By Susan Wiggs
Publication date: 6/24/2014
Series: Bella Vista Series , #2
My Rating: 5 Stars
#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns to sun-drenched Bella Vista, where the land's bounty yields a rich harvest and family secrets that have long been buried.
Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project and the perfect place for her to forget the past.
But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely-guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.
The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future.
A special thank you to Harlequin MIRA and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy, in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
I enjoyed Susan’s “The Apple Orchard” (Bella Vista Chronicles, #1), and was delighted to receive an advanced reading copy of “The Beekeeper's Ball” (Bella Vista Chronicles #2), as a continuation of thirty year old Isabel, as she transforms her childhood home (Bella Vista), a gathering place for friends and family, for reunions and celebrations. In addition her dreams, the Bella Vista Cooking School—a unique place for other dreamers to come, and learn the culinary arts—all while she leaves her past behind with controlling Calvin.
As a chef, she is turning the magical Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, into an idyllic venue, while she forgets the past. All sorts of fun things: magazine covers, gourmet cooking, literary agents, wedding plans, photo shoots, stylist, vintage items, delightful cuisine, local gourmet markets, antiques, wine, honey, figs, plus more in this blooming Sonoma setting (I want to be there-like now)!
Everything is going as planned until delicious and sexy Cormac (Mac) comes into the picture (EpiPen included), to dig up old history of Magnus Johansen (Isabel’s grandfather-a key player in the Danish Resistance) sent by Tess. He has traveled to many places in his life from war-torn places of the world, airports and grimy cities, and long barren stretches of scorched earth in the foreign lands; however, none compare to the lush and seductive Bella Vista.
His goal was simple after his injury--- heal, gather the information about Magnus the war hero turned orchardist, then settle in and write his story, as after all this is what he does well. As this hunk slowly lets down his rough outer guard to soften and enjoy the pleasures of this sleepy small town, along with Isabell’s charm in the kitchen- a man worth getting to know.
From the 1940s in Copenhagen to the present time, Susan seamlessly blends the old with the new with an incredible, magical, and inspiring story-- keeping you reading well into the night. Would definitely recommend reading both books in the series; however, they could serve as a standalone; hoping for a third to come!
As a longtime fan of Susan, her books and writing style, she has a way of drawing her readers into the setting, with strong family historical dynamics and romance. A delicious read, well-written, with family secrets, adventure, summer days and nights, a family wedding (Tess/Dominic), a Beekeeper’s Ball, and unexpected love.