Kristen Harnisch

The California Wife

She Writes Press 2016

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Historical FictionNew Books in LiteratureNew Books Network May 19, 2016 C. P. Lesley

Sara Thibault and her new husband, Philippe Lemieux, grew up in Vouvray, amid the French vineyards that dot the Loire Valley. But when the...

Sara Thibault and her new husband, Philippe Lemieux, grew up in Vouvray, amid the French vineyards that dot the Loire Valley. But when the phylloxera blight of the 1870s devastates their families business, Philippe decides to try his luck in California. Sara soon follows, driven by a tragic series of events detailed in The Vintner’s Daughter. The California Wife (She Writes Press, 2016),the stand-alone sequel to that earlier novel, traces the later history of Sara, Philippe, and the group of wholly or partially orphaned children whose care they undertake.

The California wine industry, although somewhat healthier than the French, has also suffered from the blight. Its reputation is less secure than that of its European rival, and the existence of too few outlets has driven prices down to the point where many vintners can hardly afford to harvest their crops. Meanwhile, Sara fears for the survival of the vines on her childhood estate, and Philippe worries about the cost of developing his current lands. Into this seething mix of competing loyalties steps, all unaware, Philippe’s former mistress, sharing a secret that he cannot hope to keep from the ears of his new bride.

Kristen Harnisch does a wonderful job of creating warm, believable characters who struggle for their future against catastrophe and crisis and the pull of their own pasts. If you have ever wondered who stands behind those labels at the local liquor store, this book will give you insight into their origins. Listen in as we explore winemaking now and then, including how, in the end, California put itself on the map as an essential part of the worlds viniculture.


C. P. Lesley is the author of six novels, including Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her here.

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