The Widows of Champagne by Renee Ryan ~ Blog Tour & Excerpt

August 2, 2021


About the Book

Book: The Widows of Champagne
Author: Renee Ryan
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Love Inspired
Release Date: July 27, 2021

For readers of Lilac Girls and The Lost Girls of Paris comes a captivating novel of resilience, as three generations of women battle to save their family’s vineyard during WWII.

Champagne, 1939

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…


It was moments like these when she missed Benoit most. Her husband had taught her to love the process of growing grapes. Even now, as she stared out over the sodden vines, his favorite phrase came to mind. “August makes the must.” The must—juice from the grapes—was the first and most impor­tant step to making champagne.

A dry hot August was always better than a cold wet one.

She exited her bedroom on a sigh and hurried toward the back stairwell that emptied into the château’s kitchen. Marta, the family’s housekeeper, would already be on her way to town. A devout woman, she honored the Sabbath with as much dedication as she served Gabrielle’s family. One more person Gabrielle must protect now that the men in her family were gone and her grandmother was succumbing to old age.

Hesitating outside her sister’s room, she debated a moment, then, as quietly as possible, pushed open the door and smiled at the sleeping form. Paulette would turn seventeen next month. The girl hadn’t a care in the world, beyond what dress to wear or which boy to flirt with next.

So unlike Gabrielle.

Paulette had arrived after their father returned from the Great War, the child that would save their parents’ failing mar­riage. She’d been born out of false hope. Étienne LeBlanc had come home too damaged by his experience, while his wife had remained too unchanged by hers. Hélène hadn’t really tried to make the transition smooth for either of them, favoring her baby over the empty shell of a man her husband had become.

Étienne’s wounds hadn’t shown on the outside. The mercu­rial temper, the inability to enjoy life, these were only a few of the demons that had tortured him. He’d died a wretched man. Gabrielle’s husband had suffered similarly, though Benoit’s ill­ness hadn’t been caused by war.

A pang of grief whispered through her, dark and consum­ing. And she was wasting precious time. With a noiseless click, she shut her sister’s door. By the time she reached the kitchen, Gabrielle felt weary and worn to the bone, the sort of exhaus­tion that would take a thousand years to sleep off.

She stepped into the scent of coffee. And froze.

Her heart took an extra hard beat. Her grandmother sat alone at the scarred table in the center of the room, head bent over a single sheet of paper. In the gray morning light, Jose­phine Fouché-LeBlanc looked somehow smaller, frailer and every bit of her seventy-seven years.

The need to protect came abrupt and fierce. Widowed at thirty, Josephine had dedicated her life to turning Château Fouché-LeBlanc into one of the premier champagne houses in the world. She claimed her success was due to the rosé recipe she’d created by blending pinot noir wine with white cham­pagne instead of the usual elderberry juice.

Gabrielle knew better. Château Fouché-LeBlanc thrived because of Josephine’s dedication to preserving her husband’s legacy. The two had been united in their collective vision until the day Antoine died unexpectedly from a ruptured appendix.

It seemed the LeBlanc women were destined for heartbreak, all of them widowed too young. God had spoken, leaving them to face the world without their husbands. For her part, Ga­brielle would not feel sorry for herself. She would accept her lot in life and follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. She, too, would dedicate the rest of her life to the champagne house.

It was not so terrible a fate. Remarkable, actually. A noble duty, but also a labor of love.

Josephine made a notation on the paper. The slight shake in the older woman’s hand was new, as was the soft mumbling. Josephine never mumbled to herself—until recently.

Gabrielle cleared her throat.

Her grandmother didn’t look up.

About the Author

Renee Ryan grew up in a Florida beach town where she learned how to surf and skateboard very poorly. As a teenager, she gave up on both pursuits and began entertaining herself during countless hours of “laying-out” by reading all the classics.

After graduating college, with a degree in Economics and Religion, she explored various career opportunities at a Florida theme park and a modeling agency. She moved on to teach high school Economics, American Government and Latin while coaching award-winning cheerleading teams.

Connect with Renee

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1 comment

  1. Ooh.... I love this excerpt! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours