Set in beautiful Sonoma county, this is a story of friendship, love and memories.
San Francosco-based Tess Delaney restores stolen treasures to their rightful owners, a vocation at which she is very good and from which she derives immense satisfaction. Often her finds lead her to heirlooms lost during the Nazi occupation of Europe. One such example is a necklace that belonged to Annaliese Winther's mother. The impoverished elderly woman refuses to sell it despite knowing the money received could substantially improve her life. But to Annaliese, possessing the necklace means more; its value is in the memories.
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.
Tess travels to Bella Vista to dispose of the estate, but something magical begins to unfold. As she spends time there, she begins to experience many things, the simple pleasures of family and wonderful food, the haunting beauty of Sonoma county and a world where the roots of history run deep. Here, she's reminded of something Annaliese said: if you don't believe memories are worth more than money, then perhaps you've not made the right kind of memories.
As she begins to learn about her grandfather Magnus and his escape from Nazi occupied Europe, searching for information about him becomes a driving force in her quest.
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.
I loved this touching story of Tess and the Johansens. The protagonists are clearly drawn and fully fleshed. One easily becomes attached to them. Tess comes across as a conflicted but genuinely caring and dedicated woman as she begins to unravel family secrets. The mystery sweeps the reader along in a thoroughly satisfying emotional journey. I loved the story and was sorry to see it end.
Bravo Ms. Wiggs.