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?
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I had a realization when I was reading this book: I like foodie books. I don’t mean books about food like cookbooks or anything that talks about food. I mean fiction with food as one of its major elements. I’ve read two in the past year (The Crepe Makers’ Bond and Always the Baker, Never the Bride) and although I was pretty lukewarm about them, I enjoyed the cooking aspect of both books and how food played a part in the story.
Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck is no different. I enjoyed reading her two other Lowcountry romances, Sweet Caroline and Love Starts with Elle, so I was thrilled to find out that she wrote another one that was set in Beaufort. I was excited to find out Joy’s story, and see the old characters in the previous novels pop up every now and then in the book.
Joy is a paradox: she’s a cooking show host who can’t cook. It’s a weird thing, but she’s pulled it off for three seasons, ever since she’s taken over her dad’s show after he passed away. The combination of good editing, a supportive staff in on her secret and lots of humor and entertainment from Joy that she has survived for three seasons, but after her producer sold off the show to a bigger network, things are bound to change. Then Joy meets Luke Redmond, the new assistant chef at the Frogmore Cafe, who becomes her co-host, and she sees him as a way out. But as she prepares for the fourth season of Dining with Joy and she gets closer to Luke, Joy digs a deeper and deeper hole for herself and it seems like it would take a miracle — or at least, something divine to get her out of it.
Dining with Joy carries the same sweetness and charm that the first two Lowcountry romances did. I love reading about Beaufort and their little idiosyncrasies. I love the seemingly relaxed nature that everyone has, how everyone’s about sweet tea, or food, or Bubba’s biscuits from the Frogmore Cafe. I love how close-knit the community seems, and it reminds me a bit of our own neighborhood, particularly our street. It’s one of those settings that you wouldn’t mind visiting over and over again, not because it is really that interesting but because it’s very peaceful.
Joy is definitely a different character from her friends Caroline and Elle. Whereas Caroline seems soft-spoken and Elle is gentle, Joy is feisty and stubborn, borne out of a seemingly absent father. Joy is strong and independent, which is needed especially since she’s works in the show business. However, her pride became her weakness especially when she decided to work things out on her own, particularly with her secret and her growing affections to Luke Redmond. Luke, on the other hand, carried almost the same characteristics as the other heroes in the other books, Mitch and Heath. In a way, he almost seems too perfect, but I liked how the author still gave him some flaws.
Out of all three books, this seemed like the book that had less “God” moments, but I think it also contained the best nugget of God-wisdom of all: God is good and God is love. I do wish that message was given more focus. Dining with Joy felt like it had too many things going on at once that some of them ran together too much and it didn’t give as big as an impact as it should have. At times the story seemed too slow, although things did wrap up nicely in the end.
This is probably the best “foodie” novel I’ve read so far this year, but compared to the two other Lowcountry Romances, I liked the other two better than this one. Nevertheless, Rachel Hauck did a great job with Dining with Joy, and I cannot wait to try to recipes at the end of the book. :) Banana bread, anyone?
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle store
Cover and blurb: Goodreads