Cover image for Vineyards of champagne
Vineyards of champagne

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R.H. Stafford Library (Woodbury)1On Order
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Park Grove Library (Cottage Grove)1On Order



Deep within the labyrinth of caves that lie below the vineyards of Champagne, an underground city of women and children hums with life. Forced to take shelter from the onslaught of German shellfire above, the bravest among them venture out to pluck grapes for the harvest. But wine is not the only secret preserved in cellars In present day, Rosalyn travels to Champagne to select vintages for her employer. Rosalyn doesn't much care for champagne - or France, for that matter. Since the untimely death of her husband, Rosalyn finds it a challenge to enjoy anything at all. But as she reads through a cache of WWI letters and retraces the lives lived in the tunnels, Rosalyn will unravel a mystery hidden for decades and find a way to savour her own life again.

Author Notes

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Key and Letters from Paris. She also writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover's Mystery series. A former anthropologist, artist, and social worker, Juliet is a California native who has spent time in Mexico, Cuba, Italy, Spain, the Philippines, and France.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Blackwell (Letters from Paris) moves effortlessly between present-day France and the battlefields of WWI in this rich novel. In present-day Napa, Calif., Rosalyn Acosta is working for Small Fortune Wines and is dispatched to the Champagne region of France to represent the vineyard at a festival. Still suffering following the loss of her husband over two years before, Rosalyn is hesitant to travel but reluctantly agrees. On the flight, she meets Emma Kinsley, a wealthy Australian woman who has invested in some vineyards near Emma's destination. During the flight, Rosalyn helps Emma organize letters that were written by WWI soldier Emile Legrand to Emma's great-aunt Doris. Emma hopes to find the letters her aunt wrote to Emile in Reims, as his letters mentioned that he stored Doris's letters there. Emile's letters reveal the destruction of WWI and how the civilians retreated to live in the caves where the champagne was stored. As Rosalyn seeks to make connections with local vineyard owners and helps Emma search for the missing letters, she begins to heal from the loss of her husband. Blackwell balances the two story lines well, and makes both Rosalyn and Emma memorable. The allure of the decades-old mystery of missing letters juxtaposed against the history of the caves of Champagne makes for a satisfying page-turner. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel and Goderich Literary Management (Jan.)

Booklist Review

Rosalyn Acosta knows many would be envious of her current work trip to France. But France is the last place Rosalyn wants to be. Still overcome with grief over the death of her husband two years ago, Rosalyn isn't ready to face the place where their happiest memories were made. On the flight over, Rosalyn is seated next to Emma Kinsley, who is as effervescent as the champagne she invests in. Emma introduces Rosalyn to family correspondence between her ancestor and a French WWI soldier; Rosalyn is immediately intrigued by these relics from the past. Meeting again in Champagne, Emma entices Rosalyn to translate the letters, unfolding a story of tragedy and human survival during harrowing times. Through the letters, and her time spent in Champagne, Rosalyn slowly begins to feel the desire to live again. Blackwell's exquisite talent at interweaving the past with the present is on full display in her latest (after The Lost Carousel of Provence, 2018), telling the universal story of grief, loss, and human resilience. Perfect with a flute of the bubbly.--LynnDee Wathen Copyright 2019 Booklist



Chapter One Rosalyn Napa, California Present day There's one major problem with your little plan," said Rosalyn, patting the dossier Hugh had dropped on the desk in front of her. According to the itinerary, she was booked on an AirFrance flight to Paris departing from San Francisco the day after Christmas. She was to stay a couple of nights in Paris, then pick up a rental car that had been reserved in her name and head for Champagne, less than a two-hour drive northeast. "What problem? I booked it myself." Hugh nodded and gave her an exaggerated wink. "First class-that's the ticket. Get it? The ticket?" "But I don't like France. Or the French. Or champagne, for that matter." "Are you saying you dislike la Champagne, as in the region of France," asked Hugh, "or le champagne, the bubbly nectar that is celebrated the world over?" "Both, as you very well know. Not a fan." Hugh's only reaction to her ill humor was a broad smile. Rosalyn's boss was a bear of a man who dwarfed the cramped winery/import office located in the lovingly renovated garage of his sprawling Napa Valley vineyard home. Standing several inches taller than six feet, the ironically named Hugh Small had the well-padded physique of a man who entertained frequently and enjoyed his own excellent cooking - and wine - a tad too much. His graying brown hair was wild and scruffy, and his clothes so sloppy that, if he hadn't been so well-known in the valley, the locals might have assumed he was one of the wanderers who camped among the vines, cruising the highways of Napa and Sonoma for dregs in bottles left on picnic tables by well-to-do tourists on wine-tasting jaunts. Ten years earlier, Hugh had fulfilled a lifelong fantasy by purchasing a vineyard in Napa. He quickly realized just how hard it was to get established in the wine-producing business, and branched out into importing and selling select vintages from France and Spain through his company, Small Fortune Wines. Hugh's favorite joke: "How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? Start out with a large fortune." Today Hugh's light blue pullover sweater sported a moth-eaten hole over his heart. Rosalyn stared at it, pondering its significance. Hugh had more than enough heart for the both of them. "Honestly, Hugh," Rosalyn persisted, trying to keep a lid on the vague panic simmering somewhere deep within her, "I know most people would jump at the chance to go to Champagne, all expenses paid, but I really don't enjoy traveling. You're sure you need me to do this?" He nodded. "Andy's still at the hospital with his wife and their preemie; he couldn't possibly leave now." "Couldn't you go? I could stay here and run the office." "I need a wine rep in France," he said. "And you're a wine rep." "Just barely." "And you speak French." "Just barely." "And you've got a palate. Better than mine. Besides," said Hugh as he sorted through a stack of mail, tossing several envelopes into the recycling bin, "it's downright embarrassing that you've never been to France. What self-respecting wine rep has never been to France?" "I have been to France." "Once. And if I'm not mistaken you went to Paris, which is no more representative of France than New York City is of the United States. And admit it: You enjoyed your time there." Snowflakes glittering on their scarves as they stood under the lamppost at the corner of Rue des Abbesses and Rue Lepic. Tipsy on wine and after-dinner cognac. Giggling as they watched a man slip silently down the snow-covered cobblestone streets of Montmartre, their breath coming out in wispy clouds, mingling in the frigid air. "It's our laughter," says Rosalyn, lifting her mittened hand as if to capture the mist. "Come back!" Dash grabs her hand, warming it with both of his, kissing it. "Plenty more where that came from, Rosie. A lifetime of laughter for my beautiful bride. I promise." Dash had lied. "Of course I enjoyed it," Rosalyn said when she realized Hugh was still watching her, awaiting an answer. "It was my honeymoon. That was different." "Dash went to France many times," Hugh pointed out. "He loved it there." Rosalyn felt the usual sharp stab in her gut at the sound of her husband's name. Still, she appreciated that Hugh never hesitated to speak it aloud. It muted the pain, ever so slightly, each time someone talked about Dash as though things were normal; as if invoking his spirit, inviting his presence into this world. Most people tried to avoid any reference to him, or acted chagrined, as though they'd done something awkward and embarrassing by bringing him up. "I like it right here," insisted Rosalyn, gazing out the window at the twisty grapevines that marched along the rolling hills, their undulating lines interrupted only by an occasional oak tree. The sight of the parallel rows was soothing, as if a Zen master had pulled a giant rake through sand. "I defy anyone to come up with a more beautiful place than Napa." "There's nothing wrong with seeking a refuge for a while, Rosalyn," said Hugh, his voice dropping, its gentle sincerity grating on her nerves. "But it isn't a life plan. If you decide to settle in Napa, it should be just that: a decision. Not an attempt to hide from life." Rosalyn's eyes stung; nausea surged at the base of her throat. One hand fiddled with the silver locket that hung around her neck while the other reached for the travel dossier as she pretended to study the itinerary, hoping to distract herself, to stem the tears, to quell the incipient panic. Breathe, she reminded herself. Ten slow, deep breaths . . . "As you can see," said Hugh, his voice regaining its cheery tone as he pointed to a few items highlighted in bold script on the agenda, "you'll be representing Small Fortune Wines in Champagne for the festival of Saint Vincent, patron saint of vintners, which is held on the twenty-second of January. Until then, you'll meet with vintners, make nice, tour the caves-" "Like I need to see any more wine caves in my life." "You do need to see more wine caves in your life, Rosalyn," Hugh insisted. "The champagne caves are unlike any you've seen before; there are two hundred kilometers worth of crayères under Reims alone. An entire city, underground. Do you know the French moved whole schools and businesses down into the caves during the First World War?" "Fascinating," Rosalyn said. "But is that why you want me to go? To attend a wine festival and tour some caves? That doesn't sound terribly cost-effective to me." "No, no, no, you're also going to sign some new, smaller producers. It's the foundation of my vision." "Your . . . what, now?" Hugh returned her smile. "My vision to get people to stop thinking of champagne as a luxury, get them to drink a glass with appetizers as they do in France. Americans equate champagne with the big, expensive houses, Mumm and Taittinger. I want you to find and sign a few of the small champagne houses, the ones that don't charge a fortune for their wine. Step one is reconfirming our commitment with Gaspard Blé - you'll be staying at his vineyard. I've known Blé for years, but I heard through the grapevine - get it? - that Bottle Rocket's sending someone to the festival. I wouldn't want to lose Blé to the competition." Bottle Rocket was the Big Bad Wolf, Hugh's biggest competitor for the products of family-run French wineries. Rosalyn nodded. Of course she would go to represent Small Fortune Wines in Champagne. She couldn't refuse Hugh anything; she owed him too much. Besides . . . maybe he was onto something. Maybe a change of pace was what she needed to pull out of the tailspin. Nothing else seemed to be working. "So, how's Andy doing? And his wife?" Rosalyn belatedly thought to ask. "Is the baby out of the NICU yet?" "Baby and mamma are doing just fine," said Hugh. "I brought them a gift basket yesterday, signed the card from all of us." "That was nice of you." Rosalyn cringed inwardly. She used to be the one who bought the gifts, sent the cards, visited friends in the hospital. The Rosalyn-That-Was thought of other people, organized impromptu parties, never forgot a friend's birthday. Another unexpected indignity of grief: It had rendered her self-absorbed. "It was no problem - any excuse to buy baby things," said Hugh. "Those little outfits are so tiny; hard to believe a human can come in a package that small, isn't it? Did you know they arrive in this world complete with teensy fingernails?" Rosalyn smiled at the note of wonder in his voice. "I've heard that." "Anyway, Andy's not happy that he's missing out on this trip - that's for sure." "I'll bet. I'll give him a call and check in before I leave." Hugh tilted his head and fixed Rosalyn with a look. "Make the most of this, Rosie. Seriously. Sometimes a trip can shake off the cobwebs, open your eyes to new possibilities." "I just got back from Paso Robles, remember?" "Paso has its charm, but it's not exactly the French countryside." "And yet Paso Robles has 7-Elevens, which, contrary to their name, are open twenty-four hours. That's a true gift to humankind, if you ask me." "Champagne's the ticket, Rosie. Dash loved it there; I have a feeling you will, too." Excerpted from The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.