Cover Image: Champagne Widows

Champagne Widows

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Member Reviews

This historical fiction novel takes place in Champagne, France, in the early 1800s. Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker, and she wants to use her gift to make the best champagne the world has tasted.

I don't know why it took me so long to get to this book other than I keep downloading books I don't have time to read but in the end I really enjoyed it. It was very well written with interesting characters, some history and quite a bit of humour. I was impressed with the description of Barbe-Nicole's mother's hats and her flamboyant brother and I found myself wishing there were pictures. Each chapter was titled in French and English and the titles were so charming, like "He has a spider in the head" and "You are breaking my ears". Interspersed with the story of Clicquot champagne were bulletins updating Napoleon's military campaigns but they were brief which suited me fine. I came across many new words and many historical facts I was unaware of, especially The Great Comet of 1811. I highly recommend this book.

Despite the fact that this book was published in March 2022 and I'm very late reading and reviewing it, I hear it's free on Amazon Prime as well as Kindle Unlimited right now and there's also a Goodreads giveaway in the USA for the Kindle version so perhaps my timing isn't off after all! My thanks to Lion Heart Publishing via Netgalley for a copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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I am fairly new to the historical fiction genre, but this was a fantastic read! I really enjoyed following the main character and I enjoyed her as a female lead. The author really captured what it would be like to live during these times. Just wonderful!
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This book was very interesting.  I really liked the characters, plot and setting.  I did find it sometimes hard to keep up with the plot.  Some things in the book felt unnecessary.
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This book transported me straight back to France in the 1800s.I could imagine what it would be like walking through the vineyards under the sun.
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I’m not a big historical fiction person, but I’m glad I gave this one a try. I liked having a feisty protagonist who was determined to succeed despite all of the challenges she was up against. A great book!
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Very well written...Loved it..A book i would recommend to all women to read. Veuve Cliquot is indeed a person to take inspiration from. 

Rebecca has also taken into account all the details of that era like the details of the war. The hardships, sadness, poverty associated with war, especially at present times it's just a reminder of what could be in store in the coming days. 

Learning history through such novels is just enjoyable. A subject which is otherwise very dry (to me at least). 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC to such a great book. I also get to read varied genre of books, thanks to NetGalley.
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LOVED IT! LOVED IT! LOVED IT! Exactly the book I would recommend people to get out of the slump. I would read it 4.5 stars! Made me love historical fiction even more. Barbe-Nicole's character was amazing and I couldn't get enough.
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In 1800, in Champagne, France, twenty-year-old Barbe -Niclole inherited Le Nez from her great grandfather, a renowned champagne maker.  Her parents think that Le Nez is a curse and want to try to marry her off to unsuspecting suitor. Barbe-Nicole is obsessed with fulfilling her grandfather's dying wish. When she learns that her childhood sweetheart Francois Clicquot wants to start a winery, she marries him despite his mental illness. 
After he commits suicide, she must deal with the difficulties of starting a winery and dealing with the Napoleonic Codes preventing a woman from owning a business. She is a brave woman and deals with many hardships. I recommend this book.
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Champagne Widows is the first book I've read by Rebecca Rosenberg, and she didn't disappoint! I enjoy books written in the genre of WWII, and this one is set in France, in the famous winery country.
In the early 1800s, in Champagne France, Barbe-Nicole yearns to use her inherited gift of Le Nez (The Nose) to make extraordinary champagne. Napoleon Bonaparte had forbidden women to own a business or property, so she marries her childhood sweetheart in order to make champagne.   While Napoleon waged war for 13 years to try to control Europe, the couple struggle to produce the finest champagne in the country.  Eventually her husband dies, and she manages somehow to hold on to the winery.  

Rosenberg provides fascinating details about winemaking and everything that goes into it: the soil, climate, barrels, glass bottles, and the various blends of grapes. All these things and more affect the smell and flavor of the wine. I could envision the grapevines, and the sweet aroma of the wines. 

A very intriguing story that will keep you spellbound with each chapter. First as young Barbe-Nicole defies the culture to own her own business, and then as she works with her husband to defy Napoleon & keep their winery safe.  Then, as a widow, her strong business acumen and love for her winery is inspirational.
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I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Rosenberg about her novel "Champagne Widows" for the Storytime in Paris podcast. Here is what I said:

My guest this week is lavender farmer, self-professed Champagne geek, and award-winning author Rebecca Rosenberg. Rebecca is known for writing historical fiction about strong women, and her latest book “Champagne Widows” is the story of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, better known as Veuve Clicquot, the remarkable woman behind the world-renowned Champagne house, who defied Napoleon and built a Champagne empire. 

“Champagne Widows” infuses history with sarcasm, humor, loads of personality, a hint of the supernatural, and more than a touch of humanity. It was named Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society, and won Breathless Book of the Year, among others. In our interview, Rebecca discusses what it’s like to research and write about true life personalities, how to infuse realism and the supernatural, and how one nose changed Champagne forever. Then, she treats us to a reading from “Champagne Widows.”
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This book was a great opportunity for me to discover the life of Barbe-Nicole Cliquot-Ponsardin. She was gifted with the talent of being a "Nez" and creating innovative champagne both with the new developing knowledge and technology as well as by assembly of different wines. But much more than that, she was one of the first successful business women of her times. Being a widow gave her the right to do business by herself and she was excellent at it, producing good wine, employing travellers and developing the company through the Napoleonic troubled times. She developed a successful market in Russia and also marketed champagne as the drink of festivities and aristocracy. The book tells her story as a novel, alternating it with the historical backdrop of the times. As a French reader, I thought it was a pity that the author included all these French quotes and words which contained quite a few errors. The idea was very good because it would have contributed well to the atmosphere of the book, but a French revision is definitely needed. Thank you to the author for bringing to life the story of this amazing lady. I enjoyed the story and it made me read more about her.
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Champagne Widows is such a lovely and entertaining story that takes the reader through a voyage to the past. Rebecca Rosenberg mixes history facts with fiction and delights readers with information on how wine and champagne are made and how an important brand became worldly renowned. For the lovers of champagne, this book is a must-read!
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If you're looking for a book to toast the weekend - cheers! This one might be for you! Steeped in history from the Napoleonic period, author, Rebecca Rosenberg, shares the dramatized history behind everyone's favourite brand of champagne - Veuve Clicquot! We follow the real Veuve Clicquot as she takes on the wine world with her superior "nez" - nose for wine! Veuve Clicquot was a woman completely ahead of her time, so what better time to celebrate a real trailblazer than during Women's History Month. 

I enjoyed this read, the history, the pacing, the only aspect of the story I didn't like was the element of the grotesque which felt a little out of place in this setting.

This beauty was published on March 1 and is available now for your reading pleasure. 

Thank you to Net Galley, Lion Heart Publishing and the author for the opportunity to read this e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Whenever we look back into the olden days before the ideological revolutions that have shaped the modern thinking we subscribe to today, we often see history through the male lens, and the early 19th century is no exception. Particularly well known during that time is Napoleon Bonaparte's relentless expansion through the continents, continuously flexing his skills as a top-notch general and basking in its glory. It might come as a surprise that during that time, a woman by the name of Veuve (Widow) Clicquot, called Barbe-Nicole before her husband's tragic death, well known for her exceptional olfactory capabilities, which have earned her the nickname "Le Nez", which means "The Nose" in French, has made her own conquests in a totally different realm, the glorious realm of champagne.

This work of fiction delves into Veuve Clicquot's beginnings, as a star-eyed romantic girl relentlessly clinging to the love of her life and defying her parent's wishes to marry him, and takes the reader on a journey which sees this girl lose her husband, and be forced to navigate the harsh waters of commerce on her own as a woman during that time. She even goes head-to-head with Napoleon himself, defying him and his methods, particularly a law under his code that severely limits her capabilities of running her own business.

Despite the interesting premise, I unfortunately failed to enjoy this book. The writing felt too overdone, seemingly trying to immerse the reader into that time period, making the whole experience more realistic. However, it ended up feeling a bit too inaccessible when it comes to getting me to relate to the story in any way or grow to care for the characters. Reading this book felt like watching a play that feels too artificial, focusing more on dramatic effect as opposed to an in-depth exploration of characters that make them actually come alive. The plot progression felt uneven, and I was torn between feeling frustrated with boredom and feeling taken aback because a substantial period of time is covered without actually getting the reader to experience that in a visceral way. I found the scenes with Napoleon to be quite awkward and artificial, which turned a seemingly "great" historical figure into a mediocre character who was not that interesting to read about, for the sake of bolstering Veuve Clicquot's position in comparison, reducing Napoleon to a one-dimensional and almost comedic caricature of cliches, which somewhat felt like a disservice to the reader. His scenes with Veuve Clicquot were too unrealistic and even underwhelming. I would have preferred if Napoleon did not appear in this work at all, and was just referred to as a background force pushing certain aspects of the plot forward.

Despite these issues, if you are interested in the story of Veuve Clicquot, this might make for an entertaining read. The actual story of Clicquot is quite interesting, since she revolutionized the champagne business, and with her selling her champagne to Napoleon's soldiers, she indirectly triggered the creation of the very popular ceremonial custom of sabrage, because the soldiers had no way of opening champagne bottles other than using their military sabers. The risk she took in sending her champagne to Russia and inserting her product into the market despite war-imposed blockades is also a feat worthy of mentioning.

I also found the French quotes at the beginning of each chapter to be a bit pretentious, further adding to the artificiality of this reading experience.

This book was personally not for me and didn't leave me with any memorable impact, and I have forgotten most details since reading the book last month because it all felt like several pages of the same dramatized writing style and lack of character depth and plot that didn't make this a memorable reading experience.

My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Lion Heart Publishing for an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

"La vengeance est un plant que se mange froid."
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Barbe Nicole was a young girl in the 1800s living in the Champagne area of France. Her mother was intent on her making a
brilliant marriage but Barbe's sights were elsewhere with the boy whom she had grown up with her whole life. It was a 
turbulent time in France - Napoleon and all the new laws coming into effect and one had to be very careful whom one spoke to, associated with as a careless word in the wrong ears meant that all you've built up could be reduced to nothing.

Barbe was unusual in one sense. She had inherited her grandmother's infamous nose and could smell anything from not just substances but from people and events. It was both a blessing and a curse. 

Barbe sadly becomes a young widow and despite the traditions of the time, takes on the vineyard with the idea of producing the best Champagne she could. She is supported by a group of like minded women in the same circumstances as her and with huge odds against her she pushes herself and her vineyard to do better and better. The wars which Napoleon entered into should have destroyed the luxury market, but strangely the demand for high quality champagne was still there and this is what she hedged her bets on. 

This was an interesting read, once again highlighting women's position in society which was generally not working well for
the women. It worked very well for the men though. This was one women who turned tradition on its head, and worked for the betterment of her own life. It was a hard existence but it worked for her.

I was rooting for Barbe throughout the story. A good bit of history in the form of Napoleon and his wars are part of the story 
as well.
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3.5 stars

This story was about a very interesting woman in history, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, who ended up developing one of the finest champagnes to come out during the Napoleonic wars, against all odds. The story was told in first-person from Barbe-Nicole's point of view and it took me some time to get used to it. It's probably not my favorite way to read a story, so I definitely had to make adjustments. Still, I found the story to be pretty interesting, especially because I'm not that familiar with what was happening in France during the wars. Barbe-Nicole was a woman who was blessed (or cursed) by Le Nez, which was a powerful sense of smell that would, among other things, allow her to distinguish one batch of wine from another with regard to the grapes used, the growing and harvesting conditions of the grapes, the presence of mold, etc. While her grandmother viewed it as a gift, most people around her called it a curse and a foolish story.  But this book tells us the story of how she eventually used Le Nez and her independent spirit to not only survive but thrive (eventually) as the sole owner of her winery, despite the war, despite the fact that she became a widow at an early age, and despite the laws that stated she would lose the winery if she remarried. This story also included the story of the Red Man, who was a (supernatural) advisor to Napoleon, and that's where I wasn't quite sure if this was supposed to be fiction or nonfiction. I have never heard of this Red Man, so I looked him up, and from what I can tell, there are (mythical?) stories written about him that suggest Napoleon was seeing actual visions or he was just crazy. 

Overall, I found the story to be compelling, but I wasn't thrilled by the writing style. Still, I enjoyed the book and learned a lot about a very interesting woman, with extra bits about Napoleon that I didn't know before. If you enjoy historical fiction or nonfiction written like fiction, give this book a try. I definitely found it worth reading!

I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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Champagne Widows is a book about a real life person, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, aka Grand Dame of Champagne. It’s a story about how she became Clicquot, how she became the owner of a wine business, how Napoleon's wars and codes influenced her life and business. It’s a book about an influential and strong woman, whose legacy is still strong today.

It reminds me of Rosalind Laker’s books. But this book does not have the soul and the passion that Laker’s books have. Things happen, people die, plans change, hopes shatter, but our heroine just  acknowledges things and keeps on moving, no emotions. There is missing this special something the reader would need to respond to the happenings, to cry, to celebrate, to admire the comet in the night sky or to watch staggeringly how Napoleon is killing the “champagne snake”, along with the protagonist. True, it is a fantasy about Barbe-Nicole’s life, but for me it is just an account of her life and not a historical romantic fiction.

It’s interesting, but not enrapturing.
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I have aways prided myself on my great sense of smell.  Fast forward to September of 2021 and my husband tests positive for Covid - even though we are vaccinated!  Damn you, Delta!  Anyway, as we were traveling in Michigan I had to spend 20 hours in a car with him and I soon began showing symptoms.  But it wasn't until a couple days into it when it dawned on me - CAN I STILL SMELL THINGS?  I tested my nose on my minty shampoo in the shower and could barely get a whiff!  I was horrified - what if I could never smell again?  I also lost my taste but losing the sense of smell was debilitating.  Who would know if there was an unflushed toilet 3 floors above me??  


In Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg, I learned that I have Le Nez - an uncanny sense of smell which the main character Barbe-Nicole also has.  She has a desire to create great champagne and with her great nose it should be easy!  But this is 1800's France and under Napoleon's rule woman are not able to own a business.  So being the resourceful woman she is - she marries her childhood friend, Francois Clicquot, so that they can open a winery.  Luckily (?) he dies and she becomes a widow.  A widow is France is called Veuve - so she becomes the widow Clicquot or Veuve Clicquot.  Get where this is going???

So this is the historical story of Veuve Clicquot.  Of a strong minded woman who knows what she wants and deserves. It also has world wide pandemics, nasty women, wine, family and interesting characters of all sorts,

And what about me you ask? (I know you didn't ask...) My sense of smell returned in about 2 weeks  - just as powerful as ever!  Now I just need to start making wine.
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I found the Kindle Edition for free on Amazon via Freebooksy, then I was given a copy of the paperback from NetGalley; this is my honest review
-I bought the book because I thought it was a biography - it's not; it's more like a romanced fiction. I was attracted to the book because of Le Nez. I too can smell disease (my own pneumonias) or the coming rain; don't touch my nose or I'll start sneezing.
-If this author plans to write a book in English, she should stick to it, especially since she doesn't know French, doesn't understand the quotes she puts in, doesn't know how to use accents, and has the words wrongly written most of the time (ex. Monsuier/Monsieur, pressior/pressoir). Since I had a published and unpublished work, I went from one to the other and on the more offensive ones (like "Ne mets pas toustes oeufs dens le Mémé panier.", checked both. Alas, the published work was not edited at all (ex. in English "As I explained, your-Nicole and it’ dras in a drama land is yours in name only").
-The description of the book brings to some confusion: 1. Barbe-Nicole never had to choose between Napoleon and Louis Bohne; she chose too late and lost him to another. He didn't waste time getting her pregnant either - good for him. 2. She did not marry François despite his mental illness - she didn't know about it until he had passed away. 3. François didn't want to start a winery per se, he wanted to prove his worth to his father, Barbe-Nicole wanted her own winery; thus the wedding.
-I was trying not to cry when the author wrote "“Je donne ma langue au chat.” I give my tongue to the cat." when François is desperate and kneels on the grass. He's not saying "I give up, I don't know what you mean"; he's saying "I give up, I can't go on". Totally different perspectives. Not to cry because F is so desperate and not to cry because the author got it so wrong; I gave up, just like F.
-Instead of translating with Google, the author should have done a better job and say the real meaning. Ex. "“Occupe-toi de tes oignons,” ... Take care of your own onions." Anglophones say "mind your own business". Same with "cheval donné on ne regarde pas les dents. When given a horse, don’t look at their teeth.". In English the correct expression is "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".
-The Napoleon Code grants a widow her mourning dress. Very generous of him.
-What are these? "Maman’s pointed fingernail scratches a star on her cheek." "Maman presses a star on her chin.". Several times, the mother was touching parts of her skin that had stars.
-I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the mother Clementine took her mother's jewelry that were given to BN and kept them without BN knowing about them. OMG.
-I'm still puzzled as to why Philippe and Barbe-Nicole went in business with Fourneaux since whatever people claimed was his rules or ideas were all wrong for the business and/or the wine/champagne. He also got Barbe-Nicole to lose the contract with Les Tuileries.
-There's a missing part between when Fourneaux and Barbe-Nicole fight and she says she'll go solo after the contract is finished and then a few paragraphs later, she's missing $ to replace what F took with him - apparently he's gone and we're not sure how/when it happened.
-At some point, we read "Louis and the other travelers work ..." - Except for Louis, the travelers were given their pink slip a long time ago.
-No one should blame Barbe-Nicole for the death of her mother. She was obsessed with green and the dye used arsenic. Even if she knew that fact, she would not have stopped using the color because she was that vain. Only Jean-Baptiste/Bastist - author writes it both ways - believed their mother would not have listened to reason.
-We learn how to make a uniform at 90%, which was quite interesting.
-Still no idea who "the excellent Eugene" is.
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Easily one of my favorite books in the last couple years or so of reading. Barbe-Nicole is a woman with vision and determination during the wars with Napoleon. She has the vision because she has Le Nez—an acute sense of smell so strong she can smell people’s feelings. She puts this talent to good use when she inherits her grandmother’s vineyards, though she must marry to keep them. Le Nez knows what the right man for her smells like as she waits for him to come home from the war.
Not only is this a story about a strong-willed woman, but an epic story about family and dynasty, suffering and starvation, sacrifice and loss. How does one woman dare to sell French champagne outside the borders of France, where everyone hates everything French because of Napoleon?  Barbe-Nicole has the determination to see her through spectacular defeats and a dark brush with power. With the men conscripted or compromised by the war, she relies on the widows and women workers from the vineyard for friendship and knowledge.
This is a spectacular story, sparkling, based on the true story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. Well-written, well researched, and interpreted, I highly recommend this great historical read.
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