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The Apple Orchard    by Susan Wiggs order for
Apple Orchard
by Susan Wiggs
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Susan Wiggs presents the first in a new series set in the lush hills of California's Sonoma County and introduces readers to a successful young woman who suddenly discovers she isn't as alone in the world as she'd thought.

Tess Delaney is completely immersed in her high demand career as a provenance specialist. Tracking down lost or stolen heirlooms and returning them to their rightful owners is her dream job. The items she locates are often worth thousands, or millions at auction, especially if Tess is sucessful in tracking down proof of authenticity and ownership. Her latest piece, a Russian-made lavaliere, could well be the much-anticipated feather in her cap that will garner her a major promotion at San Francisco's Sheffield Auction House. But when California banker Dominic Rossi tracks her down and delivers some shocking news, Tess's neat and tidy world is turned upside down.

Apparently, her paternal grandfather's will stipulates that Tess will inherit half of Bella Vista, his hundred-acre apple orchard. Even more shocking, Tess's half sister Isobel (another relative Tess did not know about) has claim to the other half, should their grandfather not recover from his current health crisis.

Forced to take a leave of absence, career-driven Tess immediately finds herself swept up into the close-knit community of Archangel and under the spell of the charming Dominic Rossi. All too soon though, the sisters discover that Bella Vista is mortgaged to the hilt and that only a miracle will stop the bank from foreclosing on their birthright.

As Tess, Isobel and Dominic begin to dig into their grandfather's past, a host of secrets emerge, ones that stretch back more than half a century to the Nazi occupation of Denmark, and to the life their grandfather led before he was given a second chance in America.

Wiggs never fails to entertain with her multi-level, family-orientated storytelling that's always filled with rich characterizations and intriguing plotlines. The connection between Tess and an important secondary character smacked a bit too much of a set-up for my tastes. That aside, Wiggs masterfully delves deep into the emotions of each of her characters, especially Tess's coming to grips with and eventually embracing the extended family she never knew she had. A nice romance and a bit of WW II intrigue adds additional flair to this engaging contemporary romance.

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