Book Review: Kale to the Queen (A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery #1) by Nell Hampton

Kale to the Queen (A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery #1) by Nell Hampton
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐ stars (3 stars)
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

I finished two cozy mystery series lately (or at least their last books feel like finales) and so of course, I had to jump right into a new series. Kale to the Queen had one of those cozy covers that I love and a blurb that also charmed so this went right on my TBR last year before it came out.

Chef Carrie Ann Cole is an expat newly in service to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as their growing family's personal chef. As if the trans-Atlantic jet lag isn't enough to contend with, Carrie Ann is dealing with an irascible Chef Butterbottom (with none of the wit of Gareth Blackstock, just the screaming self-importance) and one of her staff turns up dead within her first 48 hours on the job. She's a bit up against it but has a plucky determination to keep her schedule and job duties while also sleuthing and trying to sort out her "on a break" long-distance boyfriend situation.

The setup is well done here and I also have to give points to many descriptions of the food she prepares. It all sounds scrummy and the recipes in the back of the book don't disappoint (that Spring Fritatta alone is enough for winner status here). As with most cozies, we meet quite a few people here and don't delve too deeply into most of them and it feels like any other village/small town cozy. Carrie Ann even gets to interact with two guys which hint as possible love interests further down the line. The ending solution to the whodunit was timely and quite sad and I liked that very much. All boxes ticked.

But there were a few drawbacks. Some of the characterisations felt a bit off. From Carrie Ann's odd asking people how they knew she was American (speaking gives that away) and one Londoner saying it wasn't her accent, but her jeans (someone call Vic Beckham and let her know that Rock & Republic jeans aren't a thing) and athletic shoes (burn all the trainers). Additionally, there's a repeated offering of cream in tea and I'm familiar it being with milk (that's probably a small niggle though). Some characters felt more like caricatures than actual characters but that does happen in cozies so, no problem on that front. And finally, I really don't know how I feel about the Duchess of Cambridge and the wee Prince and Princess being a interacting characters in the story. It read like it should be charming but it broke a wall for me that took me out of the story. All I could wonder is if the latest awaited prince/princess was in utero already in this story and will the next book have a Pippa or James sighting or a Harry and Meghan wedding mention? Will Carrie Ann cook for them in an emergency too? It was distracting.

All things considered, I enjoyed this and will be picking up the next one in the series very soon. First books in a series can be a little bumpy so I'm eager to see if some of the issues I had here will be smoothed out. Definitely recommended.

Summary: Chef Carrie Ann Cole is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime--an assignment as the new Personal Chef to the Royal Family at Kensington Palace. But no sooner has Carrie Ann touched down across the pond and donned her apron than a dead body crops up beneath the royal kale beds.
With one assistant dead and the other soon under suspicion for his murder, Carrie Ann is scrambling to keep her kitchen up and running. Not to mention she gets off to an immediate bad start with the tempestuous Royal Chef Butterbottom, who has a bitter taste in his mouth since the prestigious position in the Royal Family's kitchen was given to an "over-privileged, under-educated American chef."
But the Royal Family's appetites wait for no one, and Carrie Ann must solve the murder and still get supper on the table on time--even with the annoyingly handsome Head of Security Ian Gordon tracking her every move like an MI6 agent. Suspects abound as an American chef adds a bit of spice to the traditional royal household in the first in Nell Hampton's charming and tasty Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series, Kale to the Queen.

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