LONDON — A sensational new book purporting to reveal a long, intimate love affair between a handsome army officer and the Princess of Wales went on sale in Britain on Monday and was an immediate sellout at 75,000 copies.
The controversial book, written by journalist Anna Pasternak, is based on what Pasternak learned during a two-year friendship, she says, with 36-year-old James Hewitt, a retired captain in the elite Life Guards of the Royal Household Cavalry.
The book, "Princess in Love," has few quotations and is written in the breathless style of romantic fiction, containing the supposed thoughts and feelings of Princess Diana and Hewitt during a torrid love affair that lasted nearly five years.
Diana, spurned by Prince Charles, was desperate for affection, attention and sexual love, according to the book. She is depicted as making love to the tall, blond Hewitt in her four-poster bed at Highgrove, Charles' country estate, with her two sons asleep in the next room.
The affair reportedly ended in 1991. Since then, Hewitt has sold his story to the tabloids, though until now he had denied that he was intimate with Diana. Hewitt reached the rank of temporary major but was forced to retire earlier this year as a captain when he failed his tests for promotion to permanent major.
Pasternak, a great-niece of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Boris Pasternak, writes of the couple's first dinner date, at Kensington Palace:
"Suddenly, she could bear it no longer. Her need was too much, she was starting to flail. So, with the ease of a dancer performing a well-worn routine, she stood up, walked across to him and slipped sideways on to his lap. . . .
"Diana stood up and without saying a word stretched out her hand and slowly led James to her bedroom. . . . "
The 192-page book--written and printed in secret, apparently to avoid a court injunction against it--has outraged Buckingham Palace, where it was branded "grubby and worthless."
In a television appearance Monday, Pasternak, 27, said her material came from Hewitt and from letters he received from Diana, now 33, particularly while he was serving as an acting major with a tank squadron during the Persian Gulf War.