Time to introduce the couple at the centre of the story who own and run Winterbourne House.
Wil (Wilma) inherited the house from her adopted mother, Kim Russell. The back story for this is quite complex but is key to understanding some of Wil’s personality traits. She had a less than ideal childhood with a mother who never told her who her father was or talked about her own parents. They moved constantly from place to place until they came to Winterbourne village.
Whether or not it had been her mother’s intention all along to hook up with the reclusive lesbian novelist living in the village, Wil didn’t know for sure. But looking back, she wouldn’t have been surprised if that had been the case.
With the help of her partner, Gaby, Wil has turned the writer’s home into a successful guesthouse business. And in the process, has enjoyed a settled lifestyle for the past fifteen years.
This tranquility is about to be disturbed by the arrival of their first child. At the start of this story, Gaby is nine months pregnant and with a houseful of guests, plus friends and family, the four days over Christmas are not going to be peaceful. Wil wonders if she has what it takes to be a good parent, not having experienced much in the way of good parenting as a child.
Gaby (Gabriella) on the other hand has no such worries, growing up on a farm in Italy with loving parents and two brothers. In fact, her parents were more upset about her following Wil to England, than finding out their daughter was a lesbian. Gaby has an artistic flair that manifested itself through her contributions to the renovation of the house and gardens, as well as her cooking skills. She has also won awards for photography and is a valued member of the local photographic society.
The book is subtitled ‘A Memoir in the Making’ and this is one of the flashbacks – Wil’s memory of when she met Gaby.
Scene from Chapter One of Christmas at Winterbourne:
…It had been a hot day in Rome and Wil had spent most of it in the university’s library looking up references for the paper she was writing about the Etruscan people. Someone she’d met at a cafe had invited her to a party that evening and she almost didn’t go. As it was, she spent most of the evening leaning against a wall, watching people she didn’t know smoke and drink their way into oblivion. She sipped at a glass of red wine and refused two offers of badly wrapped spliffs. It really wasn’t her scene. Gabriella arrived with a group and at first Wil thought she was partnered up with one of them, but after a while they started to mingle separately. Wil finished her wine and decided to make a discreet exit. As she’d spoken to no one, she wasn’t likely to be missed. Standing outside the apartment building, she had just inhaled a welcome breath of fresh air when a voice behind her asked, in Italian, if she was leaving already. She turned around to find the dark-haired beauty she’d noticed earlier watching her from the doorway. Not trusting herself to speak, she simply nodded. Gabriella came up to her, took her hand, and asked her to please stay.
That evening they just talked. They met again in the following days, going for walks, sitting in cafés. Wil didn’t think it would go any further than that although she really fancied the woman. But she knew she would be heading back to England soon and didn’t want to start something that would end with a tearful separation and empty promises to keep in touch. Then Gaby asked Wil to go with her to see her parents. It was a family gathering for her younger brother’s birthday and she said she didn’t want to go on her own.
Several surprising things happened that weekend. First of all, Gaby’s family welcomed her wholeheartedly. Secondly, they obviously expected she and Gaby would sleep together and put them in the same bedroom. Wil hadn’t known what to do that first night. She waited until Gaby went to the bathroom, undressed hastily and crept under the covers. Gaby had laughed when she came back and saw her there. She had performed an extremely seductive striptease and jumped into bed. By the time they were on the motorbike, travelling back to Rome at the end of two days of family celebrations, Wil was in love…
Fifteen years later, Wil is still in love with Gaby. But is the impending birth driving them apart…?
Next week’s blog: Winterbourne’s ghost makes an appearance
Read the beginning of Chapter 1 from Christmas at Winterbourne on the Affinity website. The book is due for release on 1 November 2016.
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