Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Beekeeper's Ball

The Beekeeper's Ball
Susan Wiggs

The Beekeeper's Ball (Bella Vista Chronicles, #2)

Genre: Romance

Summary (from Goodreads): #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.

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.

Review:  This book was fine, but it didn't keep my attention.  I have enjoyed other series by Susan Wiggs, so I thought I'd give her new series a try.  Unfortunately, I started with the second book in the series, not realizing that there was a book that came before it.  While this is a stand-alone book, it makes a lot of references to the adventures that the characters had in the previous book, and I felt like I was missing out by not having read it.  That aside....

 The descriptions of setting and food are simply lovely, and more than anything, this book makes me want to travel to Napa or even Italy.  But I'm not buying the characters - Isabel seems too good to be true, and the romance that is very slowly developing between her and Mac (I'm 2/3 of the way through the book, and Isabel is just now admitting that she may be interested in Mac) feels unsubstantiated.  Plus, about 75% of the book is written in the present, and the other 25% is written as a memory that Isabel's grandfather has about his involvement in the Danish resistance during World War II.  Those parts are fascinating, but could use more detail - perhaps that could have been a separate book?  The jumping between times was too distracting for me.

I just realized what my problem is with this book - there are too many interesting story lines, and the author couldn't go in depth enough about any of them.  I think the book would have been better if it had focused only on the romance, the cooking school, the wedding, the beekeeper and Isabel's past.  Or, I suppose, it could have focused on Isabel's grandfather's past, Isabel's cooking school and her romance.  There was just way too much going on.

Again, maybe I'm growing out of romances...

Rating: 2.5 stars

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