Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TBR Day. The Beekeeper's Ball / Susan Wiggs. 2014


This is my first TBR post since November. I am totally cheating.

This month's theme is RITA. Susan Wiggs has won 3 RITAs. This book was published June 24, so it's been on no one's TBR for more than 3 weeks. But it was due back at the library yesterday, so I had to read it and return it lest I start wracking up fines. My library TBR pile is often a delicate dance between books I have to read right away and books I can renew. And that doesn't take into account the books I own and would like to read.

Anyhow, my library has started this interesting program called "Quick Picks." In an effort to attract people back into the library, high-interest books are made available only to walk-in patrons. If you get lucky you can by-pass the reserve lists, but there is no renewal. The program has only been in place a month and I go over a couple of times a week to check what's on the Quick Pick shelf (the library is only 200 yards from the back door of the law library where I work). So far this one has been the only romance, but I remain hopeful.

This book was not even on my radar and after I started it I realized it was Book 2 in Wiggs' Bella Vista Chronicles. Fortunately this book was very readable even though I hadn't read Book 1, The Apple Orchard (2013). The blurb:

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. 

It turns out that there is quite a bit more to this book than the blurb indicates. Cormac O'Neill (Mac) has come to Bella Vista to interview Isabel's grandfather, Magnus, and write a book about him. Isabel's grandfather had been a part of the Danish Resistance during WWII; Isabel's (deceased) grandmother was Jewish and survived the concentration camps. A surprising amount of the book takes place during the war as we learn about Isabel's grandparents and how they survived the war. Isabel hears stories she never knew about as Mac talks with Magnus.

Isabel has lived a sheltered isolated life. Mac is a war-weary globe-trotting journalist. For Mac, Isabel represents a home and a sense of permanence. For Isabel, Mac offers adventure and an opportunity to try new things. I enjoyed their story.

There's a lot happening in the book, and I do mean a lot; the romance does not take center stage. There's a character from Isabel's past--back when she went to cooking school--who stirs up bad memories. Old family secrets are revealed as Magnus tells his story to Mac. There's also some carryover from Book One. Tess, the heroine of that book, is Isabel's half-sister and Isabel is busy helping plan Tess's wedding. Beekeeping and honey are woven throughout the book. Each section begins with an interesting tidbit about bees and then a recipe using honey. Too bad I don't like to cook. The various dishes sounded wonderful. And finally I thought that the ending was rather abrupt. It's clearly a set-up to Book 3, although Wiggs' website gives no indication one way or another that a Book 3 is on the way.

All-in-all I thoroughly enjoyed the book even though so much was going on. Magnus and Eva's story in Denmark was really interesting. I was a little disgruntled at the abruptness of the ending and the fact that the next book is probably pretty far out on the horizon. On the other hand, when I went over to the library yesterday to return it, I went upstairs and found The Apple Orchard. I'm looking forward to reading that.

Oh, and no new romance on the Quick Pick shelf. Bummer.

12 comments:

  1. Phyl, this sounds like a lovely and interesting series by Wiggs. I like her contemporaries and have a few in my TBR, but I'll keep these in mind.

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    1. I'd only ever read her historicals, so this was interesting from that perspective alone. I know she has another contemporary series I'd like to get around to eventually.

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    3. Phyl, I left you a comment that got lost! Anyway, I've read older contemporary romances by Wiggs, but nothing recent. She has a lovely style.

      In my lost comment I said that KristieJ recommended The Lightkeeper which I just started reading. I was under the impression that it might be a contemporary because she recommended a few, but as it turns out it is a historical set in the Washington Territory in the 1800's! I'm quite happy with that!

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    4. PS: Found my old comment and deleted it! LOL!

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    5. The Lightkeeper looks interesting! I will look into that one too. Thank you!

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  2. A delightful review! I so enjoyed your tone! I'm not a fan of "women's fiction" as this titles seems to be, but you made it sound so attractive that now I'm going to look for The Apple Orchard. Thus are converts made. ;-)

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I probably would describe this as women's fiction. When I was done with the book I perused a few Amazon reviews and some of the negativity was directed at the fact that the romance took back seat. The reviewers compared it to The Apple Orchard which supposedly does have more romance. So we both might be happy!

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  3. I've got this one in the immediate TBR - and by "immediate" I mean I have no idea when I'm going to get to it because I keep taking on review requests (seriously Wendy, learn to say no).

    I love "Quick Pick" style library programs. We did something similar at a former job called rentals - same concept but you paid $1.50 to check out the book for a week. Cheaper than Costco, and you weren't stuck on a waiting list a mile long. Also, that $1.50 fee helped the program "pay for itself" - and allowed us to purchase extra copies of high-demand bestsellers.

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    1. The quick picks are a great idea. I always want to stop and see what's there. Heck, I'd even pay a small fee to be the first to read the latest Nora Roberts :)

      I hope you're enjoying your time at RWA!

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  4. This book seems interesting... Great idea, the library one...
    Wish mine could be like that.
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    1. Hi S! I wish all libraries could be like that. I think it's a clever promotion.

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