The California Wife

In this sweeping, poignant, stand-alone sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter, the Lemieux family’s ambition to establish an American winemaking dynasty takes Sara and Philippe from pastoral Napa to the Paris World’s Fair and into the colorful heart of early 20th-century San Francisco.

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.

Praise & Reviews

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“Harnisch’s lyrical descriptions underscore the beauty of winemaking, political activism, and even surgery. Combined with her first novel, The California Wife feels like the second season of a period miniseries, best enjoyed with a glass of zinfandel.”


“Kristen Harnisch’s follow-up to her wine-soaked debut, The Vintner’s Daughter, is just as sumptuous as her first offering. . . . This vital, sweeping story is delivered in Harnisch’s silky, upscale prose. Much like a fine glass of wine, The California Wife is a highbrow indulgence that is tasteful, captivating and heady.”

—The Globe & Mail

“The Vintner’s Daughter was an enjoyable romantic saga, and this new entry, which spans 1897 to 1906, is even more involving. Harnisch has hit her stride as a writer . . . The story brings readers deeply into the economics of the wine industry – a unique historical fiction subject . . . Readers will enjoy being whisked back in time to Napa’s beginnings as a major wine-producing region, and the stage is set for future adventures with these warm-hearted, ambitious characters.”

—Historical Novels Review

“It was easy to get lost in the pages of The California Wife, Harnisch’s compelling new novel. Harnisch is adept at creating determined, complex characters, whose combination of strength and vulnerability make them irresistible. Her admirable ability to bring forth a strong sense of place made every glorious detail of the Napa Valley sparkle: I wanted to reach for a glass of wine as I read. This sweeping tale is a true delight!”

—Linda Holeman, International Bestselling author of The Linnet Bird and The Lost Souls of Angelkov

“The California Wife is not only an accurate and nostalgic account of the early history of our wine industry in California, it's a lovely novel with characters you want join in a harvest, a meal, and a glass of wine. I recommend this book to wine lovers and historical fiction fans alike!”

—Tina Vierra, Associate Publisher, Wines & Vines

"… a vivid, fine-tuned novel about two fiercely ambitious and determined people who face obstacles that would bring most of us to our knees. Harnisch’s skillful blend of 19th-century societal norms and details about wine-making practices never overwhelm the characters but enrich them, captivating the heart. You'll long remember this beautiful story about redemption, forgiveness, love, and family bonds." '

—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

"A passionate novel set in the beautiful Napa Valley in the early 1900s. You'll cheer for Sarah Lemieux as she tries to balance, love, family, and independence in a time when women were expected to obey. Rich in history, passion, and community, The California Wife is a novel that continues to surprise until the very end."

—Marci Nault, author of The Lake House

“Fans of historical fiction, heart-pounding romance, and remarkable women look no further. Kristen Harnisch does more than craft a rollicking good tale in intriguing locales; she transports you back in time through engaging dialogue, complex characters, and vivid description. Sara is no shrinking violet, and as she travels from France to the Napa Valley she learns how to channel her passions to build the life she’s always dreamed of. An exquisite read from start to finish.”'

—Alexandria Brown, Napa County Historical Society Research Librarian

“As seasoned wine country travelers, we see the present-day struggles of small, family-owned wineries and know how difficult it is to become successful. Winemakers are constantly at the mercy of unpredictable weather and must work long hours to ensure a good product and profitable wine sales. Kristen Harnisch does a remarkable job of transporting us back 100 years and gives us an authentic feel for what it was like to make wine at that time without the benefit of enology and viticulture programs or the advances of modern-day science. Sara and Philippe’s love for each other helps them face hidden family secrets, threats from a rival winemaker and a tragedy that could destroy everything they have.”

—Joe and Janella Becerra,

“Rich with setting and story, Kristen Harnisch pulled me deep into the Napa Valley vineyards and through the streets of San Francisco in her lovely turn-of-the-twentieth century story, The California Wife. Harnisch weaves history and family passion together so seamlessly that I had to remind myself I was reading fiction. This is a simply stunning follow-up to The Vintner’s Daughter. Both enlightening and delightful. Bravo!”

—Carla Stewart, Award-winning author of Stardust and A Flying Affair

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