The Apple Orchard, by Susan Wiggs (review)

May 9, 2013 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

The Apple Orchard, by Susan Wiggs (review)The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
Series: Bella Vista #1
Published by Harlequin MIRA on April 30, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
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Also in this series: The Beekeeper's Ball
Also by this author: Return To Willow Lake, The Beekeeper's Ball, Starlight on Willow Lake, Family Tree

Sometimes you stumble across a treasure when you're looking for something else entirely. #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs brings readers to the lush abundance of Sonoma County in a novel of sisters, friendship and how memories are woven like a spell around us.

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother's beloved necklace—despite Tess's advice. To Annelise, the jewel's value is in its memories.

But Tess's own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she's never heard of.

Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. A place where falling in love is not only possible, but inevitable.

And in a season filled with new experiences, Tess begins to see the truth in something Annelise once told her: if you don't believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you've not made the right kind of memories.

From one of America's most beloved writers, The Apple Orchard is a story of family ties—both old and new—and of the moments that connect our hearts.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.


One of the things I like about Susan Wiggs is that she doesn’t write the same book over and over.  In fact, some of her books are small-town romances, some are historical romances, and still others veer more toward general or women’s fiction.  Yet there is a theme running through all of her books that I have read so far: a sense of optimism, the conviction that things can and will work out all right. 
The Apple Orchard successfully combines general fiction – the story of two sisters, legitimate and illegitimate, of their families, their past, and their common inheritance – and romance –the developing relationship between MC Tess Delaney, the illegitimate sister, and banker and part-time vintner Dominic Rossi.  The book moves easily between past and present, with chapters focusing on Tess’s mother as she deals with her unexpected pregnancy; on Tess and Isabel’s grandfather, Magnus, coming of age in Nazi-occupied Denmark; and even on another, apparently minor character whose path crosses that of various family members throughout the generations.
I really related to Tess – and not only because like her, I have some experience with anxiety and panic disorder.  Tess is the perfect heroine for this story, and it was wonderful to see her emotional growth through the course of the book.  Wiggs is really good at writing characters who feel real and alive, making them as complex, occasionally annoying, and ultimately as likeable as your own family or friends.  I felt for Isabel, too, warm and sweet yet wrapped in denial about the orchard’s financial woes.  And Dominic Rossi is a thoroughly enjoyable hero: a single dad, caring, committed… and very hot.   The author keeps things between Tess and Dominic at a slow sizzle for quite a while, which works particularly well for this story and these characters. 
The Apple Orchard isn’t exactly a mystery, but there are several puzzles, as Tess and to a lesser extent Isabel try to piece together Magnus’s past and the possible existence and present whereabouts of a treasure that might save the orchard.  The dual questions of whether Tess will find the item in time to save the estate and whether Tess and Dominic will forge a lasting relationship kept me reading far into the night.  The Apple Orchard is a winner.
*   *   *

The Bella Vista series: 

  1. The Apple Orchard
  2. The Beekeeper’s Ball  




About Susan Wiggs

Susan Wiggs self-published her first book when she was eight years old. Since then, she has acquired degrees at SFA and Harvard, taught math, and published over 35 books, including contemporary fiction, historical and contemporary romance, a children’s book and a book on planning your wedding.

6 Responses to “The Apple Orchard, by Susan Wiggs (review)”

  1. Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

    Lovely review. I think I’ve read one of her stories in an anthology before and if it was her then I remember enjoying it quite a bit but never read her other stuff even though I wanted to. I’m glad you mentioned that her books aren’t repetitive 🙂 I think I’ll try to see if my library has this one it sounds like one that shouldn’t be missed.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Thank you, Kimberly. It’s really good, in some ways more so than her contemporary romances (and I like those.) You could class this as a romance, but there’s so much else going on, too.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I really like her books. They’re comfort reading; you know everything will turn out all right. But at the same time, the characters are usually real, three-dimensional people, and their problems are neither trivial nor contrived. And the action always seems to flow from who the people are, which is something not every author seems to manage.