When I read the first draft of Diana Thompson's just released Winterflood's Passion I dubbed it the 'Bowral bodice-ripper' a name that has stuck much to the bemusement of the author, I'm sure. An article in the Southern Highland News and the program of the Southern Highlands Writers Festival (where Winterflood's Passion was recently launched) both picked up on the term with unfettered glee at having a novel set in Bowral, a jewel of the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Who can blame them? It is a beautiful place and a very apt setting for the passionate love affair between the fictional young and beautiful widow, Charlotte Ranleigh and the dashing, playboy art entrepreneur, Daniel Winterflood. The bodice-ripper part is not so easily explained, except to say that, not being an aficionado of the romance genre; I had no idea before reading Winterflood's Passion that there would be so much explicit sex in a romance novel. Silly me! Hot sex is writ large here - and stirring stuff it is too without being kinky, dark or dysfunctional. The bodice-ripper term refers not so much to the timeframe (bodice-ripper inferring an historical or regency theme) but to the unbridled lust and its many earth-moving incarnations of which Diana writes so skilfully in this, her first novel.
It's certainly not my intention to leave you with the impression that plentiful, well-written sex is the only thing that attracted me to this book as a publisher and a reader. Like most things in life it is far more complicated and multi-factorial than that - so please, let me attempt to explain.
Firstly, Diana's work is very descriptive and I found that really drew me in. From the herbs that Charlotte grows in her garden to the Aubusson rug and Margaret Olley painting in the living room, to the detailed description of the furnishings in Daniel's bachelor lair in Sydney and every meal they consume together - Diana's attention to detail is, dare I say it, very seductive. A vivid picture is painted around the main protagonists, how they look, feel and live, that I found myself quite spontaneously seeing them in my mind's eye – even wondering who might play them on screen.
The second thing I love about Winterflood's Passion is that Diana doesn't push the boundaries of fantasy too far. Sure there's escapism here - beautiful, wealthy people living in luxurious surrounds with fabulous careers - what's not to like? But in amongst all that Diana deftly weaves in some strong correlations with anyone’s real life - a tragic death, misplaced guilt, thwarted dreams and self-doubt. All of these make an appearance and help to ground what would otherwise be fantasy characters that one only reads about in, well, romance novels.
And finally, the greatest appeal of Winterflood's Passion is the context of true love in which the mind-blowing sex is set. Call me old fashioned but reading about sadistic or violent sexual encounters that are way beyond my understanding or aspiration is not my idea of a rollicking good roll-in-the-hay read. Diana's novel strikes a brilliant balance between the raunchy, wanton, get-on-board-or-get-out-of-the-way sex and exquisite love-making between two people with a very deep connection.
Diana Thompson is a long-time friend of mine and a highly acclaimed jewellery designer in her own right. To my way of thinking, Di epitomises the person who is strangely compelled to write and who's actually sat down and done it while carrying on with life as normal. She is the very type of writer we had in mind when we founded For Pity Sake Publishing and the fact that our fledgling publishing house has been able to produce her first novel brings me more joy that I can adequately express here.
Bowral bodice-ripper it is.
Buy your copy of Diana's debut novel Winterflood's Passion here!