The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tess has worked hard to get where she is in her career as a sort of modern-day treasure hunter who tracks down lost objects such as Annalise Winters' mother's necklace, missing since the day Ms. Winters' mother was taken by the Nazis in Denmark. Her firm not only locates items of immeasurable personal and monetary value but also arranges auctions for the items clients wish to sell, and Tess is expecting a big promotion when an unexpected visitor arrives and upends her world. The grandfather she never knew is in a coma, and she must work with the half sister she never knew she had to save the family's property, an apple orchard in Sonoma, CA, from imminent foreclosure.
I "shelved" this book as both romance and non-genre fiction because although there are strong romantic elements (i.e. Tess falling for the banker who comes to tell her about her grandfather), the romance isn't central to the story. It's every bit as much about Tess learning to slow down and really allow people into her life. It's also about family history, told in flashback scenes from the point of view of her grandparents when they were children in Denmark during the Nazi Occupation, as well as Tess's mother during her pregnancy. And it's a bit of a mystery, solving the puzzle of what happened to a particular family heirloom. I'm glad this is book #1 because I'm hoping to learn more of Isabel's story in book #2.
The one thing I didn't like? As a stepmother myself, I found the epilogue highly improbable, at least as far as the children's reaction went.
For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story is secondary, and setting is fairly strong, too. There are a couple of sex scenes, but nothing explicit--more the "fade to black" type.
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