The story brings readers deeply into the economics of the wine industry – a unique historical fiction subject – as the couple negotiates prices, develops creative sales techniques, and secures buyers in Napa and elsewhere. Philippe’s role as primary supplier of sacramental wine to the local archdiocese causes grumblings, and that’s just one impediment to their financial goals.
Although their love remains strong, their married life is equally turbulent. Operating within a male-dominated field, Sara’s vast wine-growing experience is sometimes downplayed, and Philippe’s former mistress introduces a new complication to their happiness.
Later chapters draw in the viewpoint of Sara’s good friend, Marie Chevreau, an experienced midwife who aspires to become a surgeon – another ambitious woman whose presence complements the growing cast. Readers will enjoy being whisked back in time to Napa’s beginnings as a major wine-producing region, and the stage is set for future adventures with these warm-hearted, ambitious characters.
The California Wife was published by HarperCollins Canada in February in trade paperback (C$22.99), and the US edition is published by She Writes Press ($17.95) this month. The review copy was sent to me by the Canadian publisher for review in February's Historical Novels Review.
On Monday, I'll have a guest post from the author about California's historic winemaking industry.