In the sweeping, poignant sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter, the Lemieux family’s ambition to establish an American winemaking dynasty takes Sara and Philippe from pastoral Napa to the Paris World’s Fair and into the colorful heart of early 20th-century San Francisco.
It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle’s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and Prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother.
An invitation to the World’s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard’s prospects, and amid the jewel-colored wonders of Belle Époque Paris, Sara and Philippe’s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe’s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke.
Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco’s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women’s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family’s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman’s right to vote and earn a fair wage?
Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced. Will the shadow of history overwhelm Sara and Philippe’s future, despite their love for each other? In The California Wife, Kristen Harnisch delivers a rich, romantic tale of wine, love, new beginnings, and a family’s determination to fight for what really matters—sure to captivate fans of The Vintner’s Daughter and new readers alike.
November 1897, Vouvray, France
Sara Thibault had never been this sure—or scared—of anything in her life. Marriage to Philippe Lemieux would be like jumping into the rushing current of a river: thrilling to the senses, adventurous and undoubtedly tumultuous.
When she slid her arms around the man she’d just agreed to marry, his brilliant blue eyes warmed with affection, and his lips formed the crooked smile that never failed to soften Sara’s bones. She pressed her cheek to the lapel of his damp wool coat, enjoying the clean smell of the snow that blanketed them on this crisp, gray November morning. Sara was happy—for the first time since she’d fled Saint Martin last year.
Sara recalled the events that had brought them from Eagle’s Run, Philippe’s California vineyard, back to her family’s vineyard here in the heart of the Loire. The tragedy that had forced Sara and her sister, Lydia, to flee France in the first place had taken Sara to California. There, in spite of the tangled history between their two families, Sara and Philippe had formed an unbreakable bond. She shuddered, remembering how close they’d come to being separated forever—all because of one man.
“Are you cold, love?” Philippe asked. “Shall we go inside and share our news?”
“Not quite yet.” Sara looked past him to the watchman’s shed where her mother, her new husband, Jacques, and Sara’s nephew, Luc, waited. Of course she would have to tell them, but what would she say?
“Sara?” Philippe’s lips skimmed hers, and she instantly craved more.
She explained shyly, “I want to spend more time with you—alone.” The ten hectares of bare, dormant vines and rocky soil beckoned to her, just as they had during the winters of her youth. How could she make him understand? “I want to show you Saint Martin.”
His expression relaxed. “And I’d love to see it through your eyes.”
Sara’s face brightened and she linked an arm through his, tucking her hands into her warm woolen muff. Touring Philippe around Saint Martin was a sensible idea. It would keep her mind off the beautiful planes of his face, his tall, vigorous physique and the simmering need she repressed every time he called her name.
They strolled for nearly an hour. She guided him around the perimeter of the farm, past the watchman’s shed to the stables, which held two horses and a wagon. Sara paused at the spot with the clearest view of the Loire’s surging waters. Philippe was quiet and contemplative when she pointed out the three hectares, now vacant of vines, that had been ruined by the phylloxera louse two years ago. “When will we replant with American rootstock?” she ventured.
Philippe shook his head. “Not quite yet.” What did he mean? Sara grew self-conscious, suddenly aware of how small Saint Martin was in comparison to Philippe’s California vineyard. Ten hectares—nearly twenty-five acres of chenin blanc grapes—was no match for the two hundred acres of cabernet, zinfandel and chardonnay grapes at Eagle’s Run. Eagle’s Run was one of the largest vineyards in Napa, and Philippe was one of the county’s most respected vignerons—how could she compete? Nevertheless, this small patch of vines in Vouvray had shaped Sara’s soul from birth. She’d spent years of her life kneeling on Saint Martin’s rocky soil, plucking the thin-skinned chenin blanc grapes from their stems and tasting their juicy flesh. She and Lydia had chased chickens through the vine rows, their girlish laughter playing on the summer breeze. As a young girl, she’d carved her name into the winery’s enormous fermenting barrels, staking her secret claim upon her father’s legacy. Philippe would never fully understand Sara until he acquainted himself with every meter of Saint Martin—and Sara would never be satisfied until they restored Saint Martin to its former vitality.
She’d gone weak with relief when he’d appeared earlier today, but she couldn’t allow herself to blithely, blindly follow him back to America, away from her own aspirations. She would bide her time, but Sara was determined to have her way.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen Harnisch drew upon her extensive research and her experiences living in San Francisco and visiting the Loire Valley and Paris to create the stories for THE CALIFORNIA WIFE and her first novel, THE VINTNER’S DAUGHTER. Ms. Harnisch has a degree in economics from Villanova University and currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and three children. Visit her online at the following places: