***Spoilers for previous book below***
The Lemieux family has a wide open future ahead of them as their California vineyard seeks to become one of the best. Sara continues to be independent and strive for the revival of her family’s vineyard in France, while her husband continues to perceive himself as the lone captain of the family ship. He’s as hard-headed as she is, but when it comes to the wine business, they both know their stuff. Unfortunately for him, his wife has a mind of her own and will not back down when she sets her sights on something she wants for herself and their future. As they navigate their new marriage, their family faces threats from within their neighborhood and from outside — competing vineyards plagued by phylloxera and the price wars and prohibition. Although their love has been tested in the previous book, it remains to be seen if that love can overcome their headstrong notions about winemaking and their roles in that business.
Harnisch’s characters are wonderfully drawn, and while Sara is independent and a bit childish at times when she wants her way, it’s not surprising given the age difference between herself and her husband. She’s a bit more emotional given the tragedies she’s dealt with beginning in early adolescence, while he’s a bit more practical, working through all the facts and figures to find the best solution to their business problems. Aurora remains the mother Sara doesn’t have in California, guiding her through grief and disagreements, but she’s also a mother to her husband, helping him realize his dreams and steering him to less volatile waters where his wife is concerned. She’s an excellent sounding board.
Even though readers may want to see more of the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Harnisch provides enough of a glimpse to understand the role American winemakers played in the competition and how they were viewed by the rest of the world. As the Lemieux family navigates the world stage, some of their old friends come back into their lives, including midwife Marie Chevreau, who embarks on a struggle of her own against patriarchy. The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is a saga you’ll want to read over the summer with a glass of white or red wine, most likely from Napa Valley, and soak in the tannins and ferment.
About the Author:
Kristen Harnisch’s ancestors emigrated from Normandy, France, to Canada in the 1600s. She is a descendant of Louis Hebert, who came to New France from Paris with Samuel de Champlain and is considered the first Canadian apothecary. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and now lives in Connecticut. The Vintner’s Daughter, her debut novel, is the first in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the century.