The second volume in the Bella Vista Chronicles, The Beekeeper’s Ball focuses on Isabel Johansen, sister of Tess Delaney from The Apple Orchard, who is busy converting Bella Vista into a cooking school.
A trauma in Isabel’s past has caused her to spurn romance, however when Cormac O’Neill arrives at the villa to write a book based on her grandfather’s exploits during the Second World War, Isabel finds herself growing attracted to him. Isabel vows to stay away from Cormac but she finds it increasingly difficult as Cormac seems to have her in his sights and wastes no opportunity on using his charms.
Adding to Isabel’s complications is the arrival of celebrated chef Calvin Sharpe who is opening a new restaurant in town much to Isabel’s horror. Calvin is the reason Isabel won’t open her heart to any man and she is dismayed to learn he plans on sticking around. In the meantime, Isabel is focusing her attention on refurbishing the villa and planning Tess’s wedding.
In many ways, The Beekeeper’s Ball is the perfect summer read with its themes of romance and surviving against the odds. Since many of the story lines and characters are introduced in The Apple Orchard, it is best to read that one first as the sequel expands on many of the themes.
Since the whole point of Cormac being at the villa is to gather information for his book, much of the plot is focused on Magnus Johansen’s activities as part of the Danish resistance. While the book is fairly light in tone, Wiggs does manage to get a great deal of depth out of this story and it’s obvious she had done a lot of research. While she does cover a lot of old ground, there is a lot of new stuff in there to engage your interest, as well as a chilling account of how some women were used as breeding mares to promote the Aryan philosophy of the Nazis. I had never heard of the Lebensborn programme before and it makes for chilling reading if you care to explore it further.
While the war stuff is a fascinating read, it does come at the expense of the romance element. Isabel and Cormac’s attraction bubbles along throughout but doesn’t progress until the book is almost over which doesn’t leave much room for it to breathe. The other disappointment is the subplot with Calvin Sharpe which really doesn’t go anywhere because he is mostly forgotten about until Isabel decides to get her revenge on him. When she does bring about his downfall, we aren’t privy to it which is a shame.
Like the first book, there is a lot of focus on food with recipes at the front of each chapter, mainly with honey to match Isabel’s new beekeeping venture and while I’m not a honey fan, they do sound delicious. We also get an invite to Tess and Dominic’s wedding which is a little different from the norm but a happy occasion surrounded by loved ones. Everything does get a bit sickly sweet around this point but I guess it is easy to let it flow over you.
There is also a neat twist at the end which is guaranteed to bring readers back for a third course.