A WOMAN'S INTUITION by Tessa Barclay


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The saga of an aristocratic, wine-growing family in mid-19th century France, wherein the family's star-crossed progeny unwittingly contemplate incest. Nicole Berthois, a pretty and impeccably virtuous peasant girl ("". . .she let [the blouse] slip over her head so that it floated round her young breasts encased in a bodice of thick decent cotton. . .""), is fascinated with handsome aristocrat, Philippe de Tramont, who writes plays and is in turn beguiled by Nicole, especially when she tells him she's read Racine (""'Racine!' This time he couldn't hide his astonishment""). Nicole, enceinte, forces Philippe to confront his terrifying mother with the fact of their impending union, and ""Old Madame"" de Tramont is forced to accept it. The waning de Tramont coffers are being indifferently and hesitantly filled by a flagging wine business, which Old Madame feels herself too good to run (trade demeans) following her husband's death. But Nicole has no such compunction, and hastens to build Maison Tramont into the finest champagne winery in France. Later, her own daughters prove as willful as she was when young: the eldest, Alys, elopes with an unworthy suitor, while the younger, Delphine, insists on romance with her illegitimate half-brother whom she knows as cousin. This leads to a tragic sequence of events that culminates in the return of an estranged Alys, the demise of a hostile Delphine, and the continuation in perpÉtuitÉ of La Veuve Tramont (Nicole's prized champagne product). Slightly less bubbly than the estate's wine, the story of the wayward daughters here has a passion that compensates for the rather more ordinary (and decidedly trite, by the genre) exploits of their mother; readable enough and a good first effort.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1987
Publisher: Richardson & Steirman--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)