Sonoma Rose is nineteenth in Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilts series but can be read and enjoyed (as I did) as a stand-alone. Quilting may not play as big a role in this book as it does in others in the series, but Chiaverini employs a quilting technique to her storytelling. She pieces together the story of Rosa Diaz Barclay; how she came to be married to the abusive John Barclay, forsaking her true love Lars Jorgensen, and how she and Lars took her four children and fled their southern California valley for the vineyards of Sonoma County.
Although the landscape is beautiful, being a winemaker during Prohibition is fraught with almost as many dangers as Rosa faced from her husband. A villainous Prohibition agent, Dwight Crowell, makes their employers’ lives miserable before turning his sights on Rosa and Lars, who pose as Rose and Nils Ottesen. Adding to Rosa’s worries is the health of two of her children, Ana and Miguel, who suffer from the same mysterious disease that killed four of their brothers and sisters. Marta and Lupita, her other two children, enjoy good health. Would that be because they don’t share the same father as their brother and sister?
I don’t want to give the impression that this book is a soap opera when it is far from it. Rosa makes believable, heartbreaking choices in her life, and although there are villains, they are given a context. Plenty of books have featured Prohibition in New York City, with speakeasies and bathtub gin, but this is the first I’ve read from the perspective of the vintners of the West Coast, people who have invested generations in their land only to have their livelihood made illegal. Here’s hoping the twentieth in this series continues the story of Rosa and Lars.