Reservations for Two
About This Book
A culinary concoction of taking chances and finding love in the most delectable places.
Food writer-turned-restauranteur 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 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 1940s provide wisdom to guide her present? Or will every new insight create a fresh batch of mysteries?
I loved A Table by the Window and hated that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Reservations for Two. And while I definitely enjoyed this book, it didn’t quite “wow” me the way the first one did . . . rather like it’s cover. A Table by the Window‘s stylish black-and-white design is one of my favorite covers ever, whereas the pink-and-blue Reservations for Two design looks far more conventional and lacks the pop of the first.
First of all, there is nothing to fault in Lodge’s writing technique. She knows her voice, knows her characters, and knows her craft. The prose was confident, witty, and touched all the right emotions. The dialogue occasionally felt like it was purposely dumping info to me, and there were moments when I was clearly being reminded of who appeared or what transpired in the first book—for which I was grateful, since it’s been a year since I read it—but that conscious awareness did pull me out of the story a time or two.
I don’t normally enjoy first-person point-of-view because it always feels claustrophobic to me but Lodge used it to great effect to not only make me feel connected to her heroine, Juliette, but also to strongly establish the other characters through Juliette’s eyes, so that I nearly forgot I wasn’t reading multiple-third-person POV. Juliette was a very likable and relatable heroine, and I definitely felt I was experiencing her joys and frustrations right along with her. The plethora of family relations were sometimes difficult to keep track of, but overall the secondary characters supported the story nicely.
The overriding tension in this book is Neil and Juliette’s relationship struggles (more on that in a moment), but between the restaurant opening and her mother’s illness, Juliette did have some good external obstacles thrown at her which I thought worked really well and kept me turning the pages. As I mentioned above, the romantic tension is the central conflict of this book: how will Neil and Juliette overcome their long-distance relationship to be together? Having been in a couple of those myself, I thought their struggle was very realistically portrayed, and without giving anything away, the situation did take a surprisingly triangular turn I wasn’t expecting. But readers looking for a happily-ever-after won’t get one here—Lodge once again leaves us hanging! ARGH!
The spiritual themes were appropriately subdued. Juliette, Neil, their families and friends are all believers simply trying to live out their faith in their everyday lives. And Lodge includes a couple brilliant (even hilarious) moments when that everyday life teaches her characters some powerful faith and life lessons. And speaking of life lessons, Juliette learns hers in a very unconventional way that some readers might take issue with (I won’t spoil it for you, but fair warning, some people lack clothing). Juliette, Neil, and other characters also imbibe a good deal, and at one point Juliette and Neil confess to feeling drunk. On the upside, despite their international and domestic travels together, there are always separate rooms, most often even separate houses.
I loved the unconventional cosmopolitan locations in this story, as well as the glimpses of both historical and contemporary France and Italy.
On the whole, Lodge is a wonderfully refreshing voice in contemporary Christian fiction. Elements of this story may be slightly predictable, but she definitely gives them her own unique twist. Readers of all ages who love contemporary women’s fiction with a healthy dose of romance will love this food. As will readers who love food! As a movie, this would be rated PG, and I would have no problem recommending this to both my Christian and non-Christian family and friends. This book is a keeper, and it’s going to be a long, painful year waiting to see how this story ends!
Where the book didn’t quite deliver for me was in terms of its structure and pace. I knew from the book’s description that there’d be letters from the 1940s involved in this story somehow, but it threw me to discover they were nearly half of the novel and presented a whole historical subplot. I enjoyed the glimpses into her grandmother’s past that the letters provided, but they overwhelmed too much of the present-day story for me and thus threw the pace off-balance, with many chapters containing long, italicized letters and only one or two reactionary thoughts/sentences from Juliette to remind me she was still there. The ending then felt rushed, filled with a lot of time-passing summaries after ninety percent of the story had been told almost hour-by-hour. Overall, the surprise epistolary structure and rushed ending just didn’t work for me as well as I would’ve hoped.
This book also spends a lot of time in various kitchens, which I expected after reading the first book, but for some reason the cooking scenes stood out a bit more in this book, like giant neon signs declaring “here is the scene where Juliette prepares a meal.” And I have to admit, detailed, cooking-alone-in-the-kitchen scenes are a major pet peeve of mine! But if you like cooking, Lodge has certainly done her homework, and the recipes are all included.
Book your reading time now, because once you have your Reservations for Two, you won’t be able to put it down. Hillary Manton Lodge’s second installment in the Two Blue Doors series takes romantics and foodies alike on a sweeping adventure across Europe and the US—and even back in time—in a story that will make you laugh, cry, sigh, and beg her to write faster so you can read the next book!
Available April 21, 2015 from WaterBrook Multnomah