Beneath the cover of France's most exquisite vineyards, a city of women defy an army during World War I, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Carousel of Provence....
Deep within the labyrinth of caves that lie below the lush, rolling vineyards of the Champagne region, an underground city of women and children hums with life. Forced to take shelter from the unrelenting onslaught of German shellfire above, the bravest among them venture out to pluck sweet grapes for the harvest. But wine is not the only secret preserved in the cool, dark cellars...
In present day, Rosalyn travels to Champagne to select vintages for her Napa-based employer. Rosalyn doesn't much care for champagne--or France, for that matter. Since the untimely death of her young husband, Rosalyn finds it a challenge to enjoy anything at all. But as she reads through a precious cache of WWI letters and retraces the lives lived in the limestone tunnels, Rosalyn will unravel a mystery hidden for decades...and find a way to savor her own life again, inspired by the hope and defiance of the women who toiled to bring in the grape harvest during the war.
Juliet Blackwell (aka Julie Goodson-Lawes, aka Hailey Lind) started out life in Palo Alto, California, born of a Texan mother and a Yankee father. The family soon moved to what were, at the time, the sticks of Cupertino, an hour south of San Francisco. Walking to and from kindergarten every day she would indulge in her earliest larcenous activity: stealing walnuts and apricots from surrounding orchards.
By the time she graduated middle school, the orchards were disappearing and the valley at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay had become the cradle of the silicon semi-conductor. A man named Steve Jobs was working in his garage in Cupertino, just down the street. Juliet's father advised his daughters to enter the lucrative and soon-to-flourish field of computers.
"Bah" said Juliet, as she went on to major in Latin American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (they had, by far, the best parties of any department). Rather than making scads of money in computers, she read, painted, learned Spanish and a little French and Vietnamese, lived in Spain and traveled through Europe, Mexico, and Central America. She had a very good time.
Juliet pursued graduate degrees in Anthropology and Social Work at the State University of New York at Albany, where she published several non-fiction articles on immigration as well as one book-length translation. Fascinated with other cultural systems, she studied the religions, folklore and medical beliefs of peoples around the world, especially in Latin America. Juliet taught the anthropology of health and health care at SUNY-Albany, and worked as an elementary school social worker in upstate New York. She also did field projects in Mexico and Cuba, studied in Spain, Italy, and France, worked on a BBC production in the Philippines, taught English as a second language in San Jose, and learned how to faux finish walls in Princeton, New Jersey. After having a son, moving back to California, and abandoning her half-written dissertation in cultural anthropology, Juliet started painting murals and portraits for a living. She has run her own mural/faux finish design studio in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, for more than a decade. She specializes in the aesthetic renovation of historic homes.
Finally, to round out her tour of lucrative careers, Juliet turned to writing. Under the pseudonym of Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover's Mystery Series with her sister Carolyn, about an ex-art forger trying to go straight by working as a muralist and faux finisher in San Francisco. The first of these, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award; Shooting Gallery and Brush with Death were both IMBA bestsellers, and Arsenic and Old Paint is now available from Perseverance Press.
Juliet's Witchcraft Mystery series, about a witch who finally finds a place to fit in when she opens a vintage clothes shop on Haight Street in San Francisco, allows Juliet to indulge yet another interest—the world of witchcraft and the supernatural. Ever since her favorite aunt taught her about reading cards and tea leaves, Juliet has been fascinated with seers, conjurers, and covens from many different cultures and historic traditions. As an anthropologist, the author studied and taught about systems of spirituality, magic, and medicine throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Halloween is by far her favorite holiday.
When not writing, painting, or haranguing her funny but cynical teenaged son, Juliet spends a lot of time restoring her happily haunted house and gardening with Oscar the cat, who ostensibly belongs to the neighbors but won't leave her alone. He started hanging around when Juliet started writing about witches...funny coincidence.
Did you know women and children lived in caves underneath the vineyards of the Champagne region in France during World War I? While the Germans mercilessly shelled their country, there was an underground city brimming with life. And bravery. This is the historical timeline of The Vineyards of Champagne.
In the present day, Rosalyn is visiting Champagne to find the best wines for her work in Napa, California. She discovers a collection of WWI letters sharing the daily life of the women and children living in the caves, and that provides inspiration for Rosalyn for hope and healing in her own life.
Gosh. I loved the characters. I loved learning more about the Champagne region of France. The message for finding happiness is timeless and inspiring.
Overall, The Vineyards of Champagne is a warmhearted story of hope and healing with authentic characters and a lush, fascinating backdrop.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher.
WWI France.... A beautiful story about a tragic time. Juliet Blackwell has brilliantly told the story of the Champagne region of France through old letters. Old letters that told the story of the women and children of France living underneath the champagne houses in miles and miles of caves. Entire towns were moved underground homes, shops, bakeries, schools, animals, and of course the people. The only time they came out was to pick the grapes. I was completely fascinated by this part of history I did not previously know, and so was Rosalyn. Rosalyn meets Emma on a plane from San Francisco to Paris. Emma is Australian and traveling to the region to search for more letters and further piece together the story of one of her relatives who was in France during WWI. Rosalyn has recently suffered a loss and is headed reluctantly to France for her work as a wine rep. When Emma offers her an opportunity to help with the researching and translating of these letters, Rosalyn is very tempted. What follows is a beautiful story about friendship, forgiveness, acceptance, Romance, history, Mystery, second chances, and love.
This was a contemporary story with history woven in through these letters. I think this would be a great book for someone new to historical fiction, but it will also resonate with the historical fiction lover. Rosalyn is a sympathetic character and I loved how much her character grew throughout the story. I loved The friendships she made and how she learned to trust and open her heart again. The descriptive writing really gave me an authentic feel for France. I have to say I love the fact that the French people embrace the carbs, I was craving bread throughout this entire book. A lovely story that taught me something I did not previously no.
This book in emojis. 🇫🇷 🍾 🍷 🥖 🧀 🍇 ✉️
*** Big thank you to Berkley for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
France 1916, the German’s fought hard to take the town of Reims, when the French army push them back, the German army start shelling the town nonstop and they totally destroyed it. The town’s residents have no choice but to take shelter and live in the chalky caves that are used to store the areas famous bubbly champagne. Lucie Marechal, her mother and father are all living in the caves, their beautiful home has been destroyed and they have nowhere else to live and its safer underground. The women and children venture out at night to harvest the grapes and they need to stay very close to the ground or they risk being shot at by the German snipers.
In present day, Rosalyn Acosta travels to Champagne to speak to grape growers for her Napa based employer and friend Hugh. Hugh is not just her boss, he was her late husband’s best friend and he has been her rock since her husband Dash passed away. Rosalyn doesn't drink champagne, she’s a red wine girl, she’s not very keen to visit France again and she reluctantly boards the plane. Much to her horror, she’s seated next to a very chatting Australian woman called Emma Kinsley, who’s traveling to France to try and solve the hundred year old mystery of why her great aunt wrote letters to a young French soldier during the Great War?
Emma quickly offers Rosalyn a job translating the letters after she discovers she hates her job, but she refuses, she can't let Hugh down and while Emma is sleeping on the long flight she can’t help but start reading and translating them. She and Emma both end up staying in the same village called Cochet in the Champagne region, they set out to solve the mystery of why Doris a widow living in Australia would be writing to a much younger man Emile fighting in WW I in France?
While walking one morning Rosalyn meets a very grumpy local man called Jerome Comtois, he could be the one to help put the clues enclosed in the faded letters together, Emma thinks so, she needs to gain his trust and then access to his library? As the story develops, Rosalyn’s walls she has created around herself begin to crumble, you start to see glimpses of the happy young woman she once was, a newly married artist and a talented painter.
The Vineyards of Champagne, has a dual timeline, it works well and it’s easy to follow. It’s a story about war, grief, loss, love, making new friends and solving a hundred year old mystery. I’m a chatty Australian woman, I loved clumsy Emma and she made me laugh. I enjoyed reading about the French countryside, the yummy food, the never ending varieties of bread, wineries, how champagne is made, stored, age old traditions and celebrations. I gave the book five stars and I highly recommend reading it. I have shared my review on Goodreads, Kobo, Australian Amazon, Twitter and my blog. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Rosalyn works for a vineyard in Napa, California, and is told she has to go to Champagne, France. Who wouldn't want to go to Champagne, France - well...Rosalyn isn't too excited about going.
On her flight over, Rosalyn meets Emma who has found letters from a soldier and a woman that corresponded during the war. She asked Rosalyn to help her put all the letters together and to make some sense out of them, but Rosalyn declines the offer. She said she has to do what her employer asked her to do.
When Rosalyn finds one of the letters in her bag that Emma must have not picked up after they all fell to the floor, she becomes interested in the correspondence as she translates the letters through all the grime and worn out and unable-to-be translated words.
Rosalyn wishes she would have told Emma she would help her. She could do that if she gets organized and finds the business card Emma had given her.
Translating these letters would be much more interesting than going from one local wine producer to the next trying to drum up business.
I tend to agree with Rosalyn....I would prefer dealing with the letters to uncover the past than dealing with wine makers. I always enjoy books that have the characters finding items from the past that uncover secrets and a past life.
Readers get a marvelous glimpse of France’s quaint, cozy homes, the warmth of the French people, and the history of Champagne and how its citizens coped during the war.
If you love champagne, history lessons, learning about wine making in France, unraveling secrets, reading old letters, exploring old houses, meeting marvelous characters, and being treated to a terrific story line, do not miss reading THE VINEYARDS OF CHAMPAGNE.
Juliet Blackwell has given us another pull-you-in read.
THE VINEYARDS OF CHAMPAGNE will have you falling in love with the characters and the Champagne Region of France, and have you looking at how you need to focus on making yourself happy. 5/5
This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Overall: An engrossing and romantic dual timeline historical fiction novel focused on Champagne region of France. The story is captivating and held my attention throughout- learned something new about history and highly enjoyed it. A perfect holiday read to get lost in 4/5 or 7/10.
Summary: This book is told in two different timelines with the central theme being the vineyards of Chamagne's involvement during WWI. In present day, we meet Rosalyn Acosta. She works for Small Fortune Wines out of Napa and is dispatched to the Champagne region of France to represent the vineyard at a festival. Rosalyn lost her husband several years ago and is still very much recovering from the loss. She is reluctant to go but finally agrees. On her journey, she meets Emma Kinsley, a wealthy Australian woman who has invested in some of the small wineries of the Champagne region. During the flight the two work together on organizing some letters Emma has from WWI between a soldier and Emma's great aunt. They continue to work together once they arrive in France and we are introduced to a variety of unique and mostly memorable characters that help Rosalyn during this time. The other narrative is focused on the two characters who wrote the letters- WWI soldier Emile Legrand and Emma’s great-aunt Doris. We learn that during WWI, many of the civilians retreated to caves in the Champagne cellars for protection.
The Good: I found this to be a very interesting topic and I enjoyed the characters, especially Emma. The author does a very good job and interweaving the past and preset day stories and it reads pretty seamlessly. The writing is well done, almost lyrical in some parts, and I felt like I was there in the scenes for much of the novel. Interesting topic, well written, with some memorable characters make this a solid 4/5 book I would recommend to fans of historical fiction, romance, and wine!
The Bad: I wish there was a little more history and a little less of the present day story. Though I liked Rosalyn, I found her to be a bit annoying at times. Some parts were quite predictable.
Favorite Quotes: “In the immortal words of Bette Davis,” said Emma, “‘There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.’ Take a drink, sweetie. A big one.”
"We would not be able to live the answers, so we should live the questions.”
“The dead lie unburied and unconsecrated above ground, while the living cower deep beneath the surface of the earth. The world, upside down.”
I have enjoyed two of the author's paranormal series (Haunted Home Renovation and Witchcraft), so I wasn't sure what to expect with her new novel. It was totally different, but I was not disappointed. Rosalyn, a wine sales rep, has been sent to the Champagne region of France to get some new clients. She meets an interesting Aussie woman on the plane, and gets involved with translating some letters from World War I. (Apparently some older women, called marraines de guerre, wrote to the French soldiers in the trenches to help morale. The particular marraine, Doris, was from Australia.) I loved the fact that the chapters alternated between the past and the present.. The love story of Lucie and Emile during the war captivates Rosalyn (who has a lot of personal baggage herself), Blondine (a French woman working for the winery), and Emma (the Australian woman who started the research project), who has secrets of her own. The author has done considerable research into champagne, both the region and the beverage, and the terrible suffering experienced there during the Great War. Highly recommended. Thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for the ARC.
Having never visited France myself, I love that I was able to visit France through this book. The descriptions are sumptuous and I swear I could smell the heady scent of the grapes in the vineyard as I was reading. A time split novel the past and present mesh effortlessly . In present time Rosalyn travels to Champagne to elect vintages for her Napa-based employer.Her attitude is not a good one. Her young husband died an untimely death and since then she has not been living, just going through the motions, nothing brings her joy. When she reads through a previously hidden stack of letters from WWI she becomes intrigued. Meeting the owner of the vineyard, she explores the limestone tunnels where the women of the past worked and hid underground she is inspired by their positive attitude. As she works to uncover a long hidden mystery is she ready to a accept friendship that may lead to love again? Interesting historical, I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to reading more by this author.
Published January 21st 2020 by Berkley. I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
I love historical fiction, especially WWI and WWII. I visited Reims and when I had the opportunity to read this novel set in Reims, I jumped at it. I always hope to get some education with my historical fiction and this book did provide a bit of insight. I did not know that the occupants of the Champagne region lived in caves during WWI, nor did I know about the "marraines de guerre" or godmothers of war who corresponded with soldiers throughout the war. Other than those two gems, there was no new information for me.
The story unfolded in two time periods. The WWI time period was told through a mix of letters written then (and read either then or in present day) and through character narratives. It was disjointed and did not make for a smooth or engrossing story. The present day portion of the story was a string of romance novel tropes with all of the "twists" being totally predictable. At times, the dialogue was trite to the point of distracting. I did not care for the main character, Rosalyn and at times, I just wanted to slap her.
If you do not know much about WWI and are a fan of traditional romance novels, you will find a lot to love here. I wanted to love this book, but it was just okay, but not a stellar read for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
In the French Countryside, women and children lived in caves underneath the vineyards of the Champagne region in France during World War I. While the Germans mercilessly shelled their country, there was an underground city brimming with life. Most were women and children, but here were also resistance fighters, old men, and some soldiers. Because of that, snipers often shot and killed anyone they caught moving around in the vineyards. This is a dual timeline story. In the present, Rosalyn is visiting Champagne to find the best champagnes for her company in Napa, California. The funny thing was that Rosalyn did not like champagne. On the flight over to France, she meets Emma. Emma has a cache of letters from WWI written between her aunt and a french soldier. She wants to find more information about the people in the letters and enlists Rosalyn's help. The search for information not only solves a mystery, but Rosalyn, who is dealing with her own personal issues and demons, heals along the way.
This was a wonderful story. The characters were amazing. I love how the villagers were portrayed. At the beginning they were a bit standoffish, but as they got to know Rosalyn, with Emma's help, they treated them like family. The WWI story of the Champagne region of France through old letters was eye-opening. Old letters that told the story of the women and children of France living underneath the champagne houses in miles and miles of caves, only coming out to harvest the grapes for champagne. I was fascinated by this part of history as I had no knowledge of this activity. I think I enjoyed Rosalyn's story in the present, more than the story from the past, although they were both good. This story was not just about the war, it was also about friendship, forgiveness, second chances, acceptance, following your dreams, persistence strength of character and love. I learned a lot about this area and if I ever get to France, I would love to visit the Champagne region.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Xe Sands (pronounced EK-see). She does not speak french but developed a french accent for a previous book she narrated, and I was quite pleased with her accent in this book. She also has a marvelous reading voice, and her character voices were outstanding. She has an amazing range of voices and her expression, tone and intonation all add to giving each character their own identity. This was the first time I had listened to a book narrated by Xe and it will not be the last. If you haven't listened yet to any of the books that Xe Sands has narrated, then you're in for a treat. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this audiobook upon request. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
As a Francophile, I love Juliet Blackwell's stand-alones set in France. The Vineyards of Champagne is no exception. The World War I history woven into the story is fascinating, as are the details of life in rural France and world of champagne production. And who could resist her gorgeous but grumpy French vintner?
I can be so picky with historical fiction, so I am excited to say that I really liked this one. This book brought me right into France, craving some bubbly and a baguette along the entire way.
The Vineyards of Champagne is set mostly in present day in Champagne, where Rosalyn has traveled for work to meet with champagne makers to represent in the US. In her travels she meets Emma, who is searching for answers to letters she found from WWI. In these letters tells a story of this region during the war, the residents living in tunnels beneath the vineyards. There are flashbacks and letters that tell this story throughout the book.
WWI isn’t a time period that I’ve read much about. I feel like I learned so much about the Champagne region in present day and from during the war. I loved hearing all about harvesting grapes and the making of champagne, it was so interesting. Letters in books tend to lose me, but these were just sprinkled nicely throughout and didn’t take over the story, it worked perfectly to tell the history.
I will say it read a bit slow for me at times. You know how some books just read quicker than others? I don’t think it’s a bad thing...there are just so many details that it takes a bit longer to take it all in, but in saying that, because of it you really do feel transported to France while you read it.
One other thing I loved is the emphasis from the characters in France that champagne should be enjoyed any day, not just saved for special occasions....that will stick with me. 🍾In fact, I’m going to pop a bottle this weekend!
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for the gifted copy to review!
I’m always so fascinated at discovering the historical facts I’d never known while reading Historical Fiction. It’s one of my favorite things about this genre, not to mention the love stories woven throughout.
While reading The Vineyards of Champagne I once again learned something new with the hidden caves beneath the vineyards throughout France, that served as a place to hide women and children during the Great War.
I binge read this book and really loved the second chance at love for main character Rosalyn after losing her husband. I also really loved the epistolary style writing as she discovered letters from the past.
The champagne vineyards played a main part as well, and I loved that it was the center of this historical fiction love story but also themes of grief and finding yourself again.
*Thank you Berkley Publishing for the gifted copy for review. All opinions are my own
I do so love a Juliet Blackwell book. She is an auto buy for me and this is my favorite. I will never look at a glass of champagne the same way ever again. Could not put this one down and some of the most like-able and endearing characters ever. Truly a gem of a book.
Rosalyn is an open wound. After the death of her husband, she is broken and in debt. Working for the friend who saved her from destitution and herself at his champagne distributors in Napa, she has found a life, but cannot seem to find her joy. On an ill-advised trip to Champagne on business, she encounters a lovely woman from Australia. Emma is a champagne enthusiast and business woman, but she’s in France on another errand, one in which she hopes to uncover the mystery of her family through letters written between an elder aunt and a young French soldier during the First World War. But Rosalyn and Emma are both going to find much more than they bargained for, and a friendship is only a small part of it.
A beautifully interwoven story between modern day and turn of the century, this journey of self discovery is poignant and simple. The unexpected romance leads Rosalyn to discover there is more to her past and her pain. Really enjoyable.
I loved this book it successfully goes back and forth from present day in Champagne France with the main character who is a sales rep from Napa trying to represent small wineries in France, to 1917 during the war. Letters have been found that link to the past when many people hid in caves under the vineyards to keep from the bombings in WW1 The letters bring together three women who try to find out what happened to the people in the letters and if they have descendants now . It also brings them to a friendship that they all three need to address the sorrows in their own lives and how they can help each other go forward.
The vineyards of champagne; a story rich in history, ripe with oenophile information, bubbling with a tantalizing mystery, and laced with subtle but juicy overtones of romance. This book will satisfy the lover of historical fiction, the cork dorks, those who crave a bit of mystery, and those looking for a touch of romance. I loved listening to this book and didn't want it to end!
I have read several of this author's stories mainly because she can transport me to France with her detailed and gorgeous descriptions. She weaves French food, wine, art, literature and history into all of her books and this one was no different. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Champagne vineyards and caves, that played such an important role of protection in WWI for the winemakers and citizens of that region. It was so sad to read about the utter devastation of historical and religious artifacts and architecture in that war. Oftentimes World War I (the Great War) is overshadowed by the horrors of WWII but the fact that 2 generations of this region had to live through both is unfathomable. I highly recommend this read if you love France, wine & history. Lucie, E'mile and Topette's war story should never be forgotten.
Много обичам, когато научавам нещо ново от някоя книга. Затова нямах търпение да започна "Лозята на Шампан" от Джулиет Блекуел. От нея научих за подземните тунели, където са се укривали хиляди жители на Шампан по време на Първата световна война. Тунелите са издълбани още през четвърти век, но през 1914 година започват да се използват като скривалища от бомбардировките. В продължение на години жени, деца и по-възрастни хора живеят там. Имат дори болници, училища и спални помещения. В интернет има много снимки, които показват каква е била действителността. А днес мястото е туристическа атракция, така че може и лично да видите и да усетите атмосферата, ако отидете на място.
Но да се върна към романа. Както е модерно напоследък, той проследява две сюжетни линии. Едната е свързана с Люси Марешал, която заедно със семейството си се укрива в т��нелите, и войникът Емил Легран, който се бие на фронта. Другата проследява американката Розалин, която е командирована в Шампан заради работата си в компания за внос на вино. Запознава се с австралийката Ема, която издирва писма от войната. Розалин се присъединява към нея в опитите ѝ да проследи съдбите на Люси и Емил. Междувременно се изправя и пред личната си трагедия, която още не може да преживее.
Книжката е много симпатична и увлекателна. Нямаше някакви кой знае какви обрати и на места развръзката беше предсказуема, но това не ми намали удоволствието от четенето. Беше ми любопитно да науча повече както за живота в тунелите, така и за направата на шампанско. Даже преди да я започна си мислех, че ще ми се припие пенливо вино докато чета, но се оказа че голяма част от атмосферата е изпълнена с аромат на прясно изпечени багети и кроасани. Така че единственият съвет, който мога да дам, е да не я четете на празен стомах.
This book started out a little slow for me but I could not put it down the closer I got to the end. I learned so much about Champagne and the region reading this book. It was one of those two stories in one kind of book. I highly recommend this book!
Rosalyn is still grieving the death of her husband. But, her job and her boss, whom she owes many favors, is requiring her to travel to Champagne, France. As a wine seller, she is going to try to sign some champagnes to their Napa Valley winery. While on the flight, she meets Emma. Emma is traveling to Champagne to do research on WWI. Emma has letters that went back and forth from the trenches of the war to the caves of Champagne. During the war, people fled to the caves. There were whole villages living in the tunnels and caves underneath the vineyards. There were schools and businesses, and it was the only way people survived during the war. Rosalyn, while meeting with winery owners, finds herself pulled into the stories of Emile and Lucie and their letters.
This story is told mainly in the present day with letters from Emile sprinkled throughout. There are a few chapters told from Lucie’s perspective as well. The story moves through the present as Rosalyn, Emma, and their friends connect the stories in the letters and learn about the fate of Emile and Lucie.
I had a difficult time reading about the caves and the people living in them and even visiting them during the present day. With 116 steps down, they were deep underground, especially if they kept the villagers safe while their homes were being bombed during the war. As someone who gets claustrophobic, I had to keep reminding myself to take deep breaths during these parts of the book. The amazing thing is that these caves were real and the book is based on real events during WWI in Champagne, France. It is unimaginable to me how hundreds of people lived underground for months and years…going days without seeing any light of day.
Blackwell incorporates the French language into the story which makes the characters and the setting very authentic. Her descriptions of places and food and the bubbly champagne make me want to visit there immediately. Her characters have many layers and each is dealing with something difficult, some just more secretly than others.
Blackwell handles Rosalyn’s grief well, not shying away from bold feelings or loneliness, despair, or fear of the future. Each character had a unique voice and felt authentic and true to their story. Nothing felt fluffy or trite to me in this book.
One reason I love reading historical fiction is that I usually learn some truth from history that I didn’t know before. That is the case with this novel and I appreciate Blackwell sharing this WWI story, the caves, and the unique vineyards and style of growing grapes to make champagne. I will definitely be more curious about the labels the next time I have a bottle of champagne.
There is much loss in this novel, but there is also hope. The people of Champagne had to endure months of war in the caves and they were a hearty people to persevere. Rosalyn was enduring months and years of grief and anger and loss, but she also needed to persevere to find joy in her life. The past and the present stories flowed well and as a reader, I longed for the stories of the past as much a Rosalyn longed to find the answers.
Fans of historical fiction, dual time-period stories, and war settings will enjoy this novel. For more information as well as a Book Club Kit including facts about drinking champagne, a conversation with the author, a playlist, and discussion questions, check out the author’s website.
The prologue begins in 1916 with a group of people living in caves below a champagne house in Reims France. The story gripped me immediately and I was desperate to know how these people came to live in the caves and what eventually happened to them. The story switches to the modern day with an interesting assortment of characters trying to track down these very answers. I eagerly followed along with them as they uncovered the truth of these characters, primarily through letters written between a French WWI soldier and a wealthy Australian widow acting as a "marraines de guerre" or godmother, writing to a soldier at the front to keep his spirits up. I liked the mystery of the story, along with the bit of romance thrown in. I also learned quite a bit about the production of champagne and who doesn't want to know more about champagne. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it.
Book courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The Vineyards of Champagne is Juliet Blackwell’s story of Rosalyn, a young woman adjusting to life as a widow. The wine seller she works for in Napa sends her to Champagne to obtain new wines from small vineyards. On the flight to France she meets Emma, an Australian woman who shares a remarkable story of the brave people of France during WWI. She asks Rosalyn if she’d like to help solve a mystery that involves the area of Champagne and letters between a soldier, a young woman, and an Australian marraine de guerre (war godmother). This is a story of learning to move forward through grief when it would be so easy not to let go of it. My heart broke for what the French people endured during the war years and yet they continued to bring in the harvest and make the wine. The ability to put one foot in front of the other was inspiring. The Vineyards of Champagne touched my heart and I recommend it to fans of Juliet Blackwell and Historical Fiction.
Struggling with the grief of her husband's death, and all of the after-effects to her financial and personal life after he died, Rosalyn's character fluctuates between an immense feeling of loss and a touch of hatred, which is incredibly confusing as a reader. About halfway through the book, I caught myself thinking, "Wait a minute... so does she think her marriage was a fairy tale, or does she resent him?" Needless to say, I was happy when her character has a moment of clarity with her mentor, Emma, who explains to her that it's OK to feel BOTH. While this conversation was desperately needed, I think the timing of the conversation should've been a little earlier, and it certainly didn't give Rosalyn enough time to mentally recover, in my opinion, to start the relationship she did. The last few chapters felt like they were wrapped in a bow, perfectly tied with a string, and as a reader, I caught myself trying to open my present without ruining the wrapping paper, which is interesting, considering that I predicted EXACTLY what would happen to each character within minutes of their introductions. I haven't quite decided if it's a good thing that I had the level of delicacy with the characters as I finished the novel or not.
I left feeling like Rosalyn's character didn't mature the way I expected her to, and as she matured and brought some color back to her life, she became a little boring. Her self-reflection, memories, and passion for the knowledge of what happened/s in the letters lost its spark and as she developed her strength, I felt the author became more engrossed in Rosalyn than with shaping her character into the history of the letters. The letters, I thought, became sort of an afterthought.
The history and research demonstrated in the book went above and beyond my expectations. The author does an incredible job of seamlessly weaving historical elements within her tale. This, in my opinion, is what gave the book a 4 (rather than 3) star rating.
This was my first novel by Blackwell, and I enjoyed her writing enough that I would go back and read other novels she's published.
One of the things I'm most excited about is that I leave on Friday for a trip overseas, and coincidentally, will be driving through the very regions of France in which this book is set. I'm excited to explore, and am hoping to catch a tour of the caves that Lucie lived in.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The Vineyards of Champagne follows three storylines: Rosalyn, Doris and Lucie. The main focus is on Rosalyn, a widower in present day Napa valley, struggling to pay off debt that her husband kept from her when he tragically and suddenly died. Rosalyn is told to go to the Champagne region of France to source some smaller vineyards for the winery she words at back in Napa. She doesn't care for France and does not like Champagne so she is not really looking forward to the trip. Rosalyn meets a vivacious Australian, Emma, on the plane who has a handful of letters from a relative, Doris, who lived during the World Wars. While in France Rosalyn also meets Blondine who is the daughter of the owner of the place she is staying at.
Emma and Blondine seem to have this strange rivalry that is never fully explain and it was odd to read their dialogue at times. I liked Rosalyn's character and was really interested in her story about overcoming her grief, moving on, finding love again and getting swept up in the old letters and the mystery that unfolds itself within them. However I found that sometimes she was just odd, like she would always comment internally how she wasn't representing all Americans when Emma (Australian) or Blondine (French) would make comments about American stereotypes. Like I feel like Rosalyn was unaware of the stereotypes and got too defensive about it. While I was interested in the letters and the connection between Lucie and Doris and Rosalyn I feel like we did not get enough of Lucie's story which took place in the town near where Rosalyn was staying. During the world wars citizens would take refugee in the caves under the city and I really wish I got to read more of that and more of Lucie's story. We did get to read letters within Doris' and Lucie's perspectives but most of them were in Rosalyn's perspective.
I really liked the connection and the whole tie in of the mystery at the end. I enjoyed the romance and the setting of this novel as well. There were just a few points I think weren't needed in Rosalyn's story and that space could have been given to Lucie.
I had never heard about French civilians hiding and living in the tunnels beneath the champagne houses in the Champagne region during WWI, so I found the historical setting of this novel fascinating. In fact, I wanted a lot more of the past story than I did the present story, which is often the case when I'm reading dual-timeline novels. Part of the reason is I didn't really care for Rosalyn, who seemed self-absorbed and bland, without any real personality to make her more appealing. Also, THE VINEYARDS OF CHAMPAGNE rambles around at a very languid pace, which I don't mind as long as the story keeps me interested. My attention waned a lot with this one and I found it a little too easy to put down. So, while I generally love this kind of novel (dual-timeline, secrets of the past, old letters, etc.), THE VINEYARDS OF CHAMPAGNE turned out to be just an okay read for me.
This read is like our current events. When the main character is severely flawed, the whole thing falls away; and so it is with Rosalyn. The place, the plot, the treasure hunt for ancient documents, the inside the trenches experiences of WWI, even learning about champagne production, could have been riveting for me. But Blackwell has essentially written a romance within a romance here which I didn't enjoy. It made me mad too, and this is why I gave it 3 stars. Here I am again, confronted with the reality that so many of my gender, so many of my "Sisters" will do anything, anything to allow some charismatic man, or maybe just some jerk in her family, call the shots for her. Did you see the story about the insurgent who got to D.C. because he told his mother, HIS MOTHER, that if she paid for the trip, he would bring her with him. I can't bear it.
Историята е доста добре написана и ми харесаха лирическите отклонения - веднъж чрез писмата от Първата Световна война, веднъж чрез гледната точка на "действителен" герой от онова време (Люси). Също е хубаво човек да се обогати малко с обща култура за производство на шампанско, за личната човешка драма от една война, за начините на препитание от определен регион. Понрави ми се още липсата на фокус върху любовните взаимоотношения. Много премерено и ненатрапчиво им е обърнато внимание до момента, в който авторката е решила да компенсира с болезнено сладникав край - всички са живи и щастливи. Всъщност книгата можеше да е наистина сносна, ако имаше поне една смърт да те трогне, да я мислиш още две седмици тая история и разбира се, ако не беше тъпата корица. Човек веднага си казва: "Хм, типичната булевардна литература".