The Apple Orchard

The Apple Orchard - Susan Wiggs Tess Delaney is living a fast-paced life in San Francisco. She has a job she loves and friends she adores. What she doesn't have a lot of is family, just an absentee mother. Until the day Dominic Rossi walks into her life and informs her that she has a grandfather and a half-sister. He also informs her that her grandfather is in the hospital in a coma and she needs to accompany him to Archangel, California in the Sonoma to help make some decisions. How can she be expected to make decisions with family she never knew she had? Will she be able to accept the love and responsibility that goes along with having family?

Upon her arrival, Tess and Isabel are informed that their grandfather's business, an apple orchard named Bella Vista, is being foreclosed. As Tess struggles with the news of her new family, she must also struggle with getting to know her sister, and help make decisions for a floundering business. This forces Tess and Isabel to pour over the mountains of paperwork their grandfather has and they discover something in an old family photograph what may become the orchard's salvation.

The Apple Orchard weaves the present with the past. The present consists of the story of Tess Delaney and her half-sister Isabel Johansen. The past is a blend of Tess’s mother and father along with Tess and Isabel’s paternal grandfather Magnus as a member of the Danish Resistance during World War II. Obviously Tess knows little about her grandfather's past, but neither does Isabel. They gradually piece together his past along with their father's past as they work to get to know one another. Tess is a city girl that lives life on the go, addicted to energy drinks, black coffee and microwaveable food. Isabel is more used to the somewhat slower pace in rural Sonoma. She left cooking school to help take care of her sick grandmother and stayed on to care for her grandfather. Isabel is a nurturer and shows her care and love for others with her food. Tess has never connected with anyone after her maternal grandmother's death and she's having a difficult time with the notion of family. Tess also struggles with her feelings toward Dominic. She's attracted to him, but she doesn't know if she's cut out for a relationship with a divorced single father.

Ms. Wiggs presents an enjoyable read with The Apple Orchard. The inclusion of a family mystery adds to the overall tension within the story. My only regret is that Isabel comes across as a bit flighty and flat. The other characters are all well-developed and their personalities shine through quite well except for Isabel (hopefully she'll be addressed in future books in this series). There are many overlapping storylines in The Apple Orchard, new family ties, a love story, lost heirlooms, and family secrets. There's just enough intrigue mixed with romance and a touch of historical elements to make this an enjoyable weekend read for anyone.