Monday, May 22, 2017

Staff Picks - Two Blue Doors Series by Hillary Manton Lodge

A Table by the Window by Hillary Manton Lodge

Readers get an up-close and personal look at the restaurant world with its demands, creations and how this close-knit French-Italian big family does life. I quickly bonded with this quirky and lovable bunch in the mix of food and fun, along with well-timed humor with a transparent cast. The author throws in a splash of romance and cleverly stirs in a surprising mystery to solve as the D’Alisa family morns the loss of their 90-year-old grandmother.

Juliette’s grandmother left her a French oak cutting service. While cleaning in the nooks, and remembering their good times, she finds a picture of her youthful grandmother with a handsome man who looks like her brother Nico. Who was this handsome young man? Where did he fit into her grandmother’s life? Why didn’t she tell anyone about him? Juliette flies off to Italy in hopes of discovering more clues there.

I could identify and felt right at home with the family get togethers where food was the star of the show. This is how the D’Alisa family felt about food, “When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances."

I enjoyed quotes like that which started each chapter. To my surprise each chapter had recipes which had simple directions and easy to find ingredients. Delightful bonus features make A Table by the Window just the thing to bring to a book club meeting.

Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge

This story starts right where the other left off. Neil McLaren and Juliette D’Alisa are in France visiting family and tracking down the identity of a man in a picture Juliette found among her Grand-mere’s belongings. While having fun in Paris; this couple uncovers a box filled with Juilette’s Grand-mere’s old letters written during 1938-1939. Thrilled at their discovery they head to Italy for her Grandpa’s 80th birthday bash.

Juliette says to Neil, “Of course I want you there. Are you sure you’re ready for sixty-two Italians fueled up on espresso and cake?”

“You know I’m only in it for the cake.”

This author has skillfully interlaced heart-felt letters Juliette’s Grand-mere wrote to her sister, Cecilia; while she was attending pastry school in France. These letters add depth of emotion and creates a rich plot twist to Juliette’s family history.

Yes, I was up late wondering what else Juliette would discover about her family past and present; and how the opening of the new restaurant would go. I really liked Juliette and how these surprises were affecting her. The author does a great job of keeping the suspense and drama flourishing in both story lines.

This novel has ten discussion questions to help create lively discussion with your group and there are many yummy recipes you can make for that special meeting night.

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

Together at the Table hit a home run in my heart. This author showed readers a side of her writing style we didn’t see in the other books. I feel she saved the best for last!

I relished my time with this French-Italian family who love each other. Their passion for food (creating it; eating it and sharing it with others) brings them together in special ways. This novel (like the others) has many delicious recipes sprinkled thru out. The reader is brought alongside the characters as they experiment with food and create new dishes. The mystery talked about in the first two books is solved in a unique way. The author seamlessly weaves together the past and present as the D’Alisa learn about how the family endured the unimaginable conditions of WWII.

Hillary Manton Lodge pens a humorous, witty, insightful, heart-rending story I couldn’t put down. This book would make a great book club pick as the author has provided twelve discussion questions to help generate lively conversation, plus there are also many recipes to help create a yummy and fun meeting time.

Nora St Laurent
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