Title: The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista Chronicles Book Two
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
#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.
From “one of the best observers of stories of the heart” (Salem Statesman-Journal), The Beekeeper’s Ball is an exquisite and richly imagined novel of the secrets that keep us from finding our way, the ties binding us to family and home, and the indelible imprint love can make on the human heart.
The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs is a richly developed novel that weaves past and present day events into an incredibly heartwarming story of love, family and friendship. This second installment in the Bella Vista Chronicles whisks readers back to Archangel where Isabel Johansen finds love with Cormac “Mac” O’Neill.
Old and new fans of the series are sure to enjoy this latest visit to the Johansen family apple orchard. Isabel is finally seeing her dream of opening a destination cooking school come to fruition while she and Tess put the finishing touches on Tess’s upcoming wedding. Isabel is genuinely thrilled for Tess, but she cannot help but feel a little wistful about her own lackluster love life as she helps Tess plan her big day. Isabel is surprised by attraction to Mac and knowing that he is not planning on settling down, she is very reluctant to become involved with him even on a short-term basis. She finds it impossible to resist the fun-loving author but will Mac convince Isabel to give their romance a chance once his work with Magnus is complete?
Isabel is a gentle and genuinely kind-hearted woman who is haunted by an incident from her past. Despite her parents’ death around the time of her birth, her childhood was happy and idyllic. Inspired by her love of cooking, she left Bella Vista to pursue her dream of becoming a chef but following a traumatic event, she returns home without her degree. When her beloved grandmother Eva falls ill, Isabel cares for her until her death, and now years later, Isabel is content to remain at the orchard. Isabel’s safe world is threatened when her unresolved past collides with her present, but it is not until someone she cares about is in jeopardy that Isabel finds the courage to take action.
Mac is a little gruff and grumpy in the beginning but he is also thoughtful and quite caring. He challenges Isabel to step outside of her comfort zone, and although she tries to resist, he patiently overcomes her objections. Mac also has a tragic past that he has yet to come to terms with but his relationship with Isabel finds him contemplating the possibility of putting down roots for the first time in his life. After his assignment with Magnus is finished, Mac has a commitment that will, hopefully, allow him to finally put his demons to rest.
Isabel’s grandfather Magnus takes a much larger role in The Beekeeper’s Ball. Flashbacks reveal new and fascinating details about his experiences working with the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Tess and Isabel are stunned to learn of the heartbreak their biological grandmother Annaliese’s endured during the Nazi’s occupation of Denmark. They are also surprised to find out that she, too, worked with their grandfather with the Dutch underground. The remaining secrets surrounding Magnus, Eva and Annaliese’s relationship are also divulged and the sisters discover the truth about the circumstances of their father’s birth.
The Beekeeper’s Ball is a beautifully written novel of love, friendship, family and healing. The relationship between Isabel and Mac is slow growing and while their romance is understated, it is incredibly sweet. While Susan Wiggs answers all of the lingering questions from The Apple Orchard (the first book in the series), a shocking revelation at the conclusion of The Beekeeper’s Ball will leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment of Bella Vista Chronicles.
Although The Beekeeper’s Ball can be read as a standalone novel, I highly recommend The Apple Orchard (reviewed HERE) as well.