The Apple Orchard

The Apple Orchard

by Susan Wiggs

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"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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778318330
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 02/24/2015
Series: The Bella Vista Chronicles , #1
Edition description: Original
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 85,478
Product dimensions: 4.21(w) x 6.61(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA from Romance Writers of America. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

San Francisco

Tess Delaney's to-do list was stacked invisibly over her head like the air traffic over O'Hare. She had clients waiting to hear from her, associates hounding her for reports and a makeor-break meeting with the owner of the firm. She pushed back at the pressing anxiety and focused on the task at hand—restoring a treasure to its rightful owner.

The current mission brought her to an overfurnished apartment in Alamo Square. Miss Annelise Winther, still spry at eighty, ushered her into a cozy place with thready lace curtains, dust-ruffled chairs and a glorious scent of something baking. Tess wasted no time in presenting the treasure.

Miss Winther's hands, freckled by age, the joints knotted with arthritis, shook as she held the antique la-valiere. Beneath a pink knitted shawl, her bony shoulders trembled.

"This necklace belonged to my mother," she said, her voice breaking over the word. "I haven't seen it since the spring of 1941." She lifted her gaze to Tess, who sat across the scrubbed pine kitchen table from her. There were stories in the woman's eyes, winking like the facets of a jewel. "I have no words to thank you for bringing this to me."

"It's my pleasure," said Tess. "Moments like this—they're the best part of my job." The sense of pride and accomplishment helped her ignore the insistent buzz of her phone, signaling yet another incoming message.

Annelise Winther was Tess's favorite kind of client. She was unassuming, a woman of modest means, judging by the decrepit condition of her apartment, in one of the city's rambling Victorians that had seen better days. Two cats, whom the woman had introduced as Golden and Prince, lazed in the late-afternoon autumn sunshine spilling through a bumped-out bay window. A homey-looking needlepoint piece hung on the wall, bearing the slogan Live This Day.

Miss Winther took off her glasses, polished them and put them back on. Glancing again at Tess's business card, she said, "Tess Delaney, Provenance Specialist, Sheffield Auction House. Well, Ms. Delaney. I'm extremely glad you found me, too. You've done well for yourself."

Her voice had a subtle tinge of an accent. "I saw that History Channel special about the Kraków Museum. You won an award last month in Poland."

"You saw that?" Tess asked, startled to know the woman had recognized her.

"Indeed I did. You were given a citation for restoring the rosary of Queen Maria Leszczynska. It had been stolen by Nazi looters and was missing for decades."

"It was…a moment." Tess had felt so proud that night. The only trouble was, she'd been in a room full of strangers. No one was present to witness her triumph. Her mother had promised to come but had to cancel at the last minute, so Tess had accepted the accolades in front of a small camera crew and a cultural minister with sweaty hands.

"The very second I saw your face, I knew you would be the one to find my treasure." Miss Winther's words were slightly startling. "And I'm so pleased that it's you. I specifically requested you."


A pause. Miss Winther's face softened. Perhaps she'd lost her train of thought. Then she said, "Because you're the best. Aren't you?"

"I try my best," Tess assured her. She thought the conversation odd, but in this business, she was accustomed to quirky clients. "This piece was with a group of recovered objects from World War II." Tess fell quiet as she thought of the other pieces—jewelry and art and collectibles. The majority of objects remained in limbo, their original owners long gone. She tried not to imagine the terrible sense of violation so many families had suffered, with Nazis invading their homes, plundering their treasures and probably sending many of the family members off to die. Restoring lost treasures seemed a small thing, but the look on Miss Winther's face was its own reward.

"You've made a miracle happen," she declared. "I was just telling a friend on the phone that we're never too old to appreciate a true miracle."

For a miracle, Tess reflected, the task had entailed a lot of hard work. But the expression on the woman's face made all the research, travel and red tape worthwhile. At her own expense, Tess had paid an expert to meticulously clean every link, baguette and facet of the lavaliere. "This is a copy of the provenance report." She slid the document across the table. "It's basically a history of the piece from its creation to the present, as near as I could trace it to its origins in Russia."

"It's amazing that you were able to find this. When I first contacted your firm, I thought…" Her voice trailed off. "How on earth did you do it?"

Working backward through the provenance report, Tess explained the progress of her research. "This piece was found with a collection of treasures seized in Copenhagen. The lavaliere is pink topaz, with gold filigree embellishments. The chain and clasp are original. It was made by a Finnish designer by the name of August Holmstrom. He was the principal jeweler for the house of Faberge."

Miss Winther's eyebrows lifted. "The Faberge?"

"The very one." Taking out her loupe, Tess pointed out a tiny spot on the piece. "This is Holmstrom's hallmark, right here, his initials between a double-headed Imperial eagle. He designed it specifically to foil counterfeiters. This particular piece was first mentioned in his design catalog of 1916 and produced for a fashionable shop in St. Petersburg. It was bought by a member of the Danish diplomatic corps."

"My father. He brought the necklace home from a business trip to Russia, and my mother was seldom without it. Besides her wedding ring, it was her favorite piece of jewelry. He gave it to her to celebrate my birth. Though she never said so, I suspect she couldn't have more children after me." Her eyes took on a faraway look, and Tess wondered what she was seeing—her handsome father? Her mother, wearing the jewel against her heart?

The stories behind the treasures were always so intriguing, though often bittersweet. The sad ones were particularly hard to bear. There were some cruelties that were simply inconceivable to normal people, some injustices too big to grasp. Miss Winther must have been tiny when her world was ripped apart. How scared she must have been, how confused.

"I wish I could do more than simply restore this object," said Tess. "It wound up with a number of other pieces in a repository in the basement of an abandoned government building. I spent the past year researching the archives. The Gestapo claimed they kept objects for safekeeping. It was a common ploy. The one helpful thing they did was to keep meticulous records of the things they seized."

Here was where things got dicey. How much information did Miss Winther really need? Did she have to know what had likely happened to her parents?

There were facts Tess had no intention of sharing, such as the evidence that Hilde Winther had been seized without authority by a corrupt officer, and probably treated like a sex slave for months before she was put to death. This was the trouble with uncovering the mysteries of the past. Sometimes you ended up discovering things better left buried. Was it preferable to expose the truth at any cost or to protect someone from troubling matters they had no power to change?

"This piece was taken from your mother after she was arrested on suspicion of hiding spies, saboteurs and resistance fighters at Bispebjerg Hospital. According to the arrest report, she was accused of pretending her patients were extremely ill, and she would tend to them until they conveniently disappeared."

Miss Winther caught her breath, then nodded. "That sounds like Mama. She was so very brave. She told me she was a hospital volunteer, but I always knew she was doing something important." Behind her spectacles, the old lady's eyes took on a cold glaze of anger. "My mother was dragged away on a beautiful spring afternoon while I watched."

Tess felt an unbidden shudder of sympathy for the little girl Miss Winther had once been. "I'm so sorry. No child should have to witness that."

Miss Winther held out the necklace, the facets of the large pink topaz catching the light. "Could you…put it on me?" she asked.

"Of course." Tess came around behind her and fastened the clasp of the necklace, feeling the old woman's delicate bone structure. Her hair smelled of lavender, and her dress under the pink shawl was threadbare and faded. Tess felt a surge of emotion. This find was going to change Miss Winther's life. In a single transaction, the old woman could find herself living in the lap of luxury.

Miss Winther reached up, cradling the jewel between her palms. "She was wearing it that day. Even as they were taking her away, she ordered me to run for my life, and that is just what I did. I was very lucky in that moment, or perhaps there had been a tip-off. A boy who was with the Holger Danske—the Danish resistance—spirited me to safety. Such a hero he was, like the Scarlet Pimpernel in the French Revolution, only he was quite real. I wouldn't be here today if not for him. None of us would."

None of us…? Tess wondered who she was referring to. Ghosts from the woman's sad past, probably. She didn't ask, though; she had other appointments on her schedule and couldn't spare the time. And knowing the human cost of the tragedy made Tess feel vulnerable. Still, she was taken by the old lady's sweetness and the air of nostalgia that softened her features when she touched the reclaimed treasure around her neck.

We're both all alone, we two, thought Tess. Had Miss Winther always been alone? Will I always be?

"Well, I'm certainly glad you're here." The old lady's smile was soft and strangely intimate.

"This is the appraisal on the piece. I think you'll be very pleased."

The old lady stared at the document. "It says my mother's lavaliere is worth $800,000."

"It's an estimate. Depending on how the bidding goes, it could vary by about ten percent up or down."

Miss Winther fanned herself. "That's a fortune," she said. "It's more money than I ever dreamed of having."

"And not nearly enough to replace your loss, but it's quite a find. I'm really happy for you." Tess felt a glow of accomplishment and pleasure for Miss Winther. In her frayed shawl, surrounded by old things, she didn't look like a wealthy woman, but soon, she would be.

All the painstaking work of restitution had led to this moment. Tess spread a multipage contract on the table. "Here's the agreement with Sheffield Auction House, my firm. It's standard, but you'll want to go over it with a contracts expert."

A timer dinged, and Miss Winther got up from the table. "The scones are ready. My favorites—I make them with lavender sugar. It's an old Danish recipe for autumn. You sit tight, dear, and I'll fix the tea."

Tess pressed her teeth together and tried not to seem impatient, though she had more appointments and work to do at the office. Honestly, she didn't want a scone, with or without lavender sugar. She didn't want tea. Coffee and a cigarette were more to her taste and definitely more suited to the pace of her life. She'd been running since she'd rocketed out of grad school five years before, and she was in a hurry now. The quicker she brought the signed agreement to her firm, the quicker she earned her bonus and could move on to the next transaction.

However, the nature of her profession often called for forbearance. People became attached to their things, and sometimes letting go took time. Miss Winther had gone to a lot of trouble to make scones. Knowing what she knew about the Winther family, Tess wondered what the woman felt when she reminisced about the old days—fear and privation? Or happier times, when her family had been intact?

As she bustled around her old-fashioned kitchen, Miss Winther would pause every so often in front of a little framed mirror by the door, gazing at the necklace with a faraway look in her eyes. Tess wondered what she saw there—her pretty, adored mother? An innocent girl who had no idea her entire world was about to be snatched away?

"Tell me about what you do," Miss Winther urged her, pouring tea into a pair of china cups. "I would love to hear about your life."

"I guess you could say finding treasure is in my blood."

Miss Winther gave a soft gasp, as though Tess's statement surprised her. "Really?"

"My mother is a museum acquisitions expert. My grandmother had an antiques salon in Dublin."

"So you come from a line of independent women."

Nicely put, thought Tess. Her gaze skated away. She wasn't one to chat up a client for the sake of making a deal, but she genuinely liked Miss Winther, perhaps because the woman seemed truly interested in her. "Neither my mother nor my grandmother ever married," she explained. "I'll probably carry on that tradition, as well. My life is too busy for a serious relationship." Gah, Tess, listen to yourself, she thought. Say it often enough and you'll believe it.

"Well. I suspect that's only because the right person hasn't come along…yet. Pretty girl like you, with all that gorgeous red hair. I'm surprised some man hasn't swept you off your feet."

Tess shook her head. "My feet are planted firmly on the ground."

"I never married, either." A wistful expression misted her eyes. "I was in love with a man right after the war, but he married someone else." She paused to admire the stone once again. "It must be so exciting, the work of a treasure hunter."

"It takes a lot of research, which most people would find tedious. So many dead ends and disappointments," said Tess. "Most of my time is spent combing archives and old records and catalogs. It can be frustrating. But so worthwhile when I get to make a restitution like this. And every once in a great while, I might find myself peeling away a worthless canvas to find a Vermeer beneath. Or unearthing a fortune under a shepherd's hut in a field somewhere. Sometimes it's a bit macabre. The plunder might be stashed in a casket."

Miss Winther shuddered. "That's ghoulish."

"When people have something to hide, they tend to put it where no one would want to look. Your piece wasn't stored in a dramatic hiding place. It was tagged and neatly cataloged, along with dozens of other illegally seized pieces."

Miss Winther arranged the scones just so with a crisp linen napkin in a basket, and brought them to the table.

Tess took a warm scone, just to be polite. "It sounds as though you like your work," Miss Win-ther said.

"Very much. It's everything to me." As she said the words aloud, Tess felt a wave of excitement. The business was fast-paced and unpredictable, and each day might bring an adrenaline rush—or crushing disappointment. Tess was having a banner year; her accomplishments were bringing her closer to the things she craved like air and water—recognition and security.

"That sounds just wonderful. I'm certain you'll get exactly what you're looking for."

"In this business, I'm not always sure what that is." Tess sneaked another glance at the clock on the stove.

Miss Winther noticed. "You have time to finish your tea."

Tess smiled, liking this woman almost in spite of herself. "All right. Would you like me to leave the contract with you or—"

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The Apple Orchard 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 146 reviews.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
5 STARS The Apple Orchard is a wonderful story. I really liked the characters. It draws you into Tess's life as she discovers another world she doesn't really understand, family. Tess is a stressed out single women living in San francisco. She is a treasurer hunter. She finds people missing treasures and sells them with her firm's auction house. We meet her returning a treasure to a old lady Annelise that the Germans stole during the occupation of Denmark. Annelise did not want to sell her treasure because she last saw her mother wearing it as the German's took her away. But as Tess was getting the sugar she found some other treasures that Annelise had bought at garage sales over the years. A banker Dominic Rossi came to her office and told her he was her grandfather's executor. Her grandfather Magnus Johansen is in the hospital in a coma. He planned to leave her half of his estate an apple orchard when he died. The other half is left to her sister. Tess did not know she had a half sister or a grandfather. The news made her have an attack. Tess found she had a panic disorder and she needed to change her lifestyle. Dominic flies her to meet her sister at the apple orchard. Tess discovers about her family's past. Their are surprises that her sister Isabel did not know either. They discover the past their grandfather had during Denmark's occupation. The story unfolds little by little told in flashback to that time. I wanted to find out all the answers as much as Tess did. Also for Tess and Isabel to work things out for them both. I hope later Isabel gets her own story. Their is lot of talk of food in the book and the recipes for the dishes they talk about. The recipes are all over the book. I think I like it better when the recipes all are in one location. It kind of broke the story up for me personally. Plus it makes me hungry. Tess is always in a hurry and slows down a little in the orchard. Tess and Dominic like each other right away. Dominic has two adorable kids and a ex-wife that wants to get back together with him. There are a few other things that keep them apart to work through. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. 04/30/2013 PUB Harlequin Imprint Harlequin Mira 400 pages SBN9780778314936
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just loved this book. Both historical and modern, with touches of mystery and of course love. Every aspect of this book kept me wanting to read more and more, but was so sorry to see it end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an easy read and at the same time complex and captivating. A charming story, it's the first in a new series. I'm already looking forward to the next installment. Memories and traces of memories are all Tess has of her own childhood--a father she never met and a mother whose travel left her with her grandmother, a memorable Irish woman who owned a second-hand shop in Dublin. When she discovers she's been left half of a one hundred-acre apple orchard in the town of Archangel, she is puzzled. Even more puzzling is that the other half of Bella Vista has been left to Isabel Johansen, a half sister she never knew she had. She meets her grandfather's banker, Dominic Rossi, a neighbor and part-time vintner. Dominic urges her to go see the dying man in hospital. Little by little she uncovers truths and discovers mysteries of which she had no knowledge, and she develops an impossible attraction to Dominic.  On the morning of a very important meeting with her boss to discuss her promotion, her life changes forever in ways she could not have imagined. Dominic Rossi, an attorney for the grandfather she didn't know she had, showed up in her office and informed her that her grandfather Magnus Johansen was in a coma and she had been named in his will and needed to come back with him to Archangel, a small town in the Sonoma country. There were so many unanswered questions and Tess didn't want any interruptions to her life. She certainly wasn't interested in traipsing off with a strange man to her grandfather's orchard when she had such a rewarding job in San Francisco. Tess is confronted with many unsettling issues after she arrives in Archangel, but she doesn't want to stay to sort through them. However, as each day goes by, she is more drawn to the life she discovered there. The characters were extremely well developed, and the plot had many twists and turns. Fantastic read.       
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the rare and magical books that somehow bring 3:19 am around way too quick! Really could not stop reading more and had to find out more! I love trying to figure out how the characters are woven together. I enjoy figuring some of it out and enjoy more, the surprises. Thank you for a great feel good book! Tears, smiles and laughs. Do wish though, that it was part of a series. I loved the characters!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A completely enchanting interwoven novel which takes you immediately into the lives of two women who had no idea that they were sisters until the welfare of their grandfather brings them together for the first time when his entire life hangs precariously on more than just whether or not he'll emerge from the coma he's now in; because, of a misstep on a ladder! Another must read by Susan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! What a wonderful story and great characters. Love Susan Wiggs books!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read in awhile that I didn't want to put down. It's well written and easily pulls you into the story. I loved the mix of history and present day. I think it would also be a good plot for a movie. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed the story. This was my first time to read anything by Susan Wiggs, but it certainly won't be my last. Loved the description of the house, land, and surrounding area. Very heartwarming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Susan Wigg is one of the few authors I've read who can really get you involved in the people she writes about. I have read all of her books so far and I wait patiently(somewhat) 4 her next .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard to get into story in the beginning but proved to be an interesting story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time putting this book down. I love Susan Wiggs and she has never disappointed me in any of her books.
clay_nook More than 1 year ago
** Received this book in a Goodreads giveaway for an honest review. I had looked at this book in the book store, liked the cover, but the synopsis didn't grab me. Not having read this book would have been a mistake. It wasn't what I expected, which was a very pleasant surprise. This was my first Susan Wiggs book. The main characters had plenty of realistic flaws, with depth and personality. With the grandfather in a coma, the two granddaughters and family/friends have to put together the puzzle of their lives and determine how their futures are going to play out. Ms. Wiggs seamlessly tied in the history behind the grandfather and how it shaped the present. The recipes intertwined in the story are some that I look forward to sharing with my family and friends. This was my first Susan Wiggs book. I will be giving more of her books a chance (ignoring the publisher synopsis) to see what other treasures I can find.
MasonCanyon More than 1 year ago
Tess Delaney is good at finding and documenting lost treasurers for people. She enjoys finding the history behind objects probably because she has very little history of her own. Narrator Christina Traister does an excellent job giving distinct voices to each of the characters. She vocalizes the emotions of the characters making the listener feel their pain and joys. Tess’ world is turned upside down when Dominic Rossi appears at her office. He informs her she has a grandfather she never knew about and he’s in a coma. If he dies, she’s set to inherit half of Bella Vista, his 100-acre estate in the Sonoma town of Archangel. The other half goes to a half sister, Isabel Johansen, she never knew exited either. Following an anxiety attack that lands her in the hospital, Tess agrees to visit her grandfather’s apple orchard with Dominic. Meeting Isabel and her grandfather begins to change her life. Then the sisters learned their grandfather is about to lose the orchard and everything that goes with. When they begin to search for a way to save the orchard, they learn things about their family and themselves that they never knew. In addition, feelings between Tess and Dominic begin to develop and Tess contemplates a life she never imagined having. Author Susan Wiggs has crafted a delightful tale of hope and family. She explores the emotions of finding family and a history one never knew existed. In addition, she does a wonderful job touching on the effects those living through the Nazi invasion of Denmark endured. The characters are well-developed, realistic and very likeable. THE APPLE ORCHARD moves at a steady pace. The listener/reader is drawn in and doesn’t want to leave Archangel when the story ends. Thankfully listeners/readers will be able to return as this is the first installment in a mesmerizing new series by Wiggs. FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the absolute Best book I have read in a long long time. Expertly written, historically accurate, and it flows perfectly. You know from the start that the book is also a puzzle. All of the pieces expertly arranged to come together at precisley the right moment. Perfect book club selection!!!!! I strongly urge you too read this again again and again.
lindyLW More than 1 year ago
Susan has out done herself with this book. You don`t want to put it down, it is so good. Such an emotional and loving story. I hope she makes this in a series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly have no clue what I said. Anyway the gist of what I said was that I'm not actually smart, I'm just good at multiple choice and skip steps in math
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Best I've read in a while.
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I really enjoyed the story and read the second book as well. I am hoping there will be another one in the series.
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