#ChampagneWidows #RebeccaRosenberg #HFVBT

Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg

eBook Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Lion Heart Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction

Triple-gold-medal-winning author Rebecca Rosenberg serves up a triumphant tale of talent and ambition, love and loss, betrayal and redemption, and accepting yourself and others for who they are.

Champagne, France, 1800
Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole has inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell that makes her picky, persnickety, and particularly perceptive) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker.

Her parents, however, see Le Nez as a curse and try to marry her off to an unsuspecting suitor. But Barbe-Nicole is determined to use Le Nez to make great champagne. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, François Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries François despite his mental illness.

The Widow Known as Veuve Clicquot
Soon, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot must cope with her husband’s death. Becoming a widow known as Veuve Clicquot, she grapples with a new overbearing partner, the difficulties of making champagne and the Napoleon Codes preventing women from owning a business.

All this while her father takes a military uniform contract from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who wages six wars against European monarchs, crippling Veuve Clicquot’s ability to sell her champagne.

Challenging Napoleon
Using Le Nez, Veuve Clicquot struggles through unbearable hardships and challenges Napoleon himself. When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, who asks her to marry, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband, as dictated by Napoleon Code or losing Louis. In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot risks imprisonment and even death as she defies Napoleon.

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Chapter One

“Champagne. In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

Le Nez
The Nose

Reims, Champagne, France 1797

Grand-mère sways over the edge of the stone stairs into the cavern, and I step between her and eternity, dizzy from the bloody tang of her head bandage.
“Let’s go back. We’ll come another time.” I try to turn her around, so we don’t tumble into the dark crayère, but she holds firm.
“There won’t be another time if I know your maman and her heretic doctor.”
They drilled into Grand-mère’s skull again for a disease they call hysteria. The hole was supposed to let out evil spirits, but the gruesome treatment hasn’t stopped her sniffing every book, pillow, and candle, trying to capture its essence, agitated that her sense of smell has disappeared.
“This is how you know you are alive, Barbe-Nicole.” She taps her nose frantically. “The aromas of brioche fresh from the oven, lavender water ironed into your clothes, your father’s pipe smoke. You must understand. Time is running out.” Her fingernails claw my arm, the whale oil lamp sputtering and smoking in her other hand.
“Let me lead.” Taking the stinking lantern, I let her grip my shoulders from behind. Grand-mère shrunk so much, she’s my height of five feet, though she’s a step above. For as long as I remember, she has tried to justify my worst fault. My cursed proboscis, as Maman calls my over-sensitive nose, has been a battle between us since I was little. I remember walking with her through town, avoiding chamber pots dumped from windows, horse excrement paving the roads, and factories belching black gases. Excruciating pain surged to my nose, making my eyes water and sending me into sneezing fits. Maman left me standing alone on the street.
From then on, my sense of smell swelled beyond reason. Mostly ordinary odors, but sometimes I imagine I can smell the stink of a lie. Or the perfume of a pure heart. Or the heartbreaking smell of what could have been.
Maman complains my cursed sense of smell makes me too particular, too demanding, and frankly, too peculiar. Decidedly troublesome traits for a daughter she’s tried to marry off since I was sixteen. But why must the suitors she picks have to smell so bad?
Grand-mère squeezes my shoulder. “It is not your fault you are the way you are, Barbe-Nicole; it’s a gift.” She chirped this over and over this afternoon until Maman threatened to have the doctor drill her skull again.
The lantern casts ghoulish shadows on the chalk walls as my bare toes reach for the next stair and the next. I’ll have hell to pay if we’re caught down here. Part of me came tonight to humor Grand-mère, but part of me craves more time with her. I’ve witnessed her tremors, her shuffling feet, her crazy obsessions, which now seem to focus on my nose.
As we descend, the dank air chills my legs; feathery chalk dust makes my feet slip on the steps. The Romans excavated these chalk quarries a thousand years ago, creating a sprawling web of crayères under our ancient town of Reims. What exactly does Grand-mère have in mind bringing me down here? The lantern throws a halo on grape clusters laying on the rough-hewn table.
Ah, she wants to play her sniffing game.
“How did you set this up?” My toes recoil from cold puddles of spring water.
“I’m not dead yet,” she croaks. Taking off her fringed bed shawl, she ties it like a blindfold over my eyes. “Don’t peek.”
“Wouldn’t dare.” I lift a corner of the shawl, and she raps my fingers like the nuns at St.-Pierre-Les-Dames where Maman sent me to school before the Revolution shut down convents.
“Quit lollygagging and breathe deep.” Grand-mère’s knobby fingertips knead below my cheekbones, opening my nasal passages to the mineral smell of chalk, pristine groundwater, oak barrels, the purple aroma of fermenting wine.
But these profound smells can’t stop me fretting about Maman’s determination to marry me off before the year is out. I told her I’d only marry a suitor that smells like springtime. “Men do not smell like that,” she scolded.
But men do. Or one did, anyway. He was conscribed to war several years ago, so he probably doesn’t smell like springtime anymore. His green-sprout smell ruined me for anyone else.
Grand-mère places a bunch of grapes in my hands and brings it to my nose. “What comes to you?”
“The grapes smell like ripening pears and a hint of Hawthorne berry.”
She chortles and replaces the grapes with another bunch. “What about these?”
Drawing the aroma into the top of my palate, I picture gypsies around a campfire, smoky, deep, and complex. “Grilled toast and coffee.”
Her next handful of grapes are sticky and soft, the aroma so robust and delicious, my tongue longs for a taste. “Smells like chocolate-covered cherries.”
Grand-mère wheezes with a rasp and rattle that scares me.
I yank off the blindfold. “Grand-mère?”
“You’re ready.” She slides me a wooden box carved with vineyards and women carrying baskets of grapes on their heads. “Open it.”
Inside lays a gold tastevin, a wine-tasting cup on a long, heavy neck chain.
“Your great Grand-père, Nicolas Ruinart, used this cup to taste wine with the monks at Hautvillers Abbey. Just by smelling the grapes, he could tell you the slope of the hill on which they grew, the exposure to the sun, the minerals in the soil.” She closes her papery eyelids and inhales. “He’d lift his nose to the west and smell the ocean.” She turns. “He’d smell German bratwurst to the northeast.” Her head swivels. “To the south, the perfume of lavender fields in Provence.” Her snaggletooth protrudes when she smiles. “Your great Grand-père was Le Nez.” The Nose. “He passed down his precious gift to you.”
Here she goes again with her crazy notions. “Maman says Le Nez is a curse.”
Grand-mère clucks her tongue. “Your maman didn’t inherit Le Nez, so she doesn’t understand it. It’s a rare and precious gift, smelling the hidden essence of things. I took it for granted, and now it’s gone.” Her wrinkled hand picks up the gold tastevin and christens my nose.
A prickling clusters in my sinuses like a powerful sneeze that won’t release. I wish there were truth to Grand-mère’s ramblings; it would explain so much about my finicky nature.
“You are Le Nez, Barbe-Nicole.” She lifts the chain over my head, and the cup nestles above my breasts. “You must carry on Grand-père Ruinart’s gift.”
“Why haven’t you told me about this until now?”
“Your maman forbid it.” She wags her finger. “But I’m taking matters into my own hands before I die.”
I feel an etching on the bottom of the cup. “Is this an anchor?”
“Ah, yes, the anchor. The anchor symbolizes clarity and courage during chaos and confusion.”
“Chaos and confusion?” Now I know the story is a delusion. “Aren’t those your cat’s names?”
“I have cats?” She stares vacantly into the beyond, and her eerie, foreboding voice echoes through the chamber. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Holding her bandaged head, Grand-mère keens incoherently. The lantern casts her monstrous shadow on the crayère wall; her tasting game has become a nightmare.
“Let’s get you back to your room.” I try to walk her to the stairs, but her legs give out. Lifting her bird-like body in my arms, I carry her as she carried me as a child, trying not to topple over into the crayère.
“Promise you’ll carry on Le Nez,” she says, exhaling sentir le sapin, the smell of fir coffins.
My dear Grand-mère is dying in my arms. Now I know Le Nez is a curse.
“Promise me.” Her eyelids flutter and close.
“I won’t let you down, Grand-mère,” I whisper. She feels suddenly light in my arms, but the gold tastevin feels heavy, so very heavy, around my neck.


“For anyone who loves champagne, a must-read novel about Veuve Clicquot.” ~ Judithe Little, best-selling author of The Chanel Sisters

“These first known women of Champagne/Sparkling winemaking may not have even realized how strong they were until they had to learn and do it all to survive for themselves and their wineries! Reading Champagne Widows makes it even more of an honor to learn a craft still dominated by men.” ~ Penny Gadd-Coster, ExecutiveDirector of Winemaking, Rack & Riddle

“The sun-drenched vineyards of France, a real-life heroine who against all odds refuses to give up her dreams… and champagne. What’s not to love? And that’s just what Rebecca Rosenberg delivers in Champagne Widows. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot was a woman ahead of her time, a fascinating blend of ingenuity, heart, and sheer tenacity, with a nose for wine and a head for business. A 19th century widow who built an empire as war raged all around her. Note: This richly woven tale is best savored slowly, though with all delicious things, it won’t be easy.” ~ Barbara Davis, best-selling author of The Last of the Moon Girls.

“Champagne Widows is a witty, accomplished novel, featuring a tough and charming heroine of the first order. One can’t help but root for Barbe-Nicole, an astute businesswoman who brilliantly holds her own against none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Although the events unfold two centuries ago, the story feels so modern, the characters could be your friends and neighbors. As easy to love as a glass of Veuve Clicquot, this may be Rebecca Rosenberg’s best book yet.” ~ Michelle Richmond, best-selling author of The Marriage Pact

“Champagne Widows is an inspired story based on the real-life Grande Dame of Champagne, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, who built her famous champagne empire amidst the turbulence of 19th century France. Barbe-Nicole is my kind of heroine: a woman with passion, courage, family loyalty, and a killer business sense. Rebecca Rosenberg’s sensual details make every scene of this intimate novel come alive. A true reading pleasure!” ~ Martha Conway, best-selling author of The Underground River and The Physician’s Daughter

“Award-winning author, Rebecca Rosenberg returns with another Historical Fiction jewel in CHAMPAGNE WIDOWS. Meet the women who succeeded in creating world class champagne in a time men ruled business and society. Lovers of history, romance, and French culture will relish the multi-layered plot and cast of characters including the ultimate French icon, Napoleon Bonaparte.” ~ Johnnie Bernhard, award-winning author of Sisters of the Undertow

“An epic story featuring love, family, and the sustaining power of courage. Champagne Widows takes the reader back in time for an intimate look at the building of the iconic brand Veuve Clicquot. In the aftermath of Napoleon’s rise to power, Barbe-Nicole and her husband Francois share a vision of creating a champagne that will astound the world. Despite war, death, blockades, and failed harvests, Barbe-Nicole ultimately succeeds.” ~ M.K. Tod, author of Paris In Ruins and award-winning blog A Writer of History

“Raise a glass to Veuve Clicquot and all the women from history to the present, who have broken the mold and overcome obstacles to succeed in all-male professions. Just as a champagne bottle pops bringing delectable flavors and delicious aromas, Rebecca Rosenberg delights the senses with her engrossing novel. She treats the reader to a perfect blend of history and story – with lots of champagne! Sit back and savor the tale of Veuve Clicquot. ” ~ Linda Rosen, author of Sisters of the Vine

“Rebecca Rosenberg has penned a spectacular saga about the first “Champagne widow” of France, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. With her gift, known as Le Nez (the nose), Barbe-Nicole can “smell the stink of a lie or the perfume of a pure heart. Or the heartbreaking smell of what could have been.” Along with her expertise, she possesses courage and vision, overcoming incredible odds during the time of the Napoleonic Code, which left widows without property rights—in Barbe-Nicole’s case, her Champagne business. Seamlessly interwoven with historical letters from Napoleon, the book sweeps the reader into the early nineteenth-century world. But it’s her imaginative tale of Veuve Clicquot’s personal life that captured me and wouldn’t let go until the end, leaving me wanting more!” ~ Susan Cushman, author of John and Mary Margaret

“An independent woman of indomitable strength, determined to find her way in a man’s world. Champagne Widows is vintage storytelling.” ~ Jean M. Roberts, author of The Heron

“Rebecca Rosenberg transforms history into literary art. Her prose sparkles, bringing centuries-old characters to life with wit, heart and bon mots. Treat yourself to Champagne Widows, and marvel at Rosenberg’s gift for making every sense sing.” ~ Carol Van Den Hende, award-winning author of Goodbye, Orchid

“Like the best wines, Rosenberg’s Champagne Widows will entice you with its complexity as it balances the story of a widow’s determination to produce the world’s greatest champagne in the face of Napoleon’s path of destruction. If you love France, historical fiction, underdog stories, strong women, or wine, then pop a cork to celebrate this perfect blend of a novel.” ~ Mary Helen Sheriff, author of Boop and Eve’s Road Trip

About the Author

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. Her books include: GOLD DIGGER, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, Lavender Fields of America, and the Champagne Widows series.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Amazon, BookBubFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

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Champagne Widows

#New Review#TheRiverwomansDragon #CandaceRobb #HFVBT

The Riverwoman’s Dragon by Candace Robb

Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Severn House

Series: (Book 13 in the Owen Archer series)
Genre: Historical Mystery

When the wise woman Magda Digby is suspected of murder, Owen Archer sets out to prove her innocence in this intricately plotted medieval mystery.

May, 1375. Owen Archer returns from London to find York in chaos. While the citizens are living in terror of the pestilence which is spreading throughout the land, a new physician has arrived, whipping up fear and suspicion against traditional healers and midwives. With the backing of the new archbishop, he is especially hostile towards Magda Digby, the wise woman who has helped and healed the people of York for many years. At the same time, Magda is uneasy about the arrival of two long-lost kinsfolk. Though they say they are seeking her help, she senses a hidden agenda.

Magda’s troubles deepen when she discovers a body in the river near her home – and finds herself under suspicion of murder. Days later, fire rips through a warehouse in the city. Amongst the charred debris lies the body of a man – not burned, but stabbed in the back. Could there be a connection to the corpse in the river?

Determined to prove Magda’s innocence, Owen sets out to find answers – but the more he uncovers, the deeper the mystery becomes…

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Review by Coffee & Ink

I’ve loved Candace Robb’s books for a long time. That being said, I’m happy to have read another extraordinary novel in this series.

The plague, murder, and the perils of the family are a complicated labyrinth Owen and Magda must navigate if they are to survive, find justice, and thrive in the medieval world of York. Owen, ever troubled, ever burdened by what he sees and cannot see and Magda whose wisdom and healing knowledge surpasses all but cannot cure all. The plaque appears to be settling in at York to munch on its bones. The murder of an honest and faithful man points in too many directions. Family being family, they’re getting in the way until they’re needed. Candace Robb weaves a lot of threads into her stories, there are many characters who each hold a length of the thread that will resolve the murders in York, if the plague doesn’t get them first.

An excellent winter read to sit by the fire and savor.

About the Author

I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.

I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.

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The Riverwoman’s Dragon

#Review#Windswept #AnnabelleMcCormack #HFVBT

Windswept by Annabelle McCormack

Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Paperback & eBook; 438 pages

Series: The Windswept Saga, Book One
Genre: Historical Fiction

A British nurse in WWI Egypt races to deliver explosive intelligence that could change the course of the war in this novel of suspense, adventure, and love.

May, 1917. Ginger Whitman left a life of wealth and privilege in England to train as a battlefield nurse and serve in the Great War. Working on the brutal frontlines in Palestine, she finds a wounded soldier hiding in her camp. The soldier claims to carry intelligence unmasking a secret plot against the British—and that traitors within British intelligence are searching for him. Desperate and dying, the soldier entrusts a coded message to her care.

Ginger is hurled into an unfamiliar world of intrigue and murder amidst the war-ravaged Arabian desert. She’s determined to help her country but trusting the wrong person could cost her life. Then the arrival of mysterious and handsome British intelligence officer Major Noah Benson offers a chance of help. But Noah may be as dangerous as he is charming. As she’s swept away by stolen moments on the desert sands, Ginger realizes her heart may also be at risk.

Hunted by a shadowy enemy spy, Ginger must decide if she can trust Noah. But as she grapples with her decision, Ginger makes a shocking discovery: a sinister secret that threatens to shatter the world she thought she knew.

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During the British Gaza Campaign of World War I, already in trouble for going one step beyond the call of duty, nurse Ginger Whitman can ill afford more reprimands from above. But an act of trust and compassion literally sweeps her into the middle of a spy and espionage network, and she has no idea whom to trust. Even the man she was once affianced to is involved. The path to truth is tangled with lies, and danger awaits at every turn.

Loved it! The sand grit in my teeth, the hot wind in my hair, and the sound of tents flapping. An interesting and absorbing character, immersive description, and edge of your seat suspense. Also, a period of history I know next to nothing about and very well researched.

Highly, highly recommended. 10 stars 😊


“Chock-full of secrets and spies, love and betrayal, danger and adventure, all of which is set against the devastating backdrop of WWI, Windswept by Annabelle McCormack is a sumptuous, fast-paced, and riveting read that’ll have you cheering for the heroine until the very end.” -Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me

“A neophyte nurse becomes an accidental but effective spy in this gripping adventure.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Windswept is a whirlwind of an adventure. From the edge-of-your seat suspense, to the passionate romance…you won’t be able to put this book down!” -Lisa Boyle, author of Signed, A Paddy

“Windswept is a delightful, ripsnorting adventure with a feisty heroine, a breathless pace, and endless adventure, intrigue, and romance. You will smile from cover to cover. This will remind you how enjoyable a good book can be.” –William Bernhardt, bestselling author of the Ben Kincaid series

“Suspenseful, sexy, and moving, Windswept is a great choice for those looking for strong female leads in their historical fiction. Ginger will inspire you; the story will enthrall you, and the passionate romance will win you over.” -Samantha Hui, Independent Book Review

About the Author

Annabelle McCormack writes historical women’s fiction with epic settings, adventure, and romance. Her debut book Windswept, a novel about a British WWI nurse in the Middle East caught in a dangerous web of intrigue and romance, will be published September 2021.

She was born in San Jose, Costa Rica to a Costa Rican mother and American father. She moved to the US at the age of 4, but remains fully bilingual in English and Spanish. She studied at the Johns Hopkins University, where she obtained a Master of Arts in Fiction in 2010. Afterward, she dedicated herself to her photography business, while continuing to work on her
writing as a long-term goal. In 2018, she received the award for Best Novel at the 2018 Red Sneaker’s Writer Conference (now Writer-Con). She lives in Maryland with her husband and five children and writes as a staff blogger for Inkitt Writer’s Blog.

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Enter to win a paperback copy of Windswept by Annabelle McCormack!

The giveaway is open to US addresses only and ends on October 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.