Monday, November 29, 2010

Review & Tour Stop: Dining With Joy by Rachel Hauck

Dining With Joy by Rachel Hauck
(A Lowcountry Romance, Book 3)
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Pages: 320
Date Published: November 2010
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: I received a free copy of this book for review through TLC Book Tours.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book description (from TLC Book Tours):
Joy Ballard has a secret: she’s a cooking show host who can’t really cook.
When her South Carolina-based cooking show, Dining With Joy, is picked up by a major network, Joy Ballard’s world heats up like a lowcountry boil.
Joy needs help. Then she meets chef Luke Davis who moved to Beaufort after losing his Manhattan restaurant. A cook at the Frogmore Cafe, he’s paying debts and longing to regain his reputation in the elite foodie world.
Luke and Joy mix like oil and water…until Joy is exposed on national television. With her career and his reputation both under fire, they’ll have to work together to fix the mess. Is it possible that they can learn to feast on God’s love and dine with joy?

Joy is the bubbly and popular host of a cooking show called "Dining With Joy". But what her fans don't know is that in real-life, she cannot cook. When her show is sold to a new network, she struggles with whether she should spill the beans to her new producer or not. When chef Luke Redmond is brought in to add a bit of spice to the show, Joy hopes he will save her bacon, so to speak. As they begin to feel a strong attraction to each other, they also try to keep Joy's secret from ending their show. Unfortunately Joy's rival, Wenda Devine, has her sights set on proving to everyone that Joy is a fraud.

This book was a creative breath of fresh air for me. I kept picturing Joy as a Rachel Ray-type of character, personable and fun, but without the cooking skill. With the popularity of cooking channels and shows, I could see this happening--especially the scandalous unveiling of Joy's secret on live TV. And the food--oh how my mouth watered on more than one occasion while reading about the glorious foods Luke created. I'm even tempted to cook "Charles Ballard's Banana Bread," the recipe that helps Joy begin to embrace cooking and her father's memory. The recipe is provided in the back of the book and includes chocolate chips and peanut butter chips! Sounds like a delicious combination!

Joy's family was eclectic and entertaining, though I wish we would have gotten to know Joy's mother a bit better. I think it would have helped to have her provide more insight into Joy's father. It was a great touch to have Joy find her father's cookbooks, though, which had comments in them like journals and helped Joy understand the man who she always thought didn't notice her. Luke was definitely an attractive character as the love interest. He seemed to have fallen head-over-heels for Joy early on (and I wonder how realistic that is for a man LOL!) but it was believable enough that I wanted to read on.

It was a bit of a struggle for me to understand Joy's reasons behind keeping her cooking inabilities a secret. It was basically a lie, and it was hard for me to connect that with a character who professed such strong Christian beliefs. But no Christian is perfect, and Joy justified her secret by thinking the lie would be better than causing her crew to all lose their jobs. There's never really a good excuse for continuing a lie, but I can see why Joy would struggle with it.

This was an easy, enjoyable read, set in a location (the Lowcountry) that I don't often read about. It makes me interested in picking up the other two books in this series, Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle. If you enjoy Christian romance (or know someone who does), this is a great choice.

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