Well-Wived | Fiction, July 2019

The latest from Australian author Brooks is an excellent option for reading groups that enjoy multigenerational tales and historical fiction; Harmel’s touching story of love and loss in World War II France will appeal to fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Quinn

Brooks, Karen. The Chocolate Maker’s Wife. Morrow. Aug. 2019. 608p. ISBN 9780062686596. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062686602. F
Born in 17th-century England to a nobleman father and a mother who is not married to him, Rosamund Tomkins grows up with her father and grandmother until their deaths. Her mother, Tilly, returns to take her to Gravesend, where she suffers abuse by her stepfather. When trying to escape the torments of her stepbrothers, she is struck by a carriage belonging to Sir Everard Blithman, who is fascinated and brings her back to his home in London after he and Rosamund marry in Gravesend at Tilly’s insistence. Her new husband is opening a chocolate house, a new and profitable innovation sparked by the burgeoning cocoa trade, and wants Rosamund, now Lady Blithman, to learn about the business. All is not well, however, as Sir Everard is bent on avenging the death of daughter Helene and her child. He blames his son-in-law, Matthew Lovelace, for their deaths.
VERDICT The latest from Australian author Brooks (The Locksmith’s Daughter) is an excellent option for reading groups that enjoy multigenerational tales and historical fiction. If the language of Restoration England is less than familiar, having a good dictionary nearby is recommended; your late middle English vocabulary will be sumptuously rewarded.—Vicki Gregory, Sch. of Information, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa

Harmel, Kristin. The Winemaker’s Wife. Gallery: S. & S. Aug. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9781982112295. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781982112318. F
Alternating between the vineyards of war-torn 1940s France and the present, this new release from Harmel (The Room on Rue Amélie) follows Inès and Michel, newlywed owners of the famed champagne house Maison Chauveau, and the head winemaker’s Jewish wife, Céline Laurent. As Germans pillage homes and send Jews to prison camps, Céline draws nearer to Michel for protection, pushing Inès into the arms of another and setting off a chain of dangerous betrayal. The wine cellars beneath Chauveau conceal not only champagne from the Germans but also Resistance weapons, Jewish refugees, and forbidden love affairs. In the present, Liv, 41, unemployed and newly divorced, departs for Paris with her 99-year-old grandmother Edith. 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 wine 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.—Laura Jones, Argos Community Schs., IN

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