Review originally appeared in Library Journal, July 2019.
Alternating between the vineyards of war-torn 1940s France and present day, the lives of Ines and Michel, newlywed owners of the famed champagne house, Maison Chauveau, and the head winemaker’s Jewish wife, Celine Laurent, are forever altered. As Germans are pillaging homes and sending Jews to prison camps, a frightened Celine draws nearer to Michel for protection, thereby pushing Ines into the arms of another and setting off a chain of dangerous betrayal. The labyrinths of wine cellars beneath Chauveau conceal not only champagne from the Germans, but resistance weapons, Jewish refugees, and forbidden love affairs. Presently, Liv, 41, unemployed and newly divorced after 12 years and many unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy, abruptly departs for Paris with her 99-year old Grandmother Edith, a loving woman, both stylish and eccentric. Unsure of Edith’s motives, Liv questions Edith’s connection to Chauveau and Reims. Readers learn Edith’s painful secrets, and will appreciate the importance of family legacy and the passionate venture of champagne making. Unfolding in multiple viewpoints, the writing is atmospheric and rich, showcasing heavily researched topics of champagne making and French resistance efforts. VERDICT: Harmel’s touching story of love and loss in World War II France will appeal to fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Quinn.
What a fabulous story this was! I devoured this book in one evening like a bottle of wine with a good friend. Actually, the story takes place on a vineyard in Sonoma County, California, so it really did give me the taste for a great glass of vino. A week before her wedding to brilliant and heart-stoppingly handsome architect, Ben, Georgia Ford leaves her life and job as a lawyer in the city and heads home to her family’s vineyard, The Last Straw Vineyard, in Sebastopol, California. She expects to get home and seek comfort of her older twin brothers Bobby and Finn, as well as her happily married parents. However, when she arrives home running from secrets Ben had been keeping from her, she realizes that there were even more secrets being kept from her by the family. The romantic scenes are sweet and not too overdone. The descriptions of the vineyard and of winemaking is beautifully done. One of the neatest things I found was that The Last Straw Vineyard is a small biodynamic vineyard which holds its own up against the large commercial vineyards in Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Georgia’s father Dan, the head winemaker, doesn’t add anything to the grapes to make wine, he lets the grapes make themselves into wine. It’s all about the different vegetables and flowers that are composted into the soil to make rich, robust grapes which will turn into wonderful vintages. Let’s just say that this book caused me to appreciate wine and all eight hundred grapes that go into the making of every bottle. I would highly recommend this book because I absolutely loved it.