ann realizes that there are plenty of other suspects worth looking into. Yet if she asks the wrong questions of the wrong people, she may find herself in boiling water – either out of a job or the next victim!

I enjoyed this British cozy quiet a lot. It was a smooth and fast read, populated by interesting characters with a variety of motives for what they did day to day. It brought a smile to my face to read about the royals, who were obviously based on Prince William, Princess Kate, and their children.

If Carrie Ann’s romance with John doesn’t work out, there are a few options in the palace as well, and those other men may foreshadow what is to come in the next book or two. Chef Butterbottom, the palace chef, feels that he should be cooking for the family as well, and he dislikes American’s, so Carrie Ann finds herself on a rocky road with him, especially when she and her assistants have to work in his kitchen and he decides to confine them to the small test kitchen instead!

I did find that there were a few missteps in how some characters behaved. An example is that in one chapter, Michael Haregrove tells Carrie Ann to go away and stay away from him for her own sake. Not that long later, she returns to his doorstep and he welcomes her in as if he’d never said such a thing. I suppose it is a small thing, but it bothered me.

Carrie Ann also has extremely loose-lips, and if the character is going to grow into a strong protagonist, the author may want to imbue her with some verbal restraint. Maybe have Carrie Ann learn and remember her lessons from this story? I believe that as the character and author grow together, this has the potential to become a long-lived and well-loved series.

I recommend the book to readers of all ages, and think it would be an ideal introduction to cozy mysteries for a young person, teenage and up. There are even a few recipes included after the story ends and those could provide an introduction to some British cooking! Enjoy!

Reviews of previous titles in this series

Kale to the Queen #1
Lord of the Pies #2

Reviewed 2017