Linda reads : The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Wiggs has written more than 40 novels and she has another winner with The Apple OrchardThis is the first book in a new series.

The reader is introduced to the world of an auction house provenance specialist.  This is a person who finds lost heirlooms – jewelry, china, pottery, artwork – authenticates it, and returns it to its rightful owner or auctions it for the owner.  It is a fascinating line of work and the character of Tess Delaney adds her own family history to this intriguing novel.

Tess knows nothing about her father, and her mother was pretty much absent in her life.  She was raised by a grandmother who died when Tess was in her teens.  She enjoys the process of researching a family’s history in order to track down the heirlooms because she has no family history of her own.   Her life in San Francisco is going well, with a big promotion in the works and lots of friends.  But things turn upside down when banker Domenic Rossi comes calling to tell her a grandfather she never knew she had is in a coma and that his will has named her to receive half of his estate, with the other half going to a sister she didn’t know she had.  Tess takes a leave of absence to visit the estate – Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard located in the Sonoma Valley town of Archangel.

The story takes place in present day, but the reader is taken back to World War II and the occupation of Denmark through flashbacks to learn about Tess’s grandfather and, ultimately, the father Tess never knew.  Tess’s half sister is a wonderful cook and each of the book’s ten parts starts with a recipe that incorporates apples, wine, or a dish from the region.  The orchard is in danger of foreclosure and Tess is uncomfortable with her new found family and the situation and is determined to return to her job.  But she didn’t count on falling in love with the estate, new family, the lifestyle and the banker.  She learns to enjoy the simple pleasures of food and family, nature, and all the new experiences she has encountered.  She finally learns that she indeed has a family history that is rich in tradition, loyalty, and love.

This is an insightful family drama that is well-written.  Ms. Wiggs does an outstanding job of intertwining the present and the past.  The reader is immersed in beautiful settings with lush descriptions and vivid details.  The characters are complex, captivating and vibrant.  It’s a very enjoyable book about love and family with fascinating historic details and beautiful romances.

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