What a delicious treat awaits readers of A Table by the Window, book one in the Two Blue Doors series by Hillary Manton Lodge (Waterbrook Press). It’s a smart, funny, and romantic look at family, food, mystery, and internet dating. Don’t read this book on an empty stomach; the food descriptions are incredibly impressive. As an added bonus, the author includes fabulous recipes of mouthwatering dishes that were created within the story, at the end of most chapters.
Our main character, Juliette, is a single 28 year old, living in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, the youngest of five children born to a French mother and Italian father. Her parents run a restaurant and the whole family is quite immersed in food and hospitality. Grand-mere, Juliette’s maternal grandmother and famous pastry chef has just recently died and left her pastry prep table to Juliette. While looking through the prep table’s drawers, Juliette discovers a photograph among the handwritten recipes. The old photo is of a man with dark hair and eyebrows, who strongly resembles her brother, Nico, but the man is not their grandfather. Juliette must figure out who this man in the photo is as it is obvious that he and Nico share the same genetic background.
Nico decides to open a new restaurant and asks Juliette to run the front of the house for his new venture. She is conflicted for a couple of reasons. First, she already has what most would consider a dream job writing a food column for the local newspaper and secondly, when she worked for Nico at his previous restaurant, she dated his sous chef and the eventual breakup left her heart wounded. With some reflection, Juliette realizes her love and talents lie in the world of restaurants and agrees to work for Nico.
While Juliette has been despondent over the lack of a man in her life over the last four years, she decides to stop feeling sorry for herself and try online dating. Her first encounter was not a match but gentleman number two, Neil, is everything that Juliette had been hoping for except he lives in Memphis, thousands of miles away from Portland, Oregon. Neil is a research doctor, kind, thoughtful, interesting, and interested in Juliette. They exchange daily emails and phone calls. He comes to Portland for a medical conference and they meet. As wonderful as their long weekend together is, the question still hovers will they be able to make this relationship work with Neil working in Memphis and Juliette helping her brother in Portland.
Hillary Manton Lodge has written a seriously interesting book. You don’t need to be a foodie to enjoy A Table by the Window, but if you are, your enjoyment will be multiplied. The plentiful narratives of food and meals, especially the pastries, are simply blissful. Her characters are humorous and three dimensional. Readers will wish they could be invited to the family gathering for Sunday dinner for the food as well as the conversation. A Table by the Window was released March 18, 2014. Expect a follow up novel in this series titled Reservations for Two.