Goodreads: A Dash of Trouble
Series: Love Sugar Magic #1
Published: Jan. 2018
The Day of the Dead is approaching and Leo is bitter that her four older sisters get to help out at her parents’ bakery while she goes to school. Then she discovers a family secret that really makes her mad: her family is a family of brujas with cooking magic–and no one was going to tell her until she turned fifteen! Now eleven-year-old Leo is sneaking around, stealing recipe books and ingredients, determined to do magic by herself. But magic does not always go as expected and soon Leo creates a mess she may not be able to clean up on her own.
A Dash of Trouble is a fairly standard MG fantasy featuring magic and baking. The women in Leo’s family are all brujas, but she is not allowed to do magic until she turns fifteen. She therefore decides to practice behind her family’s back, imagining that she can help her friends at school with some enchanted baked goods. Of course, love spells and the like typically backfire and, the more Leo tries to hide her magical tracks, the more damage she does. The book is a typical finding-your-place-in-your-family tale, with Leo eventually learning that lies and theft are wrong and that she should have turned to her family for support from the start.
So far the other reviews I have seen seem to be fairly stellar. And I have to admit that it is very exciting to see a Spanish-speaking family represented in this story. Anna Meriano even cleverly inserts dialogue and recipes in Spanish, so that readers unfamiliar with the language can feel some of Leo’s disorientation as she tries to figure out her family’s secret (Leo knows only a handful of words). But, personally, I did not connect with the story and finished it more out of obligation than because I was excited to pick up the book each night.
I had a few major problems with the story: I did not like Leo, I did not find the plot convincing, and I did not find the magic well-developed. Leo spends most of the book whining that her sisters get to do things she does not and it is not fair they can do magic–even though they all waited until they were of age and did not get any special privileges. She also consistently lies and steals, making her friends’ lives increasingly worse because she will not admit she was wrong. I did not sympathize with her; I wanted someone to scold her and make her see how annoying she is.
But this never happened and that is why I could not buy into the plot. Instead, all four of her sisters find Leo out and then blithely ignore her, even though they are aware she is meddling in magic she does not understand and cannot control. They lie for her to cover up her lies and theft, enabling her to do a lot of damage. Typically in these types of books, the protagonist has to be clever to find things out and not get caught. But Leo gets hand fed secret information from her irresponsible older sisters and then is saved by them repeatedly when she makes major errors.
Finally, the magic seems overly random, even for magic. First we learn that Leo comes from a family of cooking brujas. Then we learn that each cooking bruja has a special skill–influencing, making things appear, or speaking to the dead. (None of this is related to cooking?) Then we learn that spells, conveniently for the plot, can only be undone by another bruja if the spell caster is initiated into the family of brujas. So basically the rules of magic ensure that any bruja who wants to go rogue and have unstoppable spells just needs to not join her magic with her family’s. That seems…dangerous. But, of course, that’s not the point. The point is that this rule was made up last minute to add drama to the conclusion of the story–oh no, Leo has made a spell that no one can undo!
I had been looking forward to this book since I saw it was going to be released, so I am disappointed I did not love it as I expected. Still, I imagine that others will love it enough for the sequel to be published.