Reservations for Two

Reservations for TwoReservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge
Series: The Two Blue Doors Trilogy
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Waterbrook Press on April 21, 2015
Pages: 320
Also in this series: Together at the Table
Also by this author: Together at the Table

 

Juliette D’Alisa has a lot going on in her life. Taking a bit of a break from the hustle of preparing to open a restaurant, she travels to the family chateau in Southern France. To her surprise and delight, her boyfriend, Neil, catches a flight to join her there. Together they try to find out more of her grandmother Mireille’s past. When they unearth letters written from Mireille to her sister, Juliette realizes that her family’s secrets go deeper than she previously thought. When she returns back to Portland, her idyllic time with Neil comes to an end. With neither willing to uproot from their lives many hours apart, Juliette’s uncertainty over their future grows. As her mother’s sickness progresses and a restaurant opening looms, Juliette is stretched thin between hope and hardship. Life is never as straight-forward as an ingredient list in her favorite recipe. What secrets remain in her family’s past, and how does Neil fit into her future?

Hillary has realistically deepened and drawn out the characters, the family mystery and the romance even more in book two.

I am by no means a foodie. I actually don’t even cook that often, though I enjoy it. I do, however, read a lot and am drawn to novels with heart that tell an honest story. Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge is such a novel. Second books in a series can often lose steam for me, but that wasn’t the case here. Hillary has realistically deepened and drawn out the characters, the family mystery and the romance even more in book two. These characters have really come to life for me, especially Juliette’s family, both in Portland and France. The plot is delicious, with just enough happening to keep me interested but not so much that it feels crowded or overdone. Hillary isn’t afraid to write of difficult and true-to-life circumstances, and that authenticity stands throughout the entire story.

One of my favorite things was the inclusion of her grandmother’s letters – I was so happy to realize that they played a big role in the story and that I got to read them and experience them along with Juliette.

Hillary’s descriptions are scrumptious. Whether it is the lavender fields of Southern France, the atmosphere of the restaurant or the food itself, they are meant to be savored. One of my favorite things was the inclusion of her grandmother’s letters – I was so happy to realize that they played a big role in the story and that I got to read them and experience them along with Juliette. They create a story within a story, and the transitions were smooth and seamless. Even though it was a smaller part of the story in comparison to the book as a whole, Hillary created a beautiful set of characters through Mireille’s letters.

Even with all of the fun descriptions of setting and food, this is an emotional story that rings with truth. It is so refreshingly real and honest. There are no quick fixes in Juliette’s life, but friends and family (and food!) to lean on when she needs them. I loved the dynamics of the D’Alisa family, especially Juliette’s interactions with her siblings. They are all fully realized people, and it is obvious that Hillary took her time in creating their similarities, differences and personal stories.

Though the spiritual aspect might be considered on the lighter side to some, it fits in well and is just the right amount without seeming forced or disingenuous.

Juliette’s character continues to grow and change, even as her balance is shaken by new challenges. Even though there were times where I got a little weary of the romantic aspect of the book, Neil’s character is strong and endearing, and I feel like he and Juliette are a genuine couple. I appreciated that there was no easy solution for their long distance problem. If it was all easily resolved, I feel like that would have diminished the story and given Juliette less opportunity to grow in her faith. Though the spiritual aspect might be considered on the lighter side to some, it fits in well and is just the right amount without seeming forced or disingenuous. Their relationship combined with Juliette’s family struggles and a new restaurant force Juliette to realize that she can’t do it on her own – she has to rely on God and faith to make it.

Reservations for Two is a wonderful follow up to A Table by the Window. Readers will definitely want to consume these in order – otherwise you’d miss too much food-laced goodness and, more importantly, the beginning of Juliette’s story, which is one to savor (culinary terminology certainly lends itself to book reviews, doesn’t it?). I will find it to be a long wait until the release of the final book in the trilogy and will be eager to get my hands on the culmination of Juliette’s story. Whether a master-chef, foodie or cooking novice, I highly recommend Reservations for Two for readers of contemporary fiction who are looking for something with a bit more depth than a typical romance. With authentic characters, gorgeous descriptions and clever writing style, Hillary has created something special in Reservations for Two.

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