Title: Her Own Legacy
Author: Debra Borchert
Publisher: Le Vin Press
Copyright: September 1, 2022
Format: E-Book, 568 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Historical Fiction Inspired by Historical Events
Headstrong Countess Joliette de Verzat prefers secretly managing her family’s Loire Valley château and vineyards to the cut-throat politics of Versailles. For nearly three centuries, generations of families have toiled to produce Château de Verzat wines, and their homes and livelihoods depend upon Joliette. But ancient laws block her from inheriting property—unless she is widowed.
Revolution erupts. Thousands of women march on Versailles. Caught in the battle, Joliette risks her own life to save her lover’s. She flees to Paris, blazing with hatred for aristocrats, where she discovers her illegitimate half-brother, Henri—the secret rightful heir who disdains the nobility to which he unknowingly belongs.
As insurrection mounts, Joliette faces heartbreaking choices. She must risk all that she loves and trust the people she has saved to save her.
Joliette de Verzat, a young woman belonging to a French aristocratic family, is dedicated to upholding her family’s legacy, Château de Verzat Wines. The de Verzat family owns a vineyard in the beautiful Loire Valley, far removed from the intrigues of Versailles. She was trained by her loving paternal grandmother, grandmaman, to care for the business. When that good lady passes away, the business is inherited by her father who could care any less. He would rather bask in the pomp and grandeur of Versailles. Joliette wants to take control of the vineyard but the problem is that her father doesn’t take her seriously. Moreover, she is not even his heir. It isn’t as if she could ever inherit anything as a single woman. As the French Revolution begins, she goes to a hostile Paris where she uncovers Henri, her illegitimate half-brother.
Debra Borchert’s Her Own Legacy, the premier book in the Château de Verzat series, is a masterfully woven tale about a young woman’s fight to maintain a three-hundred year legacy. We follow Joliette’s journey from the French countryside with its vivid descriptions of wine-making to the glistening halls of Versailles where she serves as a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. Finally, we experience the horrors of the Reign of Terror and the struggle for women to have some agency in a time where they possessed barely any rights. Borchert cleverly tells her tale through the eyes of Joliette and her half-brother, Henri, a young boy who is cynical about the aristocratic legacy to which he belongs. He is a young boy who has faced all kinds of hardship living with his impoverished mother, a woman who had an affair with the Comte de Verzat.
Not only was this book beautifully written with wonderful prose and picturesque descriptions but the characters had a genuine humanity to them. I simply loved the descriptions of the vineyard and the world of the eighteenth century. Reading this novel was an immersive experience where I could simultaneously appreciate the author’s realistic depictions and level of detail. It is apparent that Borchert did her due diligence in research. It certainly shines through her writing and, as a historical fiction reader, this is something I loved. The overall pace of the story was good and it kept me engaged for most of the time. The only criticism I can think of was that some of the dialogue came across as being somewhat awkward at times. Other than that, this was a delightful read about a time of real horror. I eagerly anticipate the the second installment of the Château de Verzat series.
As a fun aside, Borchert includes a recipe for Soupe Poireaux-Pommes de Terre (Leek & Potato Soup) at the back of the book. In addition, there is a neat section with discussion questions to help one think more deeply while reading Her Own Legacy.
I graciously received an advanced reader copy of Her Own Legacy. I received a free ARC for an honest review. No money was given for this review. All opinions expressed here are my own.