Review: Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge

You know that moment when you FINALLY finish reading a book series and you’re perfectly happy with the way it ended, but you still want MORE??? Yep, that was me after reading Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge, the last book in the “Two Blue Doors” series.

I read it a few weeks ago with two blogger and #BookBestie friends, Cassie and Rissi. We chatted and debated and gushed via Twitter with the hashtag #TogetherAtTheTableRAL (click to see all our tweets, but warning: some are spoilery). And, Rissi created this awesome graphic for our read along.

 

Ok, by now you’re wondering what this book is about, so here’s the plot summary:

Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge.jpgThree 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?

My thoughts: So many feelings! Bittersweet, happy, hunger, nostalgia, the camaraderie of family and food. If you’ve followed this series from the beginning (please, start at the beginning), you know the emotional journey Juliette has already been on and the unexpected things in her path. Even after the first few chapters, I had no clue where this story would take Juliette or the *ahem* love interest she would end up with.

(Though there was not exactly a love triangle in this series, we do see her life morph and her love life change naturally within seasons of life. I didn’t exactly have a preference myself with whom she would end up with, but I am extremely happy with the end and with him. He shall remain nameless for the review because spoilers.)

Hillary knows how to use a singular POV to its advantages. With it, there was increased dramatic tension because we only knew Juliette’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. And it made us feel very close to her as a character. Most impressive, I thought, was the way the eventual hero of the story was written so well, even through Jules’ eyes, that we saw and read into his thoughts by his behavior around her and the way he treated her. This was carried out through Juliette’s observations of the other characters, as well. We saw their humor, bubbly personalities, or even jealous and pensive moods.

The historical letters and family story we experienced in previous books is carried out in the latter part of this one. This unique sub-storyline is a riveting glimpse into the WWII life in the French countryside. It even has parallels with Jules’ contemporary life with a theme of perseverance and a story of simple joy that can be found in everyday life.

Ultimately, this is a book for the foodie and the romantic. The food quotes and many recipes are a fabulous bonus. The sense of family and belonging Juliette feels when she is sharing the table with loved ones in this story are extended to you, the reader, with a sense of hospitality and invitation. It was a quite satisfactory end to the series — I was happy with where the characters ended up. Though I would happily read many more books about these characters if I could! (hint hint, Hillary 🙂 )

Thank you to WaterBrook Publishers for a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

See my reviews of book 1, A Table By the Window, and book 2, Reservations for Two.

And this was how we felt when it was over….

 

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Backwards & Forwards

A look back at 2013 and looking forward to 2014 (to the empty shelf challenge).

2013

Looking back at 2013 here at The Green Mockingbird, I’ve done a little bit of everything. Several crafting projects, including finishing a quilt; conducting a solar-dyed yarn project & making a hat from the same yarn; and adapting a scarf pattern to crochet a table runner. I’ve shared some photography news and a few photos from this year. In the cooking department, I’ve made my own birthday cake, shared a strawberry pina coloda granita recipe, and an easy iced chai tea recipe.

Most prominently, in 2013 I began featuring book reviews, book-related posts, and occasional “Fun Find Friday” posts covering several topics. Looking back at the books I’ve read in 2013, I have to share my favorites. They include (in no particular order) the entire “Winds of Change” series by Julie Lessman, “Fired Up” by Mary Connealy, “The Breath of Dawn” by Kristen Heitzmann, “Fifteen Minutes” by Karen Kingsbury, and “Dear Mr. Knightley” by Katherine Reay.

2014

Have you heard about the Empty Shelf Challenge for readers in 2014? It’s a challenge to start with an empty bookshelf and fill it as you read in 2014. Supposedly, I should be more motivated to read and fill it if it is a visibly empty shelf. I had to rearrange a little – ok, a lot – to empty a shelf to start fresh in 2014. I’ll be keeping track and sharing my progress on my Pinterest board. Find out more info and read the original post here. I read a total of 33 books in 2013, not counting what I’m currently reading. My goal for 2014 is at least 40 books.

If you participate, use the hashtag #EmptyShelf in social media.

As we look ahead to a fresh year, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! May God bless you abundantly in the coming year.

-Courtney