Wickwythe Hall: Guest Post

WICKWYTHE HALL

By Judithe Little

Genre: Historical Fiction / WWII

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Date of Publication: September 30, 2017

Number of Pages: 324

*Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist*

*2018 Reader Views Readers’ Choice Award for Historical Fiction*

*Winner of the Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Best Historical Fiction*

*Official selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club*

Scroll down for the giveaway!

May 1940. The Germans invade France and the course of three lives is upended. Annelle LeMaire is a French refugee desperate to contact her Legionnaire brothers.

Mabry Springs, American wife of a wealthy Brit, is struggling to come to terms with a troubled marriage and imminent German invasion. And Reid Carr, American representative of French champagne house Pol Roger, brings more than champagne to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Their paths entwine when Churchill and his entourage take refuge at Wickwythe Hall, the Springs’ country estate hidden from the full moon and German bombers beneath a shroud of trees. There, as secrets and unexpected liaisons unfold, Annelle, Mabry, and Reid are forever bound by the tragedy they share.

Part Downton Abbey, part Darkest Hour, Wickwythe Hall was inspired by an actual confrontation between the British and French navies in July 1940 and is a story of love, loyalty, and heartrending choices.

PRAISE FOR WICKWYTHE HALL:

“…a riveting and enlightening mix of history and fiction that puts a human face on the costs of war…engaging…”  — Foreword Reviews

“Little’s characterization of Churchill is so well done. She makes his personality and presence so real. Mabry was a character to be admired for her decisions and actions. A good read with a satisfying ending.”   — Historical Novels Review

“Judithe Little tackles war and masterfully boils it down to personal moral dilemmas. Beautifully written and rich with atmosphere…Wickwythe Hall is a stellar achievement.”  — Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPreeand The Promise

“…an emotional and touching story about the lives of three people during World War II, at the time of Hitler’s invasion of France in 1940. Inspired by real people, places and events in history, this whirlwind novel will no doubt leave an imprint on your heart long after you finish reading.”  — Reader Views

“If you love history, beautifully rendered characters, and stories that will tug at your heart, add Wickwythe Hall to your list.”  — Book Perfume

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Do You Like Champagne?

Guest Post by Judithe Little

I do! Champagne plays a part in my historical novel Wickwythe Hall. It’s the connection between my fictional character, Reid Carr, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In the novel, Reid Carr is a representative of French champagne house Pol Roger. In real life, Pol Roger was Churchill’s favorite champagne. Voilà! Fact meets fiction.

Churchill’s love of libations is well documented.  He began each day with whiskey and soda or a tumbler of sherry, then moved on to wine, champagne, port with the cheese course, and ninety year old brandy before bed. But champagne was his favorite, particularly Pol Roger. He liked to have his own bottle by his plate at the table in order, according to his wife Clementine, “to be independent of the vagaries of butlers.” His zeal for French champagne ran so deep that during World War I, he roused his fellow troops with the battle call “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!”

Not only did he have a taste for champagne, he had champagne tastes and lived beyond his means. In 1926, he resolved to tighten his belt. He wrote a note to Clementine stating, “no more champagne is to be bought.” He attempted to reduce his cigar use to four a day. He directed that there be no fish course unless they had guests. But by 1936, he was in the hole again, owing his wine merchant $75,000 in today’s dollars. Blessedly, the threat of imminent poverty inspired his most prolific work as a writer (kids, don’t try this at home). He literally wrote his way out of financial disaster.

His devotion to champagne and Pol Roger deepened when he met the striking Odette Pol Roger in 1944 at an Armistice Day party in Paris. He insisted she be invited to every dinner he attended in Paris thereafter.

Born Odette Wallace in 1911, she was 37 years Winston’s junior. In her youth, she and her sisters comprised a beguiling trio known as “the Wallace Collection.” Odette married Jacques Pol Roger, a co-director of his family’s champagne house, and the two lived near Jacques’ parents at Epernay. There, during World War II, Odette was a courier for the Resistance, bicycling 12 hours to Paris when needed.

In the years after the war, with her charm, beauty and joie de vivre, she became the face of Pol Roger. Her self-professed mission was to encourage people to enjoy champagne. She found a kindred spirit in Winston, and their friendship was deep.

Just as Winston was a professed Francophile, Odette likewise had English passions. She raised chickens, gardened, and was a devotee of fly-fishing. She spent summers at her chateau on a trout river in Normandy. She told The Daily Telegraph in 1970 that after a dinner in Paris, she got in her car to drive home and:

As the sun was coming up I was thinking of getting a bit of sleep when I looked down from my bedroom window and saw a huge trout in the stream which runs through the property. So I grabbed my rod and rushed down and caught him – still in my dinner gown. Well! Life must be enjoyed, no?

Odette sent her friend Winston a case of Pol Roger every year for his birthday. Winston named a race horse after her. When he died in 1965, Odette placed a black border on the labels of bottles exported to Britain. Later, Pol Roger named its prestigious cuvée after him, rich and full-bodied as he preferred.

All of this may seem like a romantic glimpse into the long-lost past. But today, at your local wine store, you can still find a piece of history inspired by this great friendship: the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.  And if the cost of the special edition ($250 plus) is too much, Pol Roger offers a $50 bottle. It’s still a splurge, but even now, in 2018, life must be enjoyed, no?

Judithe Little grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.

After studying at the Institute of European Studies and the Institut Catholique in Paris, France, and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow.

She lives with her husband, three teenagers, and three dogs in Houston, Texas, where she’s at work on her next historical novel set in France.

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THREE WINNERS
1ST: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall + $50 Amazon Gift Card
2ND: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall + $25 Amazon Gift Card
3RD: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall  + $15 Amazon Gift Card

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