Book Reviews: Champagne Widows and Madame Pommery

Book Reviews: Champagne Widows and Madame Pommery

While historical fiction infused with a romantic twist isn’t typically within my usual literary domain, I may not be the ideal authority to assess the genre’s conventions. However, it is worth noting that author Rebecca Rosenberg has demonstrated an impressive literary output, producing no fewer than six books over the past four years. Notably, two of these works comprise the initial installments of a series titled Champagne Widows, featuring tried and true, well-tested narratives of overcoming adversity and hardship to find success and love.

The eponymous, inaugural volume tells the tale of Madame Clicquot Ponsardin, the Grande Dame of Champagne better known as Veuve Clicquot, who marries the man of her dreams against the wishes of her domineering parents, only to find herself widowed at 27. She manages to keep making Champagne despite such challenges as a scrupulous business partner, a father who cripples sales by taking a military contract with Napoleon, and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. While most of the dialogue is quite obviously where the fiction portion of “historical fiction” goes down, Rosenberg does a serviceable job of keeping the facts straight and true, and gives the reader plenty to sip on while reading.

The same could be said for the 2023 follow-up Madame Pommery, this time turning the focus on Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Pommery, a widowed winemaker who, amongst other numerous credentials and awards, was the first woman to receive a French state funeral upon her death in 1890. Widowed at age 40, Pommery kept the Pommery & Greno house alive and established it as one of the region’s largest Champagne brands. Here, Rosenberg takes a few more liberties than in Champagne Widows, and the character of the Scottish Baron is downright goofy at points. But the underlying story remains one of triumph over tragedy and self-determination in a society with a notable relentless streak of oppression against women.

Whether or not Rosenberg’s dialogic intentions and creative liberties are everyone’s glass of bubbles is up for debate. After reading 600+ pages over two books I can say with some safety it’s not my wheelhouse. However, what isn’t up for debate is Rosenberg’s commitment to the series, as she does a solid job painting a vivid portrait of her protagonists and antagonists. A major tip of the cap and click of the glass in her direction for keeping the stories of these two resilient, pioneering women alive.


Champagne Widows




Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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