'Sonoma Rose: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel'
Author: Jennifer Chiaverni
Published: Dutton Adult; Feb. 2012
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Synopsis: As the nation grapples with the strictures of Prohibition, Rosa Barclay lives on a Southern California rye farm with her volatile husband, John, who has lately found another source of income far outside the federal purview.
Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease that is now afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Two daughters born of another father are in perfect health. When an act of violence shatters Rosa's resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive.
As a flash flood traps them in a treacherous canyon, only one man is brave-or foolhardy-enough to come to their rescue: Lars Jorgenson, Rosa's first love and the father of her healthy daughters. Together they escape to Berkeley, where a leading specialist offers their only hope of saving Ana and Miguel. Here in northern California, they create new identities to protect themselves from Rosa's vengeful husband, the police who seek her for questioning, and the gangsters Lars reported to Prohibition agents-officers representing a department often as corrupt as the Mob itself. Ever mindful that his youthful alcoholism provoked Rosa to spurn him, Lars nevertheless supports Rosa's daring plan to stake their futures on a struggling Sonoma Valley vineyard-despite the recent hardships of local winemakers whose honest labors at viticulture have, through no fault of their own, become illegal.
My Take: Living in San Francisco, I will read almost anything set in the area. So when Sonoma Rose was pitched to me, I eagerly jumped at the chance to read a book set in Sonoma, the beautiful wine country nearby. Also, I love historical fiction novels so I was interested to see what it was like to live in Sonoma in the 1930s.
Jennifer Chiaverini is a prolific writer, having over 20 books under her belt so I was surprised that I hadn't come across her before. Clearly she is popular so I was glad to give her a chance. Sonoma Rose is part of the Elm Creek Quilts series but could easily stand on its own. I didn't feel lost as to the story line at all. I do have some familiarity with quilts, having tried my hand at them before, but those who have a passion for quilts will probably get even more out of this novel then I did.
Rose is our leading lady and she is living an incredibly hard life when the story opens. She has borne eight children but only four remain living. The other four have passed away due to some unknown illness that doesn't allow them to digest their food properly. She also has a very abusive husband John. Those scenes are very hard to read. You want her to get out and protect her children but she doesn't have a job and therefore is totally dependent on him and his support
One day the abuse gets so bad though she feels she must leave or she will die. By chance, one of her children lets her know of something hiding in the barn which happens to be suitcases full of cash because unbeknownst to Rose her husband is a bootlegger. Uh oh that is a crowd she didn't want to get mixed up in! Rose grabs the money, grabs the kids, and hightails it out of there!
To her rescue come her long lost love Lars! They escape north to the wild wonders of San Francisco and then finally Sonoma where they settle and make a life with friends and wine makers but all is not placid and easy because it is prohibition after all and they are living in the heart of America's wine country.
Ok, let's get down to brass tacks here. This was a long and involved story at over 400 pages, and while the story was involved enough for me to keep reading and I enjoyed the main characters and wanted to root for them and their lives to get better, there were certain plot lines that dragged for pages and pages that I felt Chiaverini could have tightened up and therefore could have cut the story down significantly without ruining the crux of the story. The children's disease (potential spoiler alert here, so avert your eyes!) was celiac's disease. There were pages upon pages of how to treat them and a banana diet and regret for children lost and well, unless you have celiac's disease I don't really need to know the intricacies of a banana diet. Also, I really felt like I was being preached to about why Prohibition was so bad and it really didn't achieve its initial goal but is that really an issue anymore? I mean is Prohibition 2.0 on the table at the White House? So what's with the preaching?
So like I said, the story was good and I liked the characters, and most certainly, if you are quilter, you would probably really enjoy this book, but for me, we could tighten this up a little.
For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!
Cover Lust: It's a little cutesy for me. This book is full of Prohibition and spousal abuse and you put roses and sunshine on the cover? I'm confused!
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