Today we are really excited to welcome bestselling author, Renee Ryan, to Alternative-Read.com to talk about her book The Widows of Champagne.
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan is the story of a family struggling to survive in Nazi occupied France. Three widows who lost their beloved husbands must now protect their livelihood, the Chateau Fouche-LeBlanc vineyard in Reims, after it was requisitioned by the Nazis.
The plot has wine merchant, Helmut Von Schmidt, now turned Nazi Captain in the Wehrmacht, requisitioning the LeBlanc home and stealing their wine for the German troops. Throughout the days he appears as Lord over the women and the manor.
But the three widows come up with a plan. Josephine, the family matriarch, a grandmother to Gabrielle, another widow, will use her early stages of dementia, appearing confused. She and Gabrielle appear to struggle for control over the vineyard so that Von Schmidt must have all his dealings with the granddaughter. Helene, Josephine’s daughter-in-law, has the worst chore, to be the social secretary and a mistress to Von Schmidt. Her two daughters, Gabrielle and Paulette, struggle to understand why their mother seems to have turned into a collaborator. Gabrielle fights to defend her vineyard and her country by joining the French resistance movement. She does not understand why she is both fearful and enchanted with Gestapo Detective Wolfgang Mueller, who searches out French citizens. Completely unlike Gabrielle, Paulette is young and selfish and has an SS boyfriend. The three widows struggle to keep each other alive, out of the Nazi grasp, and to make sure the Nazis do not find out their secrets.
This is a story of resistance, betrayal and heartache. It delves into the sacrifices and risks people will take to protect what they love.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for this story?
Renee Ryan: I was writing another WWII story and came upon how Hitler’s soldiers stole all these treasures including the French wine. Unfortunately, the wine was lost forever. Think about it, no one can ever get back or make, for example, a 1912 or 1867 wine.
EC: How did the wine and champagne play into the story?
RR: The story is set in and around a vineyard that is the LeBlanc family livelihood. The Nazi occupiers shipped all the wine to the front to give to the soldiers. It is based on a true story. A lot of widows ran these vineyards because they lost their husbands during WWI. For example, there were the widows Veuve Clicquot, Elisabeth Law de Lauriston Bollinger, and Marie-Louise Lanson de Nanoncourt.
EC: How would you describe the four women?
RR: Josephine is the boss until she realizes she is becoming confused. As the matriarch of the family, she has passed the running of the vineyards to her granddaughter Gabrielle. She is very courageous.
Helene is the former Parisian socialite who is witty, charming, and brave. She appeared to be a collaborator but is doing what must be done to save her family.
Gabrielle is the fighter and very responsible.
Paulette is spoiled and entitled. She represents those children who have yet to grow up.
All the women are trying to find their own way.
EC: How would you describe Von Schmidt?
RR: He is self-indulgent, self-promoting, and narcissistic. He used the war for his own purposes. Just like him, a lot of the SS men forwarded their own agenda. He is a bully, thief, controlling, opportunistic, and has no regard for women. He took away Helene’s dignity and independence.
EC: Helene was accused of being a collaborator, but she wasn’t?
RR: People make assumptions without asking the questions. It was assumed that these women were able to make choices, while for many it was their only choice. Survival for themselves or their family should be considered very noble, such as Helene. But there were also the ones like Coco Chanel, women more like Von Schmidt. Since I worked for Chanel for a time, I learned how she hated these Jewish brothers. The Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business enterprises, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain back the full monetary fortune generated by Parfums Chanel and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of Parfums Chanel, the Wertheimer brothers, were Jewish. Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalize her claim to sole ownership.
EC: You go into how some people were stuck in the Nazi controlled lands?
RR: This was the backdrop for Helene who decided to stay, thinking it would get better. Her father had begged her to leave with her mother and himself. They did get out, but when Helene wanted to leave it was too late.
EC: What about your next book?
RR: It is scheduled to be published in October 2022. It is a WWII European setting during the 1930s, early 1940s. An Austrian opera singer and a British romance writer joined forces to get the Jews out of Germany and Austria.
If you liked this article you may like to read :
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan
“History, drama, and passion as effervescent as the resilient LeBlanc women and the champagne that bears their name. I highly recommend!”
—Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
In this captivating story of resilience, three generations of women battle to save their family’s vineyard from the ravages of WWII.
Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…
A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.
Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.
Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…
A must-read novel from Love Inspired: Stories to Uplift and Inspire.
The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan
Book Beginnings / First Chapter First Paragraph / Tuesday Teaser!
Beneath the creaking bones of the ancient château, clocks chimed from room to room, speaking to one another in a secret language all their own.The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan
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