The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs (review)

June 30, 2014 Book Reviews 8 ★★★★½

The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs (review)The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs
Series: Bella Vista #2
Published by Harlequin MIRA on June 24, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
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Also in this series: The Apple Orchard
Also by this author: Return To Willow Lake, The Apple Orchard, Starlight on Willow Lake, Family Tree

#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.

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


I loved The Beekeeper’s Ball. From its unique first encounter between the hero and heroine in the first pages, to its lovely and satisfying ending (which nonetheless manages to leave some threads unresolved), it’s a wonderful and often moving book.

Like The Apple Orchard, the first book in the series, The Beekeeper’s Ball moves between present day events at and around Bella Vista, the Johansen estate and apple orchard, and the adolescent experiences of Magnus Johansen, his deceased wife Eva, and their Resistance friend Annelise in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The older segments, told both in dialog and in flashback, enrich the novel in several ways. They give depth and background to help the main character Isabel and her half-sister Tess understand their grandparents and the complex relationships in their own family. They also explore themes of courage and fear, suffering and emotional strength which find echos in several of the present-day characters.

Wiggs’s writing is rich and sensual in the best meaning of the term. Her vivid descriptions of food, of scents and flavors, of sunshine and breezes and the hum of bees, make Bella Vista a living, vibrant place, and one I would dearly love to visit. But it’s in her deep understanding of the human spirit that Wiggs really soars. From Magnus and Annelise to Isabel and Cormac, Wiggs’s characters are completely authentic in their strengths, their flaws, their myriad emotions. Through her writing we get to know them as well as we might anyone in our own family… though one of the book’s themes is that even our nearest and dearest may have secrets. We rarely know anyone well as we think we do – even ourselves.

The Beekeeper’s Ball is a romance, yes — or rather, there is a romance in it, between the home-loving Isabel and Cormac the wanderer. And it’s a delightful romance, sometimes humorous, sometimes reluctant, often unpredictable, and totally irresistible. But like The Apple Orchard before it, The Beekeeper’s Ball is so much more: it’s a family saga, an exploration of the human spirit, even a hint of a mystery. (The story arc which stretches over the whole series involves three generations and events with their roots in Magnus, Eva, and Annalise’s pasts. And the death of Isabel and Tess’s father is murkier than it appears on the surface; it will probably be explored in a future book.)

I think you could probably read The Beekeeper’s Ball without reading The Apple Orchard first, but why on earth would you? The war-time sections in particular will be easier to understand and follow if you’ve read the first book, and both books are definitely worth your time!


You can find a link to my review of The Apple Orchard here.

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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.

8 Responses to “The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs (review)”

  1. Katherine P

    I’m so glad you liked this! I loved the first one and was so glad this lived up to it! Oh the ending… Now I can’t wait for #3!

  2. Brandi Kosiner

    I can’t see my comment and not sure if I just thought I typed it so… The sensual writing sounds wonderful, thanks for the review putting in on my radar