Sex, Sun and Syrah in abundance in Provence!
Shortly after moving her family to the South of France, Sophie Reed finds a lacy bra in her husband's luggage...and it's not hers. Her husband admits it: he's having an affair. So what should Sophie do? Should she give up on her dream of becoming a winemaker and move back to England with her three kids? Or embrace her inner French woman, carry on and start a new life? Well clever thing that you are, you can probably guess which path the heroine of this new novel takes, her journey eased considerably by the love and support of family and friends, bright sunshine, just-baked bread, local wines, lots of yoga - and a French lover or two.
Author Helena Frith Powell (pictured above) is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. Love in a Warm Climate is her sixth book - she wrote the best-selling Two Lipsticks and a Lover - and her first novel. She says it's semi-autobiographical and it came out last week.
The publisher, Gibson Square (London), alternately calls Love in a Warm Climate "a novel about the French art of love" and "a novel about the French art of having affairs" - leading one to wonder, of course, if we're meant to believe that these are one and the same. Each chapter begins with a "rule" such as "Pick a lover who has as much to lose as you do" or "Remember that nothing has to last forever, or even for an afternoon" and so forth.
The sub-plot is all about being sexier, more confident, more seductive....more French. What's much more amusing, however, are all the vignettes about French village life, the travails of hunting for the perfect "old stone", the behind-the-scenes peek into the world of French winemaking and all the challenges and culture shocks encountered on the road to becoming a contented and well-adjusted expat.
The story is set in a fictitious village in the Languedoc-Rousillon, a region the author knows well. She and her family (husband Rupert; children Olivia, Bea and Leonardo), left their home in Sussex and bought one in Pezenas in the year 2000. They lived there full time, until decamping for Abu Dhabi in 2008, and they now return each summer.
The description of the house early in the book, Helena tells me, perfectly describes her own when she first saw it - and other scenes were also drawn from first-hand experience. Fictional character Johnny Fray is based on real-life bad-boy chef Marco Pierre White, who, Helena reports, once gave her the snog of her life in a restaurant kitchen. Her friend and neighbour Jean-Claude Mas, of the highly rated Arrogant Frog, generously taught her all he could about winemaking in the South of France so she could sound convincing.
Love in a Warm Climate is available to buy online from Amazon here.
Photographs courtesy Rupert Wright
Julie Mautner is a freelance journalist living most of the year in St. Remy de Provence, where she produces the popular blog ProvencePost.com. Her articles on food, wine and travel appear in Travel & Leisure, NYTimes.com, TheAtlantic.com, Food Arts Magazine and elsewhere.