Celebrated New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns readers to the lush orchards and gardens of California’s Bella Vista in her latest novel, The Beekeeper’s Ball. Chef Isabel Johansen is not only planning the menu for her sister’s upcoming wedding, she’s also turning her family’s hacienda into a destination cooking school. She’s juggling so many details she barely has time to breathe. Then biographer Cormac “Mac” O’Neill arrives to interview her grandfather for his next book, and the handsome writer soon has Isabel questioning whether her determination to focus solely on her work is the right choice.
Mac quickly discovers that everyone at Bella Vista has secrets. While her grandfather may be ready to reveal his, Isabel is not so quick to trust. As he encourages the elderly Marcus to tell the remarkable stories of his days fighting the Nazis in Denmark, Mac finds himself increasingly fascinated by the beautiful Isabel. She is nothing like any other woman he’s ever known; she’s complicated, often prickly and wildly talented. The food she creates in her kitchen is nearly orgasmic.
As their grandfather relates the stories of his youth and comrades in the war resistance, his immigration to America and his marriage, both Isabel and her sister are deeply moved. He has secrets to share that are wholly unexpected, and his revelations change their view of both him and their own parents. The summer days slide by, filled with sunshine and a new sense of anticipation. With Mac’s help and encouragement, Isabel gains a greater insight into her Italian mother, who died in childbirth, leaving her to be raised by her grandparents.
With each day that passes, Isabel feels herself changing; growing stronger and more confident, and she knows that Mac’s presence in her life has brought about a sea change. There’s no question that she’s fallen in love with him. But Mac is a man whose work as a journalist takes him all over the world, while Isabel is a woman who is deeply rooted in the rich soil of Bella Vista’s acres. There seems no pathway that will allow the two to have a future together.
Wiggs delivers a richly layered, sumptuous feast of a novel, colored with mellow California sunshine, fragrant herbs and decadent recipes sweetened with beekeeper’s honey. The joy and pain of past family decisions and how those impact the younger generation, melded with the taut emotion of their own heartache and joy, spill from the pages to pull the reader more deeply into the story. The plot twists and turns, ending with unexpected events that will surprise, intrigue and delight readers.
Lois Dyer writes from her home in Port Orchard, Washington.