Champagne Widows is the story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, who perseveres through tragedy to create extraordinary champagne during the Napoleonic era.
I wanted to read this novel because I absolutely loved Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg; it was one of my top 10 novels the year I read it. I knew that Ms. Rosenberg has a real gift for making history come to life, and that was certainly the case here!
Although I am a bit of a Francophile, I was completely unaware of the life of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. (I don't even drink champagne.) This glimpse of 1800's history was new, and fascinating, to me. The author has a lively, engaging writing style, and makes history from long ago fun to read.
I especially liked the chapter titles, like "En faire tout un fromage. To make a whole cheese of it."
Barbe-Nicole's life, and the role of women in 1800 France, was interesting to read about. Women had very few options at that time and were controlled by their family and then their husband. Barbe-Nicole's extraordinary nose for champagne led her to a different life.
I enjoyed the author's style of writing, with short, lively chapters and a lot of dialogue driven action. A very light note - the cover art is fabulous!
Champagne Widows is a wonderful read for fans of historical fiction, French history, or women's history.
Champagne, France, 1800
Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole has inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell that makes her picky, persnickety, and particularly perceptive) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker.
Her parents, however, see Le Nez as a curse and try to marry her off to an unsuspecting suitor. But Barbe-Nicole is determined to use Le Nez to make great champagne. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, François Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries François despite his mental illness.
The Widow Known as Veuve Clicquot
Soon, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot must cope with her husband’s death. Becoming a widow known as Veuve Clicquot, she grapples with a new overbearing partner, the difficulties of making champagne and the Napoleon Codes preventing women from owning a business.
All this while her father takes a military uniform contract from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who wages six wars against European monarchs, crippling Veuve Clicquot’s ability to sell her champagne.
Using Le Nez, Veuve Clicquot struggles through unbearable hardships and challenges Napoleon himself. When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, who asks her to marry, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband, as dictated by Napoleon Code or losing Louis. In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot risks imprisonment and even death as she defies Napoleon.
California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. Her books include: GOLD DIGGER, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, Lavender Fields of America, and the Champagne Widows series.
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