Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Hillary Manton Lodge's Reservations for Two ~ Reviewed

Reservations for Two: A Novel of Fresh Flavors and New Horizons (Two Blue Doors) 
by Hillary Manton Lodge 
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (April 21, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307731774

A culinary concoction of taking chances and finding love in the most delectable places
Food writer-turned-restaurateur Juliette D’Alisa has more than enough on her plate. While her trip to Provence might have unlocked new answers to her grandmother’s past, it’s also provided new complications in the form of Neil McLaren, the man she can’t give up. 
Juliette and Neil find romance simple as they travel through Provence and Tuscany together, but life back home presents a different set of challenges. Juliette has a restaurant to open, a mother combating serious illness, and a family legacy of secrets to untangle – how does Neil, living so far away in Memphis, fit into to her life? 
As she confronts an uncertain future, Juliette can’t help but wish that life could be as straightforward as her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can her French grandmother’s letters from the 1940’s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?


There are multiple reasons I liked this novel. The basic plot line involves a young woman, Juliette, who is firmly entrenched in Portland. Her very ill mother is there, and she and her brother are opening a restaurant together. However, her heart is entangled with a perfect man cross country. Neil is truly, truly so close to who she needs, and if he’d consider relocating to Portland he’d be the one.

Before the restaurant opens Juliette heads to shop for wares and suppliers in France and Italy. Both these food capitals of the world also are peppered with relatives of Juliettes. Neil surprises Juliette and joins her on her journey. While in France Juliette finds letters written by and to her grandmother and she takes them with her.

Once home Juliette must face the reality of life, her mother’s condition is worsening, absence from Neil is breaking her heart, and opening a new business adds stress upon stress. What kind of security or even hope does her future hold?

Juliette wasn’t my favorite female character. Her indecisiveness and anxiety levels were frustrating a time or two. However, the story that unfolded in the letters to and from Grandmother Mireille was fascinating. I also loved the foodie details and Lodge includes a Baker’s Dozen plus recipes in the book. Historical fiction is delightful and I'm a sucker for the romance of Europe, especially France and Italy so those snippets were fabulous as well. The family connectedness between Juliette and her siblings and parents was a great touch and brought them to life. I didn’t the first book in the series and didn’t feel lost or buried under catch-up details that might have been important from book one. The melancholic faith that colored the illness and the family’s response was a human, pensive undertone that really added depth to the fiction and more than made up for Juliette’s anxiety and indecisiveness. Finally, I appreciated Juliette’s growth in the novel. If any of those areas are hot buttons for you consider this novel for your summer reading (and cooking) enjoyment.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

No comments: