2016 Book #49 – The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch

51WyJn1TKoL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The California Wife
Author: Kristen Harnisch
Date finished: 5/19/16
Genre: Hisorical fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Pages in book: 416
Stand alone or series: Sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

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.

My rating: 4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read The Vintner’s Daughter last year, which was Harnisch’s debut novel, and just loved it. Sara’s story was compelling and I was so glad that she found someone she loved to spend the rest of her life with. And this book, The California Wife, picks up right where the last book left us and continues on with Sara and Philippe’s story. Honestly I think that this was one of the things I loved most about this book. Even though I wouldn’t call The Vintner’s Daughter a true romance novel, there was a happy ending. And usually that is where the reader is left, with the characters walking off into the “happily ever after” fog of dawn. But this book takes the story past that point and shows what love really is. Its fights and struggles and sometimes its being the strong partner and sometimes the weak. Its not always pretty and its not always fun but it is real. And the marriage in this book felt real to me, more than most I’ve read before.
Sara and Philippe encounter a number of struggles in this book but they manage to work together to overcome their many obstacles. Interwoven with their story is Marie’s story after she moves to San Francisco to attend surgical school. Marie was also in the first book, she housed Lydia and Sara when they first arrived in New York and was working as a midwife in the city. Marie has to overcome a lot of prejudice and judgement when she decides to attend surgical school in San Francisco, but there is nothing else she wants more that to be able to help/heal people and save lives, so she pushes through and excels. It is at school that she meets Matthew Donnelly, a skilled surgeon who encourages Marie in her studies. There are many dramatic events included in the story, all of which are dealt with by Sara and her family.
Overall I really liked this book. I did not want to put it down, every time I thought that we were about to settle into a lull in the story something else would happen to keep me on my toes. Harnisch does a great job of making the plot line flow together even with months/years between events and alternating story lines. I loved Sara’s character and I loved how real her marriage was with Philippe. And I loved seeing the insights into medicine and surgery at that time through Marie’s schooling, those scenes were very interesting! All in all this was a great read and  I can’t wait to see how the story continues in the next book.

The bottom line: This was a great continuation of Sara and Philippe’s story. I was a huge fan of Harnisch’s first novel, The Vintner’s Daughter, and I loved being able to continue seeing Sara’s journey. This book is poignantly raw and emotional, not sugar-coating anything for the reader but instead being true to the struggles of life after the initial “happily-ever-after.” A great read, I would most definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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