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Daring to Dream of Champagne - an Editorial Review of "Madame Pommery"

Book Blurb:

A Toast to Resilience: Madame Pommery's Unyielding Spirit

1860, Reims, France. Grief hangs heavy, threatening to drown Alexandrine Pommery's future. Widowed and burdened, she could easily succumb. But a spark ignites within her and she dares to dream of a champagne unlike any other – a dry, crisp masterpiece instead of the traditional sugary sweet champagne.

Scoffs meet her vision. "Who would drink such a thing?" But Alexandrine's spirit is unyielding. In the vineyards, she coaxes grapes to their peak. In the cellars, she experiments. Each trial, each misstep, fuels the fire of her creation – Pommery Brut, a champagne as dry as her resolve, yet bubbling with rebellion.

The Franco-Prussian War shatters the peace in 1870. Son and crew march off, leaving Alexandrine to train women her revolutionary methods. But the Prussian invasion steals all hope, as the army pillages her cellars of precious Brut.

Alexandrine refuses to be a victim. She excavates secret caves under the city dump, and hides her champagne from the enemy. Her cellars become a refuge, not just for bottles, but for the French resistance.

To make matters more complicated, two men offer her their love. One, too young, improper, perhaps even scandalous. The other, a Scottish Baron, promises a castle and title, and a life beyond the relentless toil of champagne. Now torn between two men, Alexandrine must find the courage to forge her own path of legacy or love.

Uncork the secrets and taste the audacity of a widow's dream, and the unwavering spirit of Madame Pommery.

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Author Bio:

Follow Rebecca Rosenberg on Amazon: award-winning novelist, champagne geek, and lavender farmer. Rebecca first fell in love with methode champenoise in Sonoma Valley, California. Over decades of delicious research, she has explored the wine cellars of France, Spain, Italy, and California in search of fine champagne. When Rebecca discovered the real-life stories of the Champagne Widows of France, she knew she’d dedicate years to telling the stories of these remarkable women who made champagne the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Rebecca is a champagne historian, tour guide, and champagne cocktail expert for Breathless Wines. Other award-winning novels include The Secret Life of Mrs. London and Gold Digger, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor.

Editorial Review:

Rebecca Rosenberg's "Madame Pommery" is a lusciously rich historical drama, chronicling the

extraordinary life of Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery, a widow thrust into the heart of the

champagne industry in 19th-century France. The story spans decades, capturing the

indomitable spirit of a woman navigating societal norms, familial conflicts, and business


Wolfe, Louis’s banker and executor, appealed to my sense of societal duty. “Madame

Pommery, as the very pillar of Reims society, you would certainly be expected to

maintain Louis Pommery’s dignity as a respected businessman.”

Dignity my eye. Louis puffed up and painted like a suckling pig? May as well have an

apple stuffed in his mouth.”

The story begins with Madame Pommery's mourning of her husband's death in 1858. Despite

societal expectations, she defies norms and takes charge, facing off against financial challenges orchestrated by her late husband’s banker Reynard Wolfe.

One of Madame Pommery's defining traits is her resilience in the face of adversity. Her ability to adapt to changing circumstances showcases a remarkable strength of character and this makes her an incredibly compelling protagonist. From breaking with funeral processions to rejecting traditional mourning attire, she asserts her independence and challenges expectations. This defiance not only propels the narrative forward but also paints Madame Pommery as a trailblazer, a woman unafraid to forge her own path.

The death of her husband Louis brings financial challenges to Pommery & Greno. Madame

Pommery faces the ruthless Reynard Wolfe, who proposes selling the entire business to cover

debts. In a pivotal decision, she rejects this offer and decides to develop the winery

independently. Her commitment to preserving Pommery Champagne becomes a recurring

theme, and her strategic decisions ensure the survival and growth of the business.

Her strategic business decisions become integral to the plot and become the heart of the story.

From resisting financial pressures to expanding the winery and navigating international

exhibitions, she showcases a keen business acumen. Her ability to make decisions that not only ensure survival but also elevate Pommery Champagne to new heights is very fun to read. The personal, first-person narration serves the story well here - we readers experience her troubles as she does and revel in her triumphs.

But it isn’t all smooth sailing.

Madame Pommery's journey is marked by a series of formidable challenges, and her character is defined by the strategic decisions she makes in response to these adversities. From personal loss to financial crises and the ravages of war, Madame Pommery confronts and navigates a spectrum of challenges that shape the course of her life and the legacy of Pommery Champagne.

Her family and her business are caught up in the challenges posed by the Franco-Prussian War, with Reims under Prussian occupation. Madame Pommery becomes a captive in her own home, facing hostility, mistreatment, and the constant threat of danger. To protect her family and the winery, she engages in a delicate dance with General Francis, serving meals, and attempting to secure essential resources. Despite the strain, fear, and grief she feels, she maintains a cool head and continually makes intelligent decisions in situations that would debilitate most individuals. The War becomes a crucible, testing Madame Pommery's resourcefulness and commitment during Prussian occupation. Despite all that happens, she is proudly French to her core.

In the Louvre, the rest of France can see it,” I say. “And we can visit anytime we like.”

A generous donation, Madame.” Guy raises his glass to me.

The donation is not entirely selfless.” I smile mischievously. “Soon all the newspapers in

Europe will report that Pommery donated a rare treasure to the Louvre. And Reynard

Wolfe will never again be able to spread lies about our finances.”

Louis hoots. “Touché, Maman.”

But her problems do not end after the war. Despite the success of her business, rumors are

spread by Wolfe about Pommery's bankruptcy, and Madame Pommery takes bold steps. Her

decision to bid secretly for Millet's painting, "The Gleaners," and then donate it to the Louvre is both an act of generosity and a strategic move to counteract false claims about Pommery's

financial stability. This decision not only secures an artistic treasure but also skyrockets

Pommery's reputation.

Madame Pommery's relationship with her family, particularly with her daughter Louise and son

Louis, adds another layer of complexity. The sacrifices she makes for the sake of Pommery

Champagne, including the decision not to marry the man she comes to love legally to keep the

business within the family, shows the interplay between personal and professional obligations.

Indeed, she also spurns another tempting offer from a former lover for the sake of her duties

and her life at home. She is a woman with a vision. Her ability to navigate these dynamics is a testament to her strategic foresight.

As mentioned earlier, Madame Pommery often engages with cultural pursuits and artistic

endeavors. Madame Pommery's vision for Butte Saint-Nicaise as a unique winery experience

culminates in a grand opening gala, with the unveiling of gorgeous sculptures. The vision for

Butte Saint-Nicaise began with the strategic decision to utilize the crayères, ancient chalk

quarries beneath the hill, for champagne storage. Madame Pommery saw beyond the

immediate challenges of excavation and recognized the potential of these cavernous spaces.

This decision not only addressed the need for storage but laid the foundation for a unique

winery experience that would set Pommery Champagne apart.

As mentioned earlier, Rosenberg's narrative choice of employing a first-person perspective in

the novel proves to be an exquisite storytelling device. Delving into Madame Pommery's life

from her own viewpoint provides a personal touch to the storytelling. Readers witness her joys,

confront her challenges, and share in her moments of reflection. It is particularly effective in

capturing the complexity of Madame Pommery's character, making her a most relatable and

authentic protagonist. The lush, delightful, and personal nature of Rosenberg's writing allows

readers to intimately experience Madame Pommery's life over the span of decades.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, honoring your husband’s wishes before your own. But now,

it is important to trust the voice in your heart. When you become a widow, men line up to

tell you what to do now that your husband is gone. But you must not listen to a single

one. Trust your own counsel.”

Throughout the novel, Madame Pommery's decisions are characterized by a blend of

pragmatism, innovation, and a deep sense of responsibility. Her strategic acumen, combined

with a willingness to challenge societal norms and make personal sacrifices, paints a portrait of a woman who steers through challenges with grace, determination, and a clear vision for both her business and her life in general.

In a time when women were often relegated to prescribed roles, her ability to navigate a

male-dominated industry and society is fascinating to read about. The crowning achievement of Madame Pommery's legacy is underscored by the distinction of being the first woman to receive a French state funeral. This remarkable acknowledgment speaks volumes about the magnitude

of her contributions to both the Champagne industry and the city of Reims.

"Madame Pommery" is a celebration of the human spirit. Besides being a well-written and

engaging historical novel, Rebecca Rosenberg's portrayal of Madame Pommery's life is nothing short of inspiring.


“Madame Pommery” by Rebecca Rosenberg receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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