Book Review

‘The California Wife’ by Kristen Harnisch

tcw khSTORY: It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and Prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother.
An invitation to the World s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard s prospects, and amid the jewel-colored wonders of Belle Epoque Paris, Sara and Philippe s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke.

Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman s right to vote and earn a fair wage?
Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced. Will the shadow of history overwhelm Sara and Philippe s future, despite their love for each other?

REVIEW: Vouvray France – 1897

Sara Thibault has just agreed to marry Philippe Lemieux, the owner and respected vigneron of Eagle’s Run, a very large vineyard in Napa California. Sara grew up in Vouvray France on a vineyard in Saint Martin. Although rather small, it produced lovely chenin blanc grapes. But, two years ago, the vines were destroyed by the phylloxera louse and her family is anxious to replant the vineyard with American rootstock. She and her family don’t want to waste more time before replanting because they know it will take 3-5 years before the vines produce good grapes. Sara had left Napa some weeks before where she had lived and worked with Philippe. It appears that her sister, Lydia, passed away after giving birth to Luc. His father, Bastian, Philippe’s brother, erupted into a night of violence attempting to attack her. Sara accidentally killed him to save herself. Bastian also burned down her family’s home.

A note here: “The California Wife” is a sequel to “The Vintner’s Daughter” and evidently takes up where it leaves off. Since I did not read “The Vintner’s Daughter,” I had a difficult time trying to piece together the first part of this book. So, my first paragraph is what I gleaned happened in the first book.

Philippe’s father was an abusive man who used to beat he and Bastian. He is still alive but is an angry, hateful man and Philippe avoids him.

Napa California

After Sara and Philippe marry, they settle at Eagle’s Run in Napa. They are faced with how all of the wineries are seeing price cuts making it very difficult to make a profit. When word comes of the upcoming World’s Fair in Paris, they decide to enter their California wines against the French wines.

Linnette Cross is a harlot working at a Napa brothel. Philippe had taken her on as his mistress when he was single. When he fell in love with Sara, he ended his relationship with Linnette. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant with his child. Recently she has given birth to their daughter, Phillippa Mary, Pippa for short. Sadly, Pippa was born with a cleft lip. Now, Linnette wonders if she should tell Philippe about their daughter. When Linnette becomes ill and dies, Philippe learns about Pippa and adopts her.

Vintner jealousy has reared its ugly head and a devastating fire breaks out at Eagle’s Run which nearly destroys everything. But they persevere.

The story continues with different family members who join them and all of the difficulties that they face with the winery and in their own personal lives. The book is chock full of actual historical events of that time period woven into the book which makes it even more interesting. I know that readers will enjoy following this hard-working family.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s