I told myself I would continue with this series if the writing got better in this book, and it did! There were a couple rather tragic instances of dialogue (see below*), but for the most part both the dialogue and inner narration/characterization for Lila got much better. I feel like I have a better handle on who she is as a person, where in the first one she was sort of a blank slate. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I feel good about continuing the series. And book three isn’t coming in a year, it’s coming in six months! So that’s neat.
*Upon being given some lovely handmade jewelry by a contestant: “Thank you, Naoko,” I said as I put on the bracelets and switched out my hoops for the dangly earrings. “I’ll cherish them. Just like I cherish your mom’s friendship.” I mean, nobody talks like that in real life?
It’s been a few month since the events of the first book, and Lila and her two friends/business partners are getting ready to open their café, The Brew-ha Café. She’s also suffering mental health effects from being attacked and at the center of a murder investigation. In the midst of this, as the former winner, she’s invited to a judge on the Miss Teen Shady Palms pageant. It doesn’t help that participating in the pageant is bringing up feelings of her dead mother that she’s never dealt with, and neither is the dead body of a fellow judge that Lila and a new friend stumble upon floating in the river.
This time around, Lila is pulled into the investigation because her cousin Bernadette is the main suspect, and as a judge she has a high level of access to many of the suspects. I had to suspend some disbelief that Detective Park would involve all these Filipino ladies so heavily in the investigation, but at a certain point you’ve just got to go with it. The book was a fun, fast read. I read it much faster than the first one, and I actually appreciated that the author allowed Lila to experience consequences and a level of emotional realness instead of those consequences being brushed under the metaphorical rug. I do wish there had been less man-drama, though. That’s just not interesting to me. Also, also, I thought the motivation for the killer got a bit melodramatic, and wish she would have toned it down a bit.