Category Archives: Bella Vista Chronicles

Review: Sugar and Salt by Susan Wiggs

Title: Sugar and Salt by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista Chronicles Book Four
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost and Found Bookstore returns to Perdita Street with a can’t-miss tale of friendship, hardship, redemption, and love between a San Francisco baker and a barbecue master from Texas.

Jerome “Sugar” Barnes learned the art of baking in his grandma’s bakery, also called Sugar, on historic Perdita Street in San Francisco. He supplies baked goods to the Lost and Found Bookshop across the street.

When the restaurant that shares his commercial kitchen loses its longtime tenant, a newcomer moves in: Margot Salton, a barbecue master from Texas.

Margot isn’t exactly on the run, but she needs a fresh start. She’s taken care of herself her whole life, pulling herself up by her fingernails to recover from trauma, and her dream has been to open a restaurant somewhere far, far from Texas. The shared kitchen with Jerome Sugar’s bakery is the perfect setup: a state-of-the-art kitchen and a vibrant neighborhood popular with tourists and locals.

Margot instantly takes to Jerome’s grandmother, the lively, opinionated Ida, and the older woman proves to be a good mentor. Margot thinks Jerome is gorgeous, and despite their different backgrounds their attraction is powerful–even though Jerome worries that Margot will simply move on from him once she’s found some peace and stability. But just as she starts to relax into a happy new future, Margot’s past in Texas comes back to haunt her…


Sugar and Salt by Susan Wiggs is a thought-provoking novel that is quite heartwarming.

Margot Salton is a Texas transplant whose move to San Francisco follows a traumatic event that still haunts her. Her dream of opening a BBQ restaurant has just come true and she cannot wait to open her doors. Margot shares a kitchen with Sugar, the bakery next door, which is a family-owned business run by the owner’s son, Jerome. Their blossoming friendship soon turns much deeper, but Margot has valid concerns about how Jerome will react once she reveals the secrets of her past.

Margot is young but her life has been anything but easy. After her mother’s untimely death while Margot is still a teenager, she is on her own as she plans her future. After meeting the town’s golden boy, her life is turned upside down. While already facing an uphill battle against corruption, Margot is soon facing an incredibly difficult decision that is heart-wrenching.

Jerome is divorced with two young sons. He is drawn to Margot right from the beginning but he has reservations about getting involved with a younger woman.  As they decide to explore their burgeoning feelings, will unexpected complications destroy their chance for a future together?

Sugar and Salt is a captivating novel that is heartfelt and engaging. Margot is an admirable young woman who has overcome incredible odds in her young life. Jerome has nothing but respect for Margot as she builds her business. Their friendship is sweet and provides a solid foundation for their burgeoning romance. The storyline is well-executed and touches on relevant social issues such as inequities in the justice system.  Susan Wiggs deftly handles sensitive subject matter with sensitivity and brings this fourth installment in the Bella Vista Chronicles series to a deeply affecting conclusion.

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Filed under Bella Vista Chronicles, Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Salt and Sugar, Susan Wiggs, William Morrow, Women's Fiction

Review: The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs

beekeepersTitle: The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista Chronicles Book Two
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


#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.

The Review:

The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs is a richly developed novel that weaves past and present day events into an incredibly heartwarming story of love, family and friendship. This second installment in the Bella Vista Chronicles whisks readers back to Archangel where Isabel Johansen finds love with Cormac “Mac” O’Neill.

Old and new fans of the series are sure to enjoy this latest visit to the Johansen family apple orchard. Isabel is finally seeing her dream of opening a destination cooking school come to fruition while she and Tess put the finishing touches on Tess’s upcoming wedding. Isabel is genuinely thrilled for Tess, but she cannot help but feel a little wistful about her own lackluster love life as she helps Tess plan her big day. Isabel is surprised by attraction to Mac and knowing that he is not planning on settling down, she is very reluctant to become involved with him even on a short-term basis. She finds it impossible to resist the fun-loving author but will Mac convince Isabel to give their romance a chance once his work with Magnus is complete?

Isabel is a gentle and genuinely kind-hearted woman who is haunted by an incident from her past. Despite her parents’ death around the time of her birth, her childhood was happy and idyllic. Inspired by her love of cooking, she left Bella Vista to pursue her dream of becoming a chef but following a traumatic event, she returns home without her degree. When her beloved grandmother Eva falls ill, Isabel cares for her until her death, and now years later, Isabel is content to remain at the orchard. Isabel’s safe world is threatened when her unresolved past collides with her present, but it is not until someone she cares about is in jeopardy that Isabel finds the courage to take action.

Mac is a little gruff and grumpy in the beginning but he is also thoughtful and quite caring. He challenges Isabel to step outside of her comfort zone, and although she tries to resist, he patiently overcomes her objections. Mac also has a tragic past that he has yet to come to terms with but his relationship with Isabel finds him contemplating the possibility of putting down roots for the first time in his life. After his assignment with Magnus is finished, Mac has a commitment that will, hopefully, allow him to finally put his demons to rest.

Isabel’s grandfather Magnus takes a much larger role in The Beekeeper’s Ball. Flashbacks reveal new and fascinating details about his experiences working with the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Tess and Isabel are stunned to learn of the heartbreak their biological grandmother Annaliese’s endured during the Nazi’s occupation of Denmark. They are also surprised to find out that she, too, worked with their grandfather with the Dutch underground. The remaining secrets surrounding Magnus, Eva and Annaliese’s relationship are also divulged and the sisters discover the truth about the circumstances of their father’s birth.

The Beekeeper’s Ball is a beautifully written novel of love, friendship, family and healing. The relationship between Isabel and Mac is slow growing and while their romance is understated, it is incredibly sweet.  While Susan Wiggs answers all of the lingering questions from The Apple Orchard (the first book in the series), a shocking revelation at the conclusion of The Beekeeper’s Ball will leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment of Bella Vista Chronicles.

Although The Beekeeper’s Ball can be read as a standalone novel, I highly recommend The Apple Orchard (reviewed HERE) as well.


Filed under Bella Vista Chronicles, Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Romance, Susan Wiggs

Review: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

Title: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista Chronicles Book One
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


“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.

The Review:

The perfect mix of past and present, Susan Wiggs The Apple Orchard is an intriguing modern day family saga that is rich with fascinating historic details. It is a beautifully written romance that is compelling and heartwarming and will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment of the Bella Vista series.

Antique treasure hunter Tess Delaney is on the fast track with her career when she receives stunning family news. Raised by her single mother and beloved grandmother, Tess knows little about her family history and she is shocked to learn that she has a grandfather and a half-sister living in Archangel on the family apple orchard, Bella Vista. This discovery will expose long held secrets that span back to World War II and her grandparents’ experiences in Nazi occupied Denmark during World War II. Tess will also embark on an exciting search for a missing family heirloom that will challenge some of her long held beliefs and alter the course of her life.

The characters in The Apple Orchard are vibrant and multi-dimensional. Tess has a distant relationship with her mother and she is career driven with very little personal life. Her half-sister Isabel is devoted to their grandfather, but there are hints that there is a tragedy of some sort in her past. Tess’s love interest Dominic is absolutely wonderful. He is a divorced single dad of two adorable kids and he is unquestionably loyal to Tess’s grandfather Magnus. Although Magnus is seen only briefly, he is a larger than life character that is quite extraordinary.

The Apple Orchard is told from multiple perspectives and current events are interspersed with flashbacks from the past. The story arc concerning Magnus and his involvement with the Danish resistance is quite intriguing and full of interesting information. The details surrounding Tess’s parents’ relationship is revealed through flashbacks from her mother’s point of view and reveals essential information that proves crucial in their search for the missing heirloom.

In The Apple Orchard, Susan Wiggs masterfully weaves a captivating novel about love, family and discovering what is truly important in life. An absolutely delightful romance that is full of exciting twists and turns and unexpected personal connections that will delight readers and leave them aching to spend more time with this inspiring family.

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Filed under Bella Vista Chronicles, Contemporary, Harlequin, HarlequinMira, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Susan Wiggs, The Apple Orchard