By Hillary Manton Lodge
Published by Waterbrooke
ISBN# 978-0307731753

ABOUT AUTHOR: Hillary Manton Lodge is the author of A Table by the Window, Plain Jayne, a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara, an ECPA Bestselling book. A graduate of the University of Oregon's School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during an internship at Northwest Palate Magazine. A storyteller at heart, in her free time she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, watching foreign films, and exploring her most recent hometown of Portland, Oregon. She shares her home with her husband, Danny, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shiloh.

ABOUT BOOK: Heirloom recipes, family secrets…and a chance for love

The youngest heir to a French-Italian restaurant dynasty, food writer Juliette D’Alisa has spent her life negotiating her skill with words and her restaurant aspirations. When her brother Nico offers her a chance to open a restaurant together, she feels torn—does she really have what it takes? Should she risk leaving her journalism career?

After the death of her grandmother, Juliette discovers an antique photograph of a man who looks strikingly like her brother. As the truth behind the picture reveals romance and dark secrets, Juliette struggles to keep the mystery away from her nosy family until she can uncover the whole story.

Inspired by her grandmother’s evolving story, Juliette resolves to explore the world of online dating. To her surprise, she finds a kindred spirit in Neil McLaren, a handsome immunologist based in Memphis, Tennessee. With a long-distance relationship simmering, Juliette faces life-shifting decisions. How can she possibly choose between a promising culinary life and Neil, a man a world away in more ways than one? And is it possible her Grandmother’s story can help show the way?

REVIEW: I’m so thankful for a review copy of a book that introduced me to Hillary Manton Lodge. There was so much I loved about this where to begin? I’ll start off with the quotes the author included at the beginning of each chapter. Some really touched me, others made me smile. Here’s a few I especially liked. “All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Charles m. Schulz.
“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lighly.” M.F. K. Fisher

“When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances. Thomas Keller

“I prefer butter to margarine, because I trust cows more than I trust chemists.” Joan Dye Gusson

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” James Beard

I bonded with the characters right from the start. I was raised in an Italian family where food preparation was a serious matter that created family fun. Juliette had a French-Italian background and their family owned a restaurant. I could identify with her family get togethers’ where food was the star of the show. I felt right at home. I really enjoyed the cast of characters Juliette had around her. Her friend Linn says, “I hope you find a man soon. I’ll feel better when you eat Trader Joe’s freezer foods like the rest of us.”

…”I’ve been speed dating Linn…I don’t know. I just haven’t met someone really interesting, who thought I was interesting back.”

“Does he have to be a food guy; because some food guys are really fussy?”

Juliette grinned at Linn. “And we’re not?”

“It’s less attractive in a man.” Linn snickered.

“Well, if I could make it past three dates, I might be able to tell you.”

I loved this author’s well timed humor, her cast of fun loving, transparent characters, mixed with a little romance and a fun family secret mystery to solve. I loved how the author would talk about a special event or moment that included food I might want to try. I felt like I was in the company of good friends and some great food where the complete recipe was included at the end of each chapter. To my great surprise the recipes had simple directions and easy to find ingredients. Some of the recipes inside are Stracciatella Crepes, French Apple Cake with Almonds, Nico’s mini Focaccoa, Nutella Mousse, Chocolate-dipped hazelnut short bread, Butternut Squash Risotto, Pine Nut Couscous just to mention a few. I’m looking forward to trying many of the out. This would be just the thing for you to try out at your book club meeting. Have several of your members sign up to make one of the dishes and you can try several all at once and talk about the book. Great book club fun ahead! Thanks Hillary!

Juliette tries on-line dating and meets Neil. He’s not into food like her family was he was a Doctor. Neil says this to Juilette, “From your profile it sounded as though food is a big part of your life. For me, food is a way for my body to gather the nutrients it needs to allow my cells to produce ATP (that’s Adenosine Triphosphatt). But my favorite ATP triggers probably include macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, fish sticks and vanilla pudding…sorry. It’s not pretty, but I like to be truthful!” I like Neil as much as I do Juliette.
Juliette liked the fact that Neil walked to the beat of a different drum. She had tried a relationship with someone she worked closely with in the restaurant business. It didn’t work out. She’d like to give this relationship a try. Problem! How could they continue this relationship when she lived in Oregon and he lived in Tenn.? God only knew.

It was ok that food preparation wasn’t as important to Neil as it was for her. “There was something about the rhythm of chopping vegetables, of seasoning food, of watching it transform that helped her relax.”
I was swept away into the restaurant world with its demands and creations. As the D’Alisa family morns the loss of their 90 year old grandmother. In the middle of food, fun and romance a mystery unfolds. Juliette gets her grandmothers French oak cutting service. In the nooks she finds a picture of her youthful grandmother with a handsome man who looks like her brother Nico. Who was this dashing man? Where did he fit into her grandmother’s life? Why didn’t she tell anyone about him? Maybe Juliette would get some clues when she visited family in Italy.

I enjoyed every second of this novel. The only problem I had with the book is that the sequel isn’t available to read yet! Yikes! The author does give readers a peek into the next book at the end of this book. I can’t wait to read what happens next! This is a must read if you enjoy food, love a cast of quirky and fun characters, want to try new recipes, thinking about opening a restaurant, want to be part of a big family and enjoy hearing about Juliette’s trip to Italy, and France. I enjoyed Neil and Juliette’s long-distance relationship and their family get togethers’. This book is pure fun. It’s a keeper!

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


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