Together at the Table

Together at the TableTogether at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge
Series: Two Blue Doors Trilogy
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Waterbrook Press on May 3, 2016
Pages: 320
Also in this series: Reservations for Two
Also by this author: Reservations for Two

 

About Together at the Table (from the back cover):
Three months ago, Juliette D’Alisa’s world changed.

In a bittersweet series of events, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse. Juliette and her brother opened their restaurant together to rave reviews, but her romance with Memphis immunologist Neil McLaren ended in anger and tears.

As autumn sweeps into the Pacific Northwest, Juliette feels that she’s finally on the cusp of equilibrium. The restaurant continues to thrive, and her family is closer than ever. She and sous-chef Adrien are seeing each other, both in and out of the kitchen. Just when she thinks her world might stop spinning, a trip to the waterfront lands a familiar face into her path.

Rather than dwell on her personal life, Juliette throws herself into work and research. After reading her grandmother’s letters from war-torn Paris, she still wants to know the full story –  and she’ll travel across countries and oceans to find it.

But even Juliette can’t outrun the man who stole her heart. As she finally uncovers the truth about her family history, what will it mean for her own chances at lasting love? 

I know I shouldn’t talk about my love for this book, this series, by falling into the trap of food-related analogies. I shouldn’t mention how this story is as savory as Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup, as sweet as French Toast with Ricotta and Tangerines and the ending as satisfying as Wedding Cupcakes for Two, but I will anyway, because it’s all true. Hillary has created a story, told through three books, that is infused with warmth and life. Juliette’s character is flawed, genuine and comes across as entirely real. Her love of family and food drew me into her world, and I know I’ll be visiting these characters again.

Hillary has created a story, told through three books, that is infused with warmth and life.

The opening of the novel really grabbed my attention – it begins with Juliette attempting to send an email to Neil. For those who have read the first two books, if that doesn’t make you sit up and pay attention, I’m not sure what will! For those of you that are in the “who’s Neil?” camp, well, you just need to start with book one to find out. Hillary utilizes emails between Juliette and various members of her family and other characters as a really unique way to further the plot of the story. She also uses a diary from the past, being read in the present day. The diary features another set of characters, and while the reader is with them for a shorter time, Mireille’s voice is just as clear and distinct as Juliette’s. The emails and diary as a literary device work well and hold a lot of charm, and the diary especially adds great depth to the story.

The emails and diary as a literary device work well and hold a lot of charm, and the diary especially adds great depth to the story.

The setting is also excellent. I’ve never been to Portland, Oregon, or to the countryside of France, but I was transported there while reading this story. One of the things that Hillary excels so well at in her writing is including details about life in Portland – restaurants, parks, even the famous Powell’s Books – that I was taken there in my mind. Every journey that Juliette goes on, even if it’s a physical journey, holds an emotional component as well, firmly grounding the reader in her situation.

It’s truly not often that a contemporary novel is the perfect blend of warmth, realism and romance. Hillary accomplishes all three without sacrificing character development, familiar relationships or the sometimes painful nature of life. While I was rooting for a happily-ever-after, I mostly just wanted real joy for my girl Juliette – whether that meant getting the guy or not. Juliette’s story goes beyond being a typical romance or simply being “foodie fiction,” but rather provides readers with a sense that her story will continue on past the pages of this book.

Every journey that Juliette goes on, even if it’s a physical journey, holds an emotional component as well, firmly grounding the reader in her situation.

I highly recommend Together at the Table for fans of heartfelt contemporary stories. Just make sure you start with book one of the trilogy, A Table by the Window, to get Juliette’s whole story in order to enjoy it to the fullest.

P.S. – the recipes I mentioned at the beginning of my review, and several more, are all featured in the book. After they appear in the story, the actual recipe follows shortly. Just another yummy layer of charm!

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