Series: Bella Vista Chronicles, #2
Publisher: MIRA
Released: June 24, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½

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.

It’s wonderful to visit Archangel again! I fell in love with the charming fictional town in the first book, THE APPLE ORCHARD. Susan Wiggs’ gorgeous descriptions of Sonoma County make me want to jump inside her books.

THE BEEKEEPER’S BALL picks up where the first book left off. Sisters Tess and Isabel are planning Tess’ wedding at the family estate called Bella Vista. Isabel is also living out her dream of opening a cooking school in their home. Isabel is a workaholic and a bit of a hermit. She’s been hiding out at Bella Vista for years because of a painful experience in her past. Along comes Cormac (Mac) O’Neill, a battered journalist hired to write her grandfather’s life story, and he challenges her to shed her protective cocoon.

The story alternates between present-day Archangel and World War II Denmark. More family secrets are revealed as Magnus shares his past as part of the Danish resistance movement. I liked how we got some answers to questions from the first book, though the author leaves us with a major unresolved twist at the end!! I can only hope this means there’s a 3rd book in the works.

The romance in this book was okay – not the greatest. Maybe the chemistry between Mac and Isabel was lacking, or maybe their story was overshadowed by the World War II parts. This book didn’t flow as smoothly or have as strong a focus as the first. Still, I thought it was a good read, and like I said before, I’m hopeful there will be another book to tie up the surprise loose ends.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.