UK Edition of 'The Affair'
USA edition of 'The Affair'
Dutch edition of 'The Affair'
Have you ever been tempted?
When does attraction become temptation?
When does temptation become compulsion?
Happily married with two small children and a circle of devoted friends, Angelica knows she should be grateful. But then she meets a charismatic South African who flirts with her and makes her feel beautiful. What starts as a long distance friendship grows into something deeper and soon she longs for his emails.
From the glamorous streets of London to the lush vineyards of South Africa, Angelica chases a dream that risks the very things she holds dear. Yet, the dream is flawed and a moment of savage violence flings her and Jack together only to rip them apart. With life refined down to its bare essence, Angelica learns that what Fate takes with one hand, it gives with the other.
My tenth novel – I never thought I’d be able to write that. It feels good. They are all like children to me so I can’t say which I like best. I can say the ones that were delivered with ease and those that were harder. The Affair was easy to write, being inspired as I was by a group of girlfriends. We lunch together, laugh together and share everything. As I grow older I value my girlfriends more than ever. If they have taught me anything it is that humour is the greatest healer.
I wanted to do something different with this one. So I based it in London. Although Last Voyage of The Valentina has chapters on the houseboat in Chelsea, The Affair is very urban – until it gets to the vineyard in South Africa. I was a little anxious about writing about the city, having never really done it before. But it’s all really about character – if the characters are good they’ll work anywhere. I watched my own friends, the way we interact with each other. We are all rather loud, and very different, but the dynamic works. We’re thick as thieves. So I lifted that dynamic and transferred it into my novel. Although the characters are fictitious, the combination of personalities is similar. This enabled me to write about a group of women who gel. I had great fun with these scenes because they are comic. When I’m dealing with love and longing I feel my readers need some light relief. I hope that with this book they have it in spades!
I went to South Africa on book tour a few years ago and visited a vineyard near Stellenbosch. It was so beautiful and so romantic I knew that one day I would base a book there. The idea for The Affair is a contemporary one. In fact, people have been having affairs since marriage was invented. Only now with email and texts it’s easier than ever…
Angelica was enchanted by everything at Rosenbosche, from the beauty of the countryside to the functional charm of the winery. They tied the horses in the courtyard outside the farm buildings, designed in the same Dutch style as the main house, and Jack took her inside to show her the winemaker, stopping to chat to workers on the way. Finally, down in the dank darkness of the barrel cellar, they were alone.
Jack pulled her into his arms and kissed her hungrily as if he had been waiting all morning for an opportunity, holding her close and inhaling her scent.
“You smell so good,” he breathed into her neck, and the warmth on her skin made her shiver. “I really love you, Sage.” He swept her hair off her face and gazed at her features as if committing them to memory. She allowed herself to be enveloped by his giant frame and nestled happily there, his words echoing in her ears and into her heart.
‘From the outset, Angelica Lariviere lives a charmed life. A best-selling author, she has the perfect home, a beautiful family, glamorous friends and a very healthy bank balance.
But lothario Jack turns her world upside down – and their harmless flirting soon becomes a full-blown affair.
Seduced by the passion and sincerity, readers will find themselves sucked into – and approving of – the pair’s illicit relationship.
And with much of the novel set against the stunning back drop of South Africa, it will provide some much needed escapism on a cold winter’s night.
That is until Jack drops a bombshell – forcing Angelica to reassess her life all over again and unexpectedly changing the story’s course.
Bittersweet and thought-provoking, the Affair is essentially escapist chick-lit, but brilliantly written and surprisingly sophisticated’.
News of the World, 2010
‘Angelica is a bestselling Children’s author who lives in London with her banker husband and children, and lunches regularly with her Sex in the City-esque clique of girlfriends. The she meets Jack, a rugged charming South African who makes her feel desirable in the way her husband no longer can.
One source of the lovers’ mutual attraction is their shared search for what they call “the perfect happiness”. Drawn to Jack’s belief in living for the moment, Angelica reveals to him her secret ambition to give her next book a deeper layer, something that had a message about the meaning of life – an aim apparently shared by Santa Montefiore herself.
After many chapters of procrastination and email flirtation – including a painfully strung-out analogy for infidelity involving dogs on porches – they begin affair in earnest. The London scenes are gossipy and entertaining enough, but it’s only when Angelica visits South Africa that the writing begins to sing. Landscapes are this author’s forte and her descriptions of the jasmine-scented air at Jack’s vineyard outside Cape Town are accomplished and poetic. The dramatic high point is a brutal burglary at the vineyard, and for a paragraph or two Montefiore touches on the disparity between rich and poor, seeming poised to say something significant about the pursuit of happiness in such a world. But it is soon clear that the incident is a handy plot device to prompt Jack to confess the reason behind his carpe diem ethos, and to shock Angelica into remembering how much she loves her husband, who remains conviniently oblivious to her adultery.
This is where the book falls short – not because it fails to address some of life’s big questions, but because the answers it comes up with are superficial, an affair can bring you happiness if you get away with it, the author seems to be saying. And even if your lover has a tragic secret that brings things to a premature end, it’s nothing Bellini and s blow-dry can’t mend’.
The Daily Telegraph, 2010
Angelica is a woman who has it all: an attractive French husband, a career as a best-selling children’s author and loads of money but Olivier, the husband, works in the Cit and the encroaching credit crisis is occupying him and making him neglectful. So, when she meets a handsome South African, Jack, at a dinner party, she is ripe for the picking.
Santa Montefiore is a marvel at descriptive writing and the two milieus she establishes, the grand drawing rooms of rich London filled with designer-clad women and the lush South African veldt, have you drooling. She’s very sympathetic to her characters, too: Angelica is never praised for what she is doing but neither is she condemned. “Have you ever been tempted?” asks the cover of the book. Well, of course.
This book is really a description of a midlife crisis of a kind only the really lucky have: everything is so perfect that surely there must be something more? Angelica is, ultimately, brought up short by the potential repercussions of her actions and nor, rather bleakly, are the lovers given a happy ending. It doesn’t happen in life and neither, in this case, in art.
The most intriguing character is Anna, Jack’s wife, a near-saintly figure who knows exactly what is going on but makes no attempt to interfere because she and Jack do not possess one another. This is a tale of middle-aged angst, yearning and longing and the fact that we must all, ultimately, accept real life.
Sunday Express, 2010
What was the inspiration behind The Perfect Happiness? Was there a particular scene you envisioned first?
I’m 40 years old myself, with two small children and a very happy married life. An attractive man flirted with me at a dinner and then found me on email, through my author website – that part is taken from life. It was really a ‘what if’ from there. I wanted to explore two things: is it possible to have a fliration without it developing into a full blown affair? And two, we belong to a generation that feels happiness is our birthright, at whatever cost. We want something, we buy it on credit, we break something, we don’t mend it as our mother’s did, but chuck it away and buy a new one. Do we treat love in the same way? – and destroy any obstacle in our path, even if that obstacle is our own husband, children or friends? Do we selfishly believe we can and should have everything we want? The first scene I thought of was the robbery and Jack’s confession, so I always knew where I was going, although I wasn’t sure how it would end – and true to character Kate took over the subplot, which was never my intention!
Angelica struggles in The Perfect Happiness to get inspiration for her new book. She believes that “there was nothing more disconcerting than a blank piece of paper with nothing to write on it” (p. 55). What do you do when you get stuck with writer’s block? Does your writing routine mimic that of Angelica’s?
No, fortunately I never get writer’s block. My trouble is finding time to get to my desk with all the domestic chores I have to do!
Shopping, brands and couture are a big part of the ladies’ lifestyle in The Perfect Happiness. Do you consider yourself a “fashionista” like Kate, Candace and the others?
No, but my girlfriends are very fashion conscious. I love clothes and shopping, but I’m not very good at it. If I identify with any of the girls on that front, it would be Angelica.
You created quite the cadre of characters between Angelica, Kate, Candace, Leitzia and Scarlet. Are any of these women based upon people you know? Who do you think you are the most like and why?
I drew inspiration from my group of girlfriends. We meet weekly for lunch at each other’s houses or restaurants, and daily at the school gates. Although I invented their characters, the lifestyle is very much taken from my life. There is a little of me in all of them, barring Kate, who is like no one I know (but would rather like to know as she’s funny!) I’m sure I subconsciously draw on people I know, I’d never do it consciously – basing characters on real people could get me into terrible trouble!!
Your descriptions of London, Johannesburg, Cape Town and the vineyards are exceptionally vivid. Do you frequent these locales? What kind of research, if any, did you have to do for this book?
I always write about what I know. So, yes, I live in Kensington, have been on book tour to Johannesburg and Cape Town, and visited a beautiful vineyard there. I draw inspiration from real places – this novel is the most realistic of all my books, because I usually invent my towns and villages. All the restaurants, streets and shops in London are real. Warwick Estate where Jack and Anglica go for drinks, is a real place anyone can visit.
Was there ever a draft where Angelica and Jack wound up together? Or was she always meant to go back to Olivier?
Jack and Angelica were never going to end up together. I knew from the start that he was going to die, and that Angelica would return and repair her marriage. I wanted the affair to be the catalyst that drives her to find happiness with Olivier.
Angelica highlights the hardships of maintaining both a happy personal life and a successful professional life. What advice would you offer to women who struggle to balance the two?
I think it’s incredibly hard to juggle being a wife, mother and working woman. There is no secret to making it work. You spread yourself very thinly and feel exhausted at the end of the day after everyone has wanted a piece of you. I meditate, try not to put too much in my diary so I get my sleep, and spend quality time with my husband and children on weekends. I’m lucky, I’m self employed and can run my own timetable, if I get stressed out I can go for a walk in the park! My husband and children come first, no matter what, so I revolve my life around them – but my writing is always there for me. It’s a hobby that I’m lucky enough to have as a job.
Angelica’s marriage is (arguably) saved by the events that transpire in The Perfect Happiness. What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Firstly, I would like my readers to enjoy it. It’s a love story, with a little mystery thrown in. I enjoyed writing it and took great pleasure from the characters I invented. I’d like readers to laugh and cry a little but end up with a warm feeling that carries them through their day. If they want to derive anything further on a spiritual level, then they can read extracts from The Perfect Happiness at the top of each chapter and try to work them into their lives. I know all the theory but it’s difficult to live it, but I certainly try.
Your books have consistently been on the top of British and European bestseller lists and now you are starting to take the U.S. by storm. How do you make your books appealing to so many different audiences?
Firstly, the US covers are beautiful, so that’s a great start when trying to attract readers. Secondly, love is universal. We all want it, no matter who we are or what we do. We all want to be loved and to love in return. But we all suffer loss, setbacks, disappointment and hurt – as do my characters. I explore love in every form in my novels because love is the most important thing in my life, and, I believe, why we’re all here on earth. The simple answer is that love appeals to everyone.
What’s next for you? Will we be hearing from Angelica again?
The Perfect Happiness has already come out in the UK and I have had many requests to write a sequel – I rather enjoy the idea of picking another character, say Candice, and focusing on her life – or Kate….watch this space.
Right now, I’m writing my next novel, based in Tuscany, Italy in the late 1960s and Devon, England in the present day. Another big love story with a whopping twist! I’ve just changed publishers in England and am now writing for Simon & Schuster UK, so I’m under the big Simon & Schuster umbrella, which is wonderful – I want my first novel for them to be bigger and better than all of the other ones, so I’d better get back to it…………