Diners, Dives & Dead Ends - Terri L. Austin
Tried of the same old trite cozy mysterious? Of the never ending love triangles that weeble wobble til it drives you crazy? Of the ridiculous plots with lack luster logic in a town where every knows everyone? Of heroines that claim independence and having moxie when all they do is faint and flutter their eyelashes? Of Ms. Perfect Gorgeous with a crew that devotes entirely to her but she never does things for other people and you question how anyone can stand her?

Want realistic regular people who are likeable and will call assshat an asshat? Want a mystery that keeps you guessing and you never see the end coming? Want to laugh out loud? Want a little heat but not a wildfire that scares even rabbits to stop fucking while the characters don't?

Then this is the series for you! And yes, I do mean series. I just finished an ARC of the second book and it gets better so no worries for having your hopes dashed early on. I hate when that happens.

I really did love this book. It hit all the right notes for me and I really couldn't find any faults. Well, ones that are really minor and didn't effect the story or enjoyment level. (And I'm the nit-picky type.) I do think it suffers from a bit of growing pains and 'First Book In a Series Problems' where all the characters, personalities, places and relationships have to get set up. There's a lot going on. It gets hectic, crazy and only a smudge over the top. It is a cozy mystery to snuggle up with or read on the beach.

I was hooked in quick and finished it in one setting. It actually made me laugh out loud, which is a rare thing and I enjoyed it immensely. I like how it's not a major city yet it's not so small it makes you wonder why the bad guys are here. I can think of a few cozy mysteries that suffer from 'a small town but major city drama', like an international prostitution ring where everyone knows everyone and their business. That just doesn't make sense at all but this book, thankfully, doesn't have that issue at all.

Minor Issues:

I did sigh over the 'Everyone Is In Love With The Heroine' syndrome a bit. It's not nearly as played up as in a lot of cozy mysterious, where it's enough to gag, but it's there alright. It did happened all rather quickly too so the falling dominoes of men just got silly. Though I sighed over the constant stream of men just dying to date Rose, it was overshadowed my enjoyment of the story. (With reading the second book, I'm quite okay with this minor disagreement due to the track taken.)

Then later in the story the big ending twist happened and I was like "See, okay every guy falls for her but at least the ratio of criminals, stalker freaks and predators is realistic". That sounds cold considering what happened to Rose, but I've been in a similar situation as her so it hit me emotionally more than I wanted it to. (Think triggering and this is why I do trigger warnings). I mean it's not graphic, just realistic. It certainly worked and felt so real. Omitting that it got such a huge reaction from me in a review feels...wrong and inappropriate. Reviews are subjective and about my experience reading the book. It's certainly something that gets mentioned with friends.

The other thing that struck me was when Rose said,
Kidnapping me, hitting me, tying me up in his basement - that wasn't a lack of self-control?
That's the thing with these predators, for him it was taking control. He couldn't control Rose when she didn't respond the way he wanted so he took control of her to force it. It's twisted but that's usually how it works out in their minds. It helped me when I realized this after what I went through.

I didn't like how focused Rose became about knowing a kid's gender. Okay, so it was a couple of sentences but she did say it would drive her batty to not know their gender. I just don't personally like how focused society is on gender, gender norms and gender roles. Maybe it's just me but it felt insulting calling them "the mysteriously gendered child" and he/she. I mean there are gender neutral nouns to use like always they/their/them, and hir, xe (created for the very reason that he/she is often used as an insult) for those aware and have their conscious raised. Obviously, Rose's wondering/thinking is more in line with the majority currently but hopefully people will become more sensitive to the issues and society will change. The main thing is with her wondering it make me wonder what kind of Rose is and how she would react to someone that doesn't fit the strict gender models. Thankfully, she didn't refer to them as 'it' or ask anything inappropriate. The issue doesn't come up in the next book and hopefully, Rose won't disappoint in future dealings.

(Note: I won the second book, Last Diner Standing, in a giveaway but not this book. I obtained Diners, Dives & Dead Ends myself.)