The Champagne Conspiracy (Wine Country)
by Ellen Crosby
Cover Artist: Hiro Kimura
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250076557
Date: 01 November 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When Lucie Montgomery discovers a flapper's beautiful dress in an old trunk, she is awed by the beauty and fine workmanship of the garment. She is anxious to learn more of the history of the dress and the woman who wore it. So begins a search into the past that entails a national scandal, a woman's death, and may also influence the mega expansion plans of a California winery.
Montgomery, a Virginia vintner and owner of the Montgomery Estate Vineyard in Atoka, Virginia, is surprised to learn Gino Tomassi, a major California vintner, is related to her winemaker, Quinn. Gino insists Lucie give him an old trunk he claims belonged to his relatives. Initially, Lucie refuses.
Lucie finds a photograph in her mother's belongings of party of young woman and a man holding a beautiful girl in his lap. In the background she spots a woman in the dress she found earlier. The woman wearing it looks like Lucie. She then remembers an ancestor name Lucie Montgomery known as Lucky Montgomery.
Gino threats make Lucie suspicious and she searches his grandmother's trunk. Initially, she finds nothing. Then, she searches the trunk again and finds a hidden compartment with seven letters apparently written to the ancestor who died in an accident. She also looks at an album a friend had showing pictures taken during the Roaring Twenties and finds more pictures of Lucky and a young woman in the man's lap. The man was Warren G. Harding, noted for his many affairs.
As Gino persists, suspicions rise that maybe the death of the ancestor might not have been an accident. The question also remains of what happened to the child she bore shortly before her death.
All the personal tragedy is overshadowed by Gino's plans for a hostile takeover of smaller vineyards in California. Quinn vows to stop Gino no matter what he has to do.
The Champagne Conspiracy is the seventh Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Cosby. She also writes the Sophie Medina Mystery series. The puzzle of the dress and then the reasons why someone took such pains to erase the existence of the woman in Harding's lap drive the action. Hints about Quinn and his involvement with Lucie will hold the interest of romance readers. Cosby manages to keep a few surprises until the very end.