Champagne Widows: First Woman of Champagne, Veuve Clicquot
Publication Date: September 1, 2021 by Lion Heart Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Champagne, France, 1800. Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole 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 see Le Nez as a curse that must be hidden and try to marry her off to an unsuspecting suitor. But Barbe-Nicole is haunted by her Grand-mere’s dying wish for her to use Le Nez to make great champagne. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, Francois Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries Francois despite his mental illness.
Barbe-Nicole Clicquot must now cope with Francois’ suicide, the difficulties of starting a winery, and the Napoleon Codes preventing women from owning a business. All this while Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, wages six wars against the European monarchs, crippling her ability to sell her champagne. Using Le Nez, she beats the impossible hardships of Napoleon’s wars, often challenging Napoleon himself. When Veuve Clicquot 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 defies Napoleon, risking imprisonment and even death.
My thoughts: Rebecca Rosenberg has a remarkable talent for finding seemingly insignificant historical women who deserve to be written about. Rosenberg has written wonderful books about Charmian London, author Jack London’s wife, and Elizabeth McCourt Tabor (aka Baby Doe), wife of silver prospector and US Senator Horace Tabor. In this latest work readers are introduced to Barbe-Nicole Clicquot.
Barbe-Nicole inherited a superior sense of smell. While her mother insisted it was a curse to be ignored, Barbe-Nicole was a fiercely determined young woman who wanted more than just the life of being a wife and mother. With the legacy of her renowned champagne maker great-grandfather as her compass, she embarked on a life long journey to defy the male dominated world to make the best champagne.
Rosenberg delivers this story of love and determination intertwined with historical content. Barbe-Nicole was not attempting to make champagne in a bubble but in the midst of deadly diseases, wars, and financial ruin. Napoleon cast a shadow on every decision that Barbe-Nicole had to make. Barbe-Nicole was a highly intelligent, shrewd business woman who knew that she had to circumvent the obstacles Napoleon thrust in her path if she wished to be successful. Rosenberg cleverly wrote chapters specifically dedicated to Napoleon which not only give content regarding the destruction he caused throughout Europe, but also identified the demons he himself struggled with.
This book is a tribute to all the women who became widows due to the ravages of war, disease, and despair. It is a salute to the sacrifices that women had to endure simply to survive. Rosenberg gives us a story that encompasses all of that and more. Let’s all have a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne to celebrate!! 🍾🥂