Monday, October 23, 2023

Veuve Clicquot and Madame Pommery: Women Champagne Makers in the 1800s

Good morning, dear readers! As you know, I love shining a spotlight on remarkable women in history, so when I had a chance to host author Rebecca Rosenberg and her novels about female Champane makers of the 19th century, I jumped at the chance. 

Welcome, Rebecca!

~ Samantha


Veuve Clicquot and Madame Pommery: Women Champagne Makers in the 1800s

Guest Post by Rebecca Rosenberg

The next time you watch the bubbles rise in a perfectly gorgeous glass of champagne, you might want to toast Veuve Clicquot and Madame Pommery who grappled with the difficult unpredictable art of making champagne in the 1800’s. As well as being mothers, these women dealt with pandemics, laws against women owning business, years of Napoleonic wars, and Napoleon himself to create champagne!

The Legal Loophole that Clicquot and Pommery slipped through!

In the 1800s, women in many countries were legally barred from owning businesses unless they were widows. However, a few women who managed to overcome these legal challenges and become successful champagne makers.

Two of the most notable women champagne makers of the 1800s were Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin and Madame Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery. Both women were widows who pioneered champagne making and forged two of the largest and most successful champagne houses in the world.

Clicquot and Pommery were innovators in the champagne industry. Clicquot developed many of the modern techniques used to make champagne, including the riddling process, which makes champagne clear instead of cloudy. Pommery created the first Brut Champagne, a crisp, dry champagne, instead of the dessert beverage that was popular in the early 1800’s. She also focused on the export market, and she helped to popularize champagne all over the world.

The champagne makers of the 1800s faced many challenges, but they were able to produce some of the finest champagne ever made. Women champagne makers, such as Madame Clicquot and Madame Pommery, were particularly successful in overcoming the legal and social challenges of the time. Their dedication and hard work helped to make champagne one of the most popular and sought-after wines in the world.

Making Champagne in the 1800s

Making champagne in the 1800s was a difficult and challenging task. The winemaking process was not fully understood at the time, and there was a lot of trial and error involved. Champagne makers also had to contend with a number of challenges, including:

· Diseases and pests

· Weather

· Technology

· Logistics

Despite these challenges, champagne makers in the 1800s were able to produce some of the finest champagne ever made. They developed new winemaking techniques and technologies that helped to improve the quality and consistency of their wines. They also worked to develop new markets for champagne, both within France and abroad.

Pandemics of 1800’s (Yes they had them too!)

There were several pandemics that occurred in Europe during the 19th century, including the cholera pandemic of 1830-1833, the plague pandemic of 1855-1858, and the influenza pandemic of 1889-1890. These pandemics had a devastating impact on the European population, killing millions of people and causing widespread social and economic disruption.

The pandemics of the 19th century also had a significant impact on the European economy. They led to disruptions in trade and commerce, and they caused a decline in agricultural production. The pandemics also had a negative impact on the development of new technologies and industries.

The Devastating Effect of Wars on Champagne.

Veuve Clicquot was just starting to make champagne when Napoleon waged twelve years of Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) against the crowns of Europe. Napoleon sought to spread of the French Revolution and dominate Europe. The Napoleonic Wars had a devastating impact on Europe. An estimated 6 million people were killed in the wars, including soldiers and civilians. The wars also caused widespread economic hardship and social disruption.

Madame Pommery faced the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871) when Prussia and the United German states invaded France, and the Prussian army commandeered her home and winery.

Both Clicquot and Pommery had to continue making champagne, even as the armies were stealing it for themselves.

· The wars disrupted trade and commerce, making it difficult for champagne producers to export their wines.

· The wars made it difficult to obtain the raw materials needed to produce champagne, such as grapes and sugar.

· The wars led to a decline in demand for champagne, as people were more focused on surviving than on celebrating.

· The war caused a number of champagne producers to go out of business.

So, when you tip your next glass of champagne, remember what they went through to bring us such pleasure! My favorite champagne quote by my next Champagne Widow:

"I drink champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty." ~Lily Bollinger

The Champagne Widows Series


“A-Tour-de-Force” Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize

MADAME POMMERY, Creator of Brut Champagne
"A tour-de-force of historical fiction, Madame Pommery is a deeply fascinating work that blends true-to-life details with artfully crafted elements." --Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize

Madame Pommery is a story of a woman's indomitable spirit in the face of insurmountable odds. Set in Champagne, France in 1860, Madame Pommery is a forty-year-old widow and etiquette teacher whose husband has passed away. Now she must find a way to support her family. With no experience, she decides to make champagne, but no champagne makers will teach her their craft. Undeterred, Madame Pommery begins to secretly excavate champagne caves under the Reims city dump and faces numerous obstacles to achieve her dream. From the Franco-Prussian war that conscripts her son and crew to the Prussian General Frederick Franz occupying her home, Madame Pommery perseveres. She even must choose between her champagne dreams and a marriage proposal from her former lover, a Scottish Baron. Inspired by a true story, Madame Pommery is a heroic tale of a woman's strength and determination to create a champagne legacy. If you enjoyed the novel Sarah's Key, you will enjoy Madame Pommery. 

Get your copy of Madame Pommery, or read FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

CHAMPAGNE WIDOWS, the First Woman of Champagne

EDITORS CHOICE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY This engrossing historical novel by Rebecca Rosenberg follows Veuve Clicquot, a strong-minded woman determined to defy the Napoleon Code and become a master champagne maker. In 1800 France, twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole inherits her great-grandfather's uncanny sense of smell and uses it to make great champagne, despite the Code prohibiting women from owning a business. When tragedy strikes and she becomes a Veuve (widow), she must grapple with a domineering partner, the complexities of making champagne, and the aftermath of six Napoleon wars. When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband to obey the Napoleon Code, or losing Louis. In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot defies Napoleon himself, risking prison and even death. If you enjoyed books like 'The Widow of the South' by Robert Hicks or 'The Paris Seamstress' by Natasha Lester, you'll love 'Veuve Clicquot'.

Connect with the author:

Rebecca Rosenberg is an 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.

Connect with Rebecca on her websiteFacebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Book Bub, Amazon Author Page, or Goodreads.  

Friday, October 13, 2023

Falling for Autumn

One of the first people I asked to read Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen before it was published pointed out some of my Americanisms that needed to go. The one I remember most vividly was referring to autumn as fall. Upon thinking about it, I agreed that autumn does sound so much nicer, and I've tried to get into the habit of referring to this beautiful, chilly season by the term favored on the other side of the pond.

In October 2019, I was in Ottawa, Illinois, doing research for the book that would become Luminous. I hadn't decided on a title yet, but I was completely drawn into Catherine Donohue's story and felt so honored to walk the streets she had walked and go to Sunday morning worship at her church. Starved Rock was and is a gorgeous place for an autumn hike, so I did, imagining Catherine doing the same all the while.

In Luminous, it is during a trip to Starved Rock that Catherine and Charlotte first encounter a little bird that they would meet several times through their tragic journey. This element of the story was taken from a newspaper article in which a descendent of Charlotte's mentioned that she would say a little bird was a visit from Catherine long after her friend had died of radium poisoning. I decided this little bird deserved its own place in the story and called it Hope.

The following October, in 2020, I was on a rather different trip. Along with my husband and youngest son, I toured the old Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City. Now called the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, this lovely old place is partly renovated shops and housing and part dilapidated ruins that get a creative mind churning. At the time though, I couldn't think of what exactly to do with this amazing setting.

A few months later, I was approached about writing a ghost story for Historical Writers Forum, and I knew just where mine would take place. Besides the breathtaking views of trees and surrounding lakes, the old asylum has tunnels that used to serve as its heating system. An Edith Wharton style ghost story started forming in my mind and eventually was published in the Hauntings anthology.

My story was titled Among the Lost, and since I had recently published Luminous, I decided to set it during the same time, 1927, and give a nod to my Ottawa ladies in a glow-in-the-dark painting owned by one of the asylum residents. I also couldn't resist having another patient who loudly and randomly quoted Dante, which gave me the title. If you've already read Hauntings, you know what is discovered within the tunnels of the asylum, if you have not, my story is currently free here.

Living in Michigan, I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. It's absolutely gorgeous, and I love the onset of sweatshirt weather, going on hikes, and trying to take photos that capture nature's majesty. However, Michigan's seasons aren't as balanced as they should be, and that crisp wonderfulness quickly devolves into cold, wet, snowy bleakness. If we could just get more than a couple weeks of perfect pumpkin spice fall...

This October, I am working on two James A Hamilton projects, neither autumn themed I am sad to say, but one that will be available to my dear readers soon. You probably already know that I am working on a biography for Pen & Sword that is scheduled for publication January 2025, but if you've been enjoying my posts about James and would like something sooner, you're in luck! This year's Historical Writers Forum anthology contains short stories based on works of art, and I decided that mine would be the marble statue of Alexander Hamilton that was destroyed in New York's Great Fire of 1835. In this short story, James reflects on his life and ponders if he has honored his father's legacy. Masterworks is available for pre-order now for only 99c and will be available through Kindle Unlimited on November 1st.

One more little bit of news before I go. In response to requests for signed copies of my books and for those who prefer to "shop small" rather than through Amazon, I have opened up a little online bookshop. Orders here will be filled directly from my home to yours, so I can sign books and will include little bonuses like stickers and bookmarks. Please keep small businesses, and especially independent writers, in mind as you consider your Christmas shopping this year. 

Enjoy this fantastic season while it lasts, and happy reading!

All photos taken by me at Starved Rock State Park, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and around my home in southwest Michigan. If you enjoy my photos and writing/research updates, please follow me on Instagram or Facebook.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Burning Secret

Lately, I've been on the lookout for novels that take place in 19th century America, so when I came across RJ Lloyd and his Burning Secret I was eager to invite him to my blog and talk about his story. It takes place in one of our loveliest, sunniest states - Florida! But I'll let him tell you more.

~ Samantha


Burning Secret

Guest Post by RJ Loyd

Thanks for inviting me as your guest. Burning Secret begins in London on New Year's Day 1881, with Enoch Price recorded in the London Gazette as a bankrupt, facing a sentence of several years in the debtors' prison. By May that year, he had deserted his wife and three young daughters and was onboard the SS Polynesian bound for a new life in Jacksonville, Florida. By the time Enoch steps ashore on Hogan Street jetty, Jacksonville, he has changed his identity and become Harry Mason. Harry's first work came a few days later as a bartender at The European House, a bar in the Dutch style run by Nicky Arend at 80– 82 West Bay. 

Burning Secret is a true story. Well, almost. The novel blurs the lines between fact and fiction as it reconstructs the real life of Harry Mason, and is a story that many can relate to through their own ancestors and family histories. The recollections of my cousins on both sides of the Atlantic drove me, almost inevitably, to tell the story of this extraordinary and complex man. The novel operates on several levels: as a fast-paced thriller with plenty of derring-do, a morality tale of good vs. greed, and how life can easily corrupt the pursuit of happiness. Some have even suggested it's a tragic love story.

Most of the book is set in Florida. Harry arrives in Jacksonville at a time when it was still regarded as a frontier town, only sixteen years after the end of slavery and the American Civil War, when Florida had fought on the defeated Confederate side. By 1888, Harry had married, bigamously, and lived with his wife and children at 509 West Adams Street in the district of LaVilla. That same year, a deadly outbreak of Yellow Fever decimated Jacksonville. In 1901, the city was razed to the ground by the Great Fire of Jacksonville, a conflagration that had started at the Cleveland mattress factory at Beaver and Davis Streets. Harry plays a pivotal role in the city's recovery from these catastrophes. But his audacious gamble to promote, against fierce public opposition, the 1894 World Heavyweight Boxing Championship fight between Gentleman Jim Corbett and the English challenger Charlie Mitchell turned his fortunes from bartender to millionaire. 

Harry began to spread his wings, buying, under dubious circumstances, the Acme, Aragon and Everette Hotels on Julia and Forsythe Street. But Harry wanted more than a few saloons and hotels. He was determined to build an empire on political power and influence. On 15 June 1897, Harry was elected to the Jacksonville City Council, representing the eighth ward of Ortega Venetia and Avondale. In 1903, he was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives. 

Throughout Harry's life, there was always the whiff of things not being entirely straight. During the final two decades of his life, he celebrated opening his own bank, The Bank of South Jacksonville, on the northwest corner of Hendricks and St. Johns Avenue (now Prudential Drive) and was chairman of several prosperous businesses. His most outstanding achievement was building the Hotel Mason on the junction of Bay and Julia Street, which opened on 31 December 1913. The largest and most opulent hotel in Florida (demolished in 1978).

Harry died on 5 November 1919 at his home, the Villa Alexandria, which, at that time, was located near the junction of River Road and Arbor Lane in the district of San Marco. It was originally built by the Mitchell family in the 1870s and came into Harry's ownership in somewhat opaque circumstances.

Surprisingly, whilst many of Harry's friends, business partners and historically important contemporaries are recorded in Jacksonville to this day, one must dig very deep into obscure records to find his name. Only one photograph of him survives, taken in 1903 when he was elected to the House of Representatives. 

Harry is buried alongside his American wife at Evergreen Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida.

Inspired by actual events, Burning Secret is a dramatic and compelling tale of ambition, lies and betrayal. 

Born in the slums of Bristol in 1844, Enoch Price seems destined for a life of poverty and hardship-but he’s determined not to accept his lot. 

Enoch becomes a bare-knuckle fighter in London’s criminal underworld. But in a city where there’s no place for honest dealing, a cruel loan shark cheats him, leaving Enoch penniless and facing imprisonment. 

Undaunted, he escapes to a new life in America and embarks on a series of audacious exploits. But even as he helps shape history, Enoch is not content. Tormented by his past and the life he left behind, Enoch soon becomes entangled in a web of lies and secrets. 
Will he ever break free and find the happiness he craves? 

Influenced by real people and events, Enoch’s remarkable story is one of adventure, daring, political power, deceit and, in the end, the search for redemption and forgiveness. 

Connect with RJ Lloyd

After retiring as a senior police officer, R J Lloyd turned my detective skills to genealogy, tracing his family history to the 16th century. However, after 15 years of extensive research, he couldn’t track down his great-great-grandfather, Enoch Price, whose wife, Eliza, had, in living memory, helped raise his mother.

It was his cousin Gillian who, after several more dead-ends, called one day to say that she had found him through a fluke encounter. Susan Sperry from California, who had recently retired, decided to explore the box of documents given to her thirty years before by her mother, which she had never opened. In the box, she found some references to her great grandfather, Harry Mason, a wealthy hotel owner from Florida who had died in 1919. It soon transpired that Susan’s great grandfather, Harry Mason, was, in fact, Enoch Price. 

From this single thread, the extraordinary story of Harry Mason began to unravel, leading R J Lloyd to visit the States to meet his newly discovered American cousins, and it was Susan Sperry and Kimberly Mason, direct descendants, who persuaded R J Lloyd to write the extraordinary story of their ancestor. 

R J Lloyd graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in Philosophy and Psychology and a Masters in Marketing from UWE. Since leaving a thirty-year career in policing, he’s been a non-executive director with the NHS, social housing, and other charities. He lives with my wife in Bristol, spending his time travelling, writing and producing delicious plum jam from the trees on his award-winning allotment. 

Connect with him on his Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon Author Page, or

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Dolley Madison: America's Original First Lady


Dolley Madison is often given credit for defining the role of First Lady for US Presidents' wives. What you may not know is that Quaker Dolley Payne Todd only came into that important role through tragic circumstances, as described in Women of the American Revolution:

"In 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, and 19-year-old Dolley would have watched the political leaders of the new country as they rushed about town. She likely saw the handsome, charismatic Alexander Hamilton and the quiet, bookish James Madison, among many others who were or would become some of the most famous names in American history. Dolley’s attention, however, was on the young men of the city as she considered which might become her husband. She had a broad choice of suitors, but her father selected John Todd, a fellow Quaker. Todd was a lawyer five years Dolley’s senior, who had long expressed interest in her. John Payne, failing in business and in poor health, may have pressured his daughter to wed Todd, but the couple’s letters also indicate a love match. On 7 January 1790, she became Dolley Todd.

By that time, John Payne’s business had gone bankrupt causing his exile from their Quaker congregation. When the federal government moved to Philadelphia, Dolley’s mother, Mary Payne, opened her home as a boarding house to support the family, a decision that would have a deep impact on her daughter’s future. However, Dolley had no way of knowing that as she settled into married life and assisted her mother by frequently taking in her siblings.

She lived with her husband in a three-story brick home that still stands at the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. Part of the first floor was used as John Todd’s law offices and an extensive personal library. The couple soon welcomed two sons, John Payne Todd on 29 February 1792 and William Temple Todd in September 1793. Todd’s business was successful, and their family was growing.

Had this idyllic situation continued, Dolley’s name might not have become prominent in America’s history. Tragically for the young wife, Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793 also entered into history at this point. The sickness sent government officials racing from the city for healthier air and left few households untouched, including the Todd house. John Todd sent Dolley away shortly after the birth of their second son, but he remained in the city to care for his father and a clerk in his office who had fallen ill. Approximately 5000 Philadelphians died of yellow fever that summer, and Dolley lost both her husband and infant son on the same day, 24 October 1793."

The Todd House in Philadelphia

It was after this that Dolley went to her friend Aaron Burr for help settling her husband's estate, and he introduced her to his bachelor friend, James Madison. They were married within the year. It is believed that the term 'First Lady' was used to describe Dolley Madison at her funeral, and the title has become part of the US vernacular. 

Read more about Dolley in Women of the American Revolution! It is available at Pen & SwordAmazonBook DepositoryBarnes & Noble, or your favorite book retailer. 

Also available now at Audible and!

You can also find more articles here.

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