The Beekeeper's Secret, by Josephine Moon

Maria knew about guilt. It was a stubborn, pervasive and toxic emotion, and incredibly difficult to shake. Especially if really, deep down, you didn’t think you deserved to let it go.

Maria Lindsay lives a quiet, but productive life, and that is how she likes it. She lives simply, managing a retreat and raising funds for an orphanage, largely through the products she makes from honey and beeswax, gifts from the bees she tends. But when she receives two letters, her peaceful, orderly existence is threatened. One letter is from a niece she has never met, who wants to reestablish connection between Maria and the family she left behind many years ago. The other is from an investigator, looking into events which Maria has tried to put behind her.

Tansy Butterfield is Maria’s niece. She has long known about her aunt, but has only just tracked her down, and is delighted that she lives so close. But as Tansy’s fledgling relationship with her aunt grows, the rest of her life seems ind anger of falling apart. Her mother has arrived on her doorstep, having ‘a break’ from her previously rock-solid marriage, her husband has been asked to relocate to Canada for work, and Tansy’s agreement not to have children is weighing heavily on her.

The Beekeeper’s Secret explores the complexities of extended families, and the relationships which can span generations. Tansy and Maria form a strong bond, in spite of Maria’s long estrangement from Tansy’s mother, and Maria passes her learning on to Tansy and her stepson, Leo. Their family includes Tansy’s devout Catholic parents, her sister Rose who has four children, her hippy Aunt and Uncle, and her cousin and his wife, as well as Tansy’s husband Dougal and his adult son Leo. Each family member is navigating change as well as looking back at promises and mistakes of the past.

From the author of the much loved The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise, The Beekeeper’s Secret continues the strong, warm tradition, although also dealing with some uncomfortable (yet important) topics including the effects of child abuse.

The Beekeeper’s Secret, by Josephine Moon
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781925266139

The Chocolate Promise, by Josephine Moon

An easy smile broke through his dark beard, which was largely unkempt and messy but just within the bounds of still being rustic and attractive. But it was the way his smile reached all the way to his staggeringly blue eyes that hit Christmas hard. the air around her suddenly drained away and she was speechless for a couple of moments, unable to take her eyes off his.

Christmas had her heart broken once, and it’s not going to happen again. She has formulated ten rules for happiness, and the most important one is number ten – No romantic relationships. But when she meets Lincoln her resolve is sorely tested. Not only is he ruggedly handsome, but he’s intelligent and funny and one of his interests is cocoa. Coincidentally, Christmas is a chocolatier, and is passionate about all things chocolate, especially the medicinal and healing qualities it possesses.

Lincoln, meanwhile, isn’t sure he needs a relationship, either. He tends to live is life on the road, though his gran wishes he would settle down, closer to home, marry and produce some grandchildren. He’s in town to help his gran and sort out his recalcitrant father. But he can’t seem to get Christmas out of his mind.

The Chocolate Promise is a warm, funny, moving story about love, families, ageing – and chocolate. From the author of the much loved The Tea Chest, this new offering is set in rural Tasmania, with part of the action taking place in France.

A feast for food lovers and lovers of a good read.

The Chocolate Promise, by Josephine Moon
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743318003

Available from good bookstores and online.