Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

A few months ago, I reviewed author Lynne Gentry’s independent publishing venture, Walking ShoesIt was the start of a new contemporary family series with southern charm, humor, and serious life obstacles, the “Mt. Hope Southern Adventures” series. Today I’m sharing my review of the second book in the series, Shoes to Fill. It continues the journey of this little pastor’s family living in west Texas as they learn to cope with the aftermath of personal loss and find joy and purpose once again.

About the Book

stf-jpeg-642x1024Shoes to Fill

The highly-educated millennial, David Harper, is adrift. He is also the pastor’s son. Or he was, until his father dropped dead in the pulpit. When David learns his widowed mother is in danger of losing the roof over her head, he surprises everyone, most of all himself, and steps in to fill his father’s shoes. David knows it won’t be easy to dynamite the small congregation into the twenty-first century, but it’s the tough little blonde who blows his world apart. Return once again to the humor and drama of the small Texas town of Mt. Hope. Tear-jerking candor. Face-paced humor. Heart-melting romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

While this book could be read on its own, I think it would be better enjoyed in sequence as the second book in the series to fully understand the obstacles already undertaken by the characters.

This story is just the right combination of drama and humor, continuing themes of healing and hope that began in book 1. The quirky humor and pop culture references (like Hallmark movies and Quigley Down Under! 🙂 ) offsets the serious themes at the heart of the story. These characters’ lives show how God can take something awful and make something good come of it — all because it brings Him glory along the way.

David, in particular, grows tremendously during this story. With help from both his biological and church family, he starts to see past his own grief to realize other people are hurting –some still in their own grief, others dealing with many sources of pain. And, on the romance side of things, Amy (the “tough little blonde”) is so complementary to him; from sharing a caring heart to understanding grief and the crazy community they live in.

Speaking of the community, the secondary characters in this story are special. They establish a sense of “home” within the story and serve to show what a heart for people David has. Leona, David’s mom, shares a little perspective in this book, too, because her story is not over yet (bring on book 3!).

There was one comical device used near the end of the story that I thought was a little overdone to the point of being less realistic, but it served its purpose to upset a certain situation and bring about clarity to the characters. Other than that, I enjoyed this glimpse of small town Texas living and identified with the struggles of the characters. I particularly liked how David’s family is portrayed as giving him a legacy of faith but he still has to discern his own calling.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

When a beloved author reaches out to me to share my thoughts on her latest book, I count it a privilege and blessing to be counted as a friend and trusted reviewer. Recently, author Lynne Gentry contacted me inviting me to read her new-ish novel, Walking Shoes, a contemporary story of family, humor, loss, and the strength of the body of Christ. Originally released under a different title and publisher, Walking Shoes is a refreshed story from Lynne’s heart drawn from her own experiences as a pastor’s wife. Today I’m happily sharing my review and a Q&A feature with Lynne.

About the Book

Sooner or later everyone experiences a fork in the road. When tragedy changes the path of the overly-cautious, by-the-book, pastor’s wife, Leona Harper has no choice but to disrupt the lives of her estranged children. Parenting her adult children in a small Southern community populated with zany characters proves as difficult as reinventing herself. Determined to give her broken family a shot at a second chance, Leona puts one foot in front of the other and begins to walk through her grief. But reconciliation and healing won’t come easy.

This holiday story of tear-jerking candor and fast-paced humor offers hope in the darkness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

 

I really, really liked this story! It was a great combination of funny and serious. Before I talk about the lovable characters, I want to address the way grief is exposed in this story. walking-642x1024There were moments delicately handled with humor that otherwise could have been a little “dark” or sad due to the story circumstances. I personally identified with the situation and characters because I have had a similar unexpected loss in my family. I believe the way Lynne Gentry recognizes the grief process in a gentle and understanding way, shading it with humor, speaks of her personal experiences as well as her ability to relate to the reader through story. It exposes how everyone deals with grief or shock differently while emphasizing that it’s perfectly OK to be different. To say the least, it was a little therapeutic for my own heart to read Leona’s story.

The “friends” and supporting characters of this story are endearing, to say the least. Some fiercely in Leona’s corner, some more antagonistic, all of them work to steer the story and reveal how God takes care of people in unexpected ways. Sometimes through an angry grandmother. Sometimes through a janitor. And sometimes through a gruff neighbor. All of them combine to display the blessing and care of a church family. A “home”, of sorts, with mismatched loved ones.

Within the story, sometimes the point of view changes from Leona to that of her son or daughter, David and Maddie. Their experience and secondary storylines all mesh to paint a bigger picture of what’s going on and how each person deals with the complexity of the situation, giving the reader a new perspective of empathy and understanding. For all POVs, the third person narrative sometimes switches to first within the same paragraph in an internal dialogue sort of way. This technique expertly works for the story’s humor and timing as well as revealing the heart of Leona, David, and Maddie at key points.

Ok, now it’s time to talk about the humor! Lynne’s “southern humor” hit the mark with me! Especially with a few little sayings and witty pop culture references I’ve come to appreciate from Lynne. (If you’re an old soul, you’ll really love them, too! Especially ones referring to Robert Redford or something that’s “slicker than snot”! Ha!) The quirky supporting characters fittingly remind me of some people in my own church and circle of friends. If any of ya’ll read this and are curious, just ask. I’d be happy to point out which of you is a Bertie or Roxie!

To me, this story is a reminder that God’s all-knowing plan is always there, intended for your good and His glory, even through seasons of pain and uncertainty. Leona’s journey comes full circle to a place of hope and second chances. Leona Harper and her family experience many emotions and twists, from shock to pain to a determination to live to the fullest. Ultimately, they learn to embrace any second chances they have to mend relationships and make new memories. The Harpers are not quite done with finding their purpose, though, just like us. (Yay for more books to come!). Personally, I’m glad He’s not quite finished with my story, either.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

This is a rewrite of your novel Reinventing Leona. Can you tell us more about the reasons behind your decision to refresh the story? 

Yes, WALKING SHOES is a rewrite/RETITLING of Reinventing Leona. I sold this original story to Tyndale in 2011.  When I got the rights back last year, I re-read the story I’d written in 2006. Hoping that I’m a much better writer now, I tore into it. Took out 10,000 cliches and softened Leona and some of the church people. I also changed up Justin’s character considerably. In the end, the story has  far deeper implications and I’m glad.

How does your personal experience as a pastor’s wife shine through the character of Leona?

Obviously, many of Leona’s experiences were drawn from the deep well of serving as a pastor’s wife for 30 years. I have so many wonderful, sad, endearing, life-changing stories from those very precious years. Some made the story. Many did not. But one thing is certain, so many people have crossed my path and I have been forever changed by all of them. Telling this story of God’s ability to transform us through tragedy has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

The Story sisters are my favorite supporting characters of this story. They are a hoot! Can you tell us if they were inspired by anyone in particular? 

Our ministry was spent very far from home. Therefore, I didn’t have the daily support of my physical family, especially my mother. As for the Story sisters, they are a combination of the many fabulous older women who mothered me and loved me (a very young and naïve girl) with their unique gifts, but mostly their treasured gift of time.

Thank you, Lynne, for taking the time to discuss this story and answer my questions!

stf-jpeg-642x1024You readers should be excited to know Lynne’s plans for the rest of the series are in the works!  The next book, Shoes to Fill, featuring Leona’s son, David, is planned for release in February. The next two books, Dancing Shoes and Baby Shoes, will finish out the series with the continued story of Leona and Maddie’s story.

 

 

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

“The Thorn Healer” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Tour, Review & Author’s Top 10 Favorites

The Thorn Healer by Pepper Basham Tour Header Graphic.png

tth_1Series: Penned in Time book 3
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Publication date: December 6, 2016
Number of pages: 327

Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.

August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents, but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.

Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?

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Pepper D. BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and has garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and a finalist in ACFW’s Carol Awards. Her second historical novel, The Thorn Keeper, released in Feb 2016 and her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, released in April 2016 with a 4 star review from Romantic Times. You can get to know Pepper on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley.

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     Warning: only read this story if you are prepared to engage every emotion known to man because you become so invested in these characters’ hearts. Examples include tension, fear, joy, uncertainty, and brokenness that turns to healing, ALL of which are bound in exquisite hope. The hope found in acceptance, family, love, and most of all, the hope found in Christ.
     Jessica Ross has been an important, though secondary, part of 2 previous books in this series. With The Thorn Healer, her story is told fabulously. (note: this book can be read as a standalone!). She is instantly likable with her fun, feisty attitude and numerous scars just below the surface. She journeys through so much reminding her how much uncertainty one can face in life, AND how a sense of wholeness only comes through surrender to God. On top of that, she faces her own prejudices and understandable challenges when encountering August and his German countrymen in her hometown just after the catastrophes of WWI. And boy does she put up a fight facing down those issues! Talk about witty dialogue :).
     While we’re discussing August, let me just mention how he’s the perfect opposites-attract –and most unexpected — complimentary hero for Jessica. He catches her off guard with his honesty and strength of faith. As Jessica notes at one point, an apt description for him is a “quiet fighter” (ch 8). And the romance that eventually transpires between these two is “signature Pepper” with its spark, sweetness, and poignancy. As Pepper has said before, August’s character demonstrates wonderfully the unconditional love of Christ for His bride.
    14962639_10211125492113875_3513658439859111629_n This is a beautiful drama that explores much more than a romance or the aftermath of WWI. Instead, it delves deep into a story of faith, of the reminder that scars have little power over forgiveness, that God is the source of steadfast hope, and that fulfilling love is sometimes unexpected in its wholeness and form.
     There are so many facets I could further discuss about this story. Like the supporting characters and their humor, or the historically accurate (and fascinating!) setting and events that take place in small town Appalachia, or the glimpse of favorite characters from a previous story, or the beauty of the LETTERS exchanged between certain parties. Or even the hold-your-breath ending. But I will leave you with this plea: read this series from Pepper. You will be blessed by its stories of faith and love.
     My reviews of the previous books in this series: The Thorn Bearer and The Thorn Keeper.
Thank you to Vinspire Publishing and SLB for the complimentary review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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1. Holiday – Christmas
2. Cookie – Preacher Cookies (aka chocolate/oatmeal no bakes) (Courtney’s note: I’ve not heard them called preacher cookies! I know them as wackies or sometimes boiled cookies)
3. Date option – Nice dinner and then the local bookstore…maybe ending with a stroll through the park or drive through the mountains
4. Tea – sweet, warm or cool
5. Vacation location – UK….EVERY time!
6. Animal – wolf, followed quickly by labs
7. Scripture – (One of my favorites) Ephesians 3:14-19
8. Chocolate – ALL, but I guess my favorite is dark
9. Restaurant – I really like Carrabas, but I’m open for a new favorite
10. Book genre – romance…all kinds

Review: “Where Two Hearts Meet” by Liz Johnson

Revisiting the quaint setting of Prince Edward Island, Where Two Hearts Meet (Revell) by author Liz Johnson presents a story of realizing dreams, accepting grace, and the joy of love born of friendship. This contemporary romance encompasses serious themes while maintaining a bright bearing on life. Readers will be happy to see returning characters in this second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, though it can be read as a standalone title. (Book 1 was The Red Door Inn, click for my review).

At Rose’s Red Door Inn, chef Caden Holt has found a place to belong, turning out breakfasts and baked goods to treat guests vising the Island. Outside of her kitchen, however, she is less secure in her personal appearance and her accomplishments. When journalist Adam Jacobs arrives, Caden is challenged to leave her comfort zone and show him the wonders of the Island in hopes that his pending article will draw visitors to the Inn through the next season.

Where Two Hearts Meet.jpgAdam’s reasons for visiting the Island are not so simple. His time there is really a forced sabbatical instead of a leisurely vacation. And, his editor has high expectations for his next story – one that’s inexplicably connected to the Red Door Inn. When he begins to face the baggage leftover from the recent turmoil in his life, he finds respite in the beauty of his surroundings. Except maybe the peace he feels is more closely related to the cinnamon rolls, coffee, and unexpected friendship of Caden.

“Sweet” is an apt word to describe this story – from the setting, romance that grows from friendship, slight humorous moments, and to the various pastries Caden bakes up throughout. But Liz Johnson takes these characters much deeper than surface level with many layers to the story and nuances of emotion, dealing with themes such as guilt, bravery, and purpose.

Caden and Adam both face their own insecurities and consequently draw strength and encouragement from one another. While Adam thinks he might be falling in love with more than the island and its charming people, Caden starts to find a new freedom in pursuing her dreams with confidence. The setting itself proves to be an element of the story joining Caden and Adam with a lively cast of supporting characters who add humor and insight to the story.

While the drama and sweet moments unfold, a subtle message of grace shines through. Though none of these characters go through a prominent spiritual transformation, the growth of Adam and steadfast strength of Caden’s faith are key to the story. Each learns important lessons concerning trust and forgiveness.

The romance between Caden and Adam faces the requisite challenges and obstacles but is presented in a realistic manner, highlighting the way our lives intersect sometimes between personal and professional matters. When that definition blurs at the crux issue of the story, the consequences of a key choice show how deeply entwined these characters’ lives have become – a storytelling feat achieved admirably by Johnson. And I’ll leave you by saying the context of their first kiss and emotions of the moment made the scene one of the swooniest (is that a word?) of the year. I’m already looking forward to whatever Johnson has in store for more of this “family” of characters in the next book in the series!

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing a complimentary review copy.  My honest opinion is expressed in this review.

Series Review: Montana Fire by Susan May Warren

Unless you’re totally new around here, you have probably heard of my love of author Susan May Warren. When I heard she was independently releasing 1 ebook a MONTH this summer in a new romantic suspense trilogy, I was super excited! This new “Montana Fire” series is a prequel series, of sorts, to an upcoming series with Revell Publishers (the “Wild Montana Skies” series).

I have since read all 3 of these. They are quick reads, each one a little over 200 pages. Hence, this post with snippets of my opinion on all 3. For time’s sake, I have not included the plot synopsis of each book, but if you click each book cover it will take you to the Goodreads page for more info on each one.

This series is full of action and drama, like a hang-on-to-your-seat (or parachute, if you will), thrill ride from start to end. In the middle of the chaos, moments of slightly sizzling romance (while always remaining classy), deep emotion, and strong messages of faith unfold.

The setting and career featured are unique — the Cabinet Mountains near Glacier National Park in Montana, and a team of forest firefighters and smoke jumpers. (Yes, they jump out of planes into fires.) Definitely a new-to-me perspective, and profession unexplored in the genre to my knowledge. Susan has done her research and offers an eye-opening look at the danger and sacrifice of forest firefighters.

Just when you think the perilous situations these smoke jumpers get in can’t get more complicated, they do. Since I’ve read all 3 of these I feel like I actually survived a river rescue, aggressive grizzly attack, skydiving AND plane crashes, not to mention numerous forest fires and arson threats.

I referenced book 1 in that one Instagram #bookphotochallenge assignment pairing a book and song lyrics. I now say that NEEDTOBREATHE’s Hard Love could be a theme song for this whole series.

 

#1 Where There’s Smoke

~smoke jumpers Jed Ransom and Kate Burns~

“Complex” doesn’t begin to describe the tangle of history between Jed and Kate. It was established off page and opens this story with action and tension, with ties to fire and a mutual history, both deeply respectful of Jock Burns (Kate’s dad).

Susan works references to fire and parachuting all over the place, and it works so well! Like this quote: “He wasn’t sure how he’d gone from standing at the edge of her world to an all-out dive into what he’d been quietly longing for his entire life, but he wasn’t going to look up, see a possible tear in his canopy.” (from chapter 7)

Main theme/lesson: Learning to cling to faith, that God is always to sustain you.

 

Playing With Fire.jpg

(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#2 Playing With Fire

~smoke jumper Conner Young and artist Liza Beaumont~

Let me note here that Susan has been clever and insightful with her “heated” titles of this series, tying in with the theme and hinting at the drama and action of each.

This is my favorite of the series. For a few crazy pages, I thought I might be ok with the idea of skydiving (you’ll know what I mean when you meet Conner and read that scene). Thankfully, I’ve since had a reality check and can say I won’t plan on jumping out of a perfectly good plane unless my life depends on it.

Conner and Liza have a shared history, as well, which is briefly but thoroughly covered in the first few chapters. Fans of the Christiansen family series will be a happily familiar with the setting of their initial meeting, at a fire in Minnesota.

Main theme/lesson: Explores the meaning and implications of promises — that actions can speak as a promise even when words fail. That a promise is a display of hope.

 

burnin-for-you

(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#3 Burnin’ For You

~smoke jumper Reuben Marshall and bomber pilot Gilly Priest~

This story is the one where we *finally* get Reuben and Gilly’s story, an attraction that has been hinted in the previous books. They learn a lesson in teamwork and trust when their team’s lives depend on their abilities to battle the elements and find help (and all of this while realizing their chemistry and fighting an arsonist.)

One important line was delivered by Gilly’s sister, and if I may paraphrase, she encouraged Gilly to not letting her fears determine or failures dictate her choices or limit her potential.

The arc of a mystery arsonist is finally solved in this one. It was well threaded through the 3 different stories — I didn’t suspect who it was at all!

Main theme/lesson: Trusting God to handle your life is the only way to have true peace. And, illustrating how God waits for us to choose Him, seek Him.

 

Review: “You’re The One That I Want” by Susan May Warren

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren is the sixth and final book in the Christiansen Family series, a contemporary drama and romance focused on the family of its namesake from Minnesota lake country. It’s a dramatic conclusion that draws together conflicts introduced in former books. While it’s not necessary to read the previous books to have an understanding of the history of these characters, it is recommended for a richer experience of the story arc.

You're the One that I Want.jpgHave I mentioned how much I love that the series titles are all songs? And fitting ones, too! They are worked into the story with little hints and mentions. Often, they are tied to a specific faith theme, too. So, they work on both a romantic and spiritual level! 🙂

The entire series has hinted at the tension between Owen Christiansen and the rest of his family, particularly with his brother, Casper. This story chronicles a parallel with the parable of the prodigal son and explores the emotions and jealously the other brother experienced. While Owen’s personal mistakes threaten Casper’s future happiness, Casper’s own choices propel him into a different conflict with the law.

Owen Christiansen finds himself adrift both emotionally and physically after a stint on a crabbing boat. While he hoped to advance his work relationship with the no-nonsense captain’s daughter, “Scotty” McFlynn, to something of a more personal and romantic nature, his rash decisions come back to haunt him when his brother Casper shows up to wrangle him home. Complicating the situation further, Scotty’s new position with the Anchorage police force inserts her in the middle of the brothers when Casper’s link to a crime is revealed.

While Owen had already contemplated the humbling act of returning home after an injury ended his NHL career, he never anticipated the circumstances that would bring him back to his family’s door. Nor did he expect a police escort in the form of the woman he’s come to care for. But proving himself to Scotty becomes even more of a challenge as her emotional wall and jaded past come to light. Perhaps the refuge of the Christiansen family is just what Scotty needs to heal and learn the power of love.

Susan has a knack for pushing a character to his or her limits, be it physically or emotionally, to test their character and response. And readers experience the ride with them. This story opens with the cold of the Bering Sea; book 5, with Amelia and the intrigue of foreign lands; book 4, with Casper and the adventure of treasure hunting. This story could have been a predictable, brown-paper-package type conclusion to the series, but it goes far beyond the expected in with suspense and surprises.

You're the One that I WantThe family camaraderie of this series is present once again. In particular, the banter between the brothers, Owen and Casper, is unforgettable with scenes of humor and a bluntness reserved for family. These brothers. I think I could read a whole book called “Confrontations Conversations with Owen and Casper”. They know just which buttons to push and how to get beneath each other’s skin, infuriating one another and spurring one another to consider their present situations with unsolicited advice.

This story conveys the importance of not giving up. Not giving up on faith, on a pursuit of purpose, on God’s plan and presence, or on family and its strength. It takes the prodigal son returning to a new level. It shows the viewpoints of both brothers, the bitterness on one side and repentance on the other, with a reconciliation found in grace and the support of family. The contemporary example of Owen makes the story of the prodigal more relatable by showing how all have fallen short of God’s standards, and many run from grace while God is waiting with open arms.

A version of this review also appears on FamilyFiction.com/reviews.

Reviews of previous books in this series

Book 1, Take a Chance on Me

Book 2, It Had to Be You

Book 3, When I Fall In Love

Book 4, Always on My Mind

Book 5, The Wonder of You

 

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….