How novelist Elizabeth Gilbert has ended up 'dumb and crazy in love' with late ...

They could be any loved-up couple celebrating the joy of new romance with an impromptu selfie to share on Instagram. 

She gazes up into the camera with a dazzling smile, while he wraps her in an embrace, nuzzling her blonde hair.

But as her millions of fans know, nothing is quite so simple in the complicated, unconventional and rather topsy-turvy love life of best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert.

Three years ago Elizabeth Gilbert stunned her followers by leaving her second husband of ten years, Jose Nunes (left) — the handsome Brazilian ‘Felipe’ whom she fell in love with at the end of her Eat Pray Love travels — for a woman, her gay best friend Rayya Elias

Three years ago Elizabeth Gilbert stunned her followers by leaving her second husband of ten years, Jose Nunes (left) — the handsome Brazilian ‘Felipe’ whom she fell in love with at the end of her Eat Pray Love travels — for a woman, her gay best friend Rayya Elias

Ever since she set off on a solo voyage of self-discovery across the world following the collapse of her first marriage 15 years ago — her 2006 memoir Eat Pray Love became a publishing phenomenon selling more than 12 million copies — Gilbert has continued to surprise her readers with myriad twists and turns.

Three years ago she stunned her followers by leaving her second husband of ten years, Jose Nunes — the handsome Brazilian ‘Felipe’ whom she fell in love with at the end of her Eat Pray Love travels — for a woman, her gay best friend Rayya Elias.

Now, 15 months after her lover’s tragic death from cancer at the age of 57, Elizabeth Gilbert has fallen in love again — this time with a man. The object of her affections is British photographer Simon MacArthur, 60, who was for years one of Rayya’s closest friends and a former flatmate.

Indeed, it was Bristol-born Mr MacArthur who took one of the last poignant photographs of Elizabeth and Rayya together — a beautiful black-and-white portrait of the couple — before the Syrian born-musician and documentary maker passed away.

Now, 15 months after the tragic death of Elias (right) from cancer at the age of 57, Elizabeth Gilbert has fallen in love again — this time with a man

Now, 15 months after the tragic death of Elias (right) from cancer at the age of 57, Elizabeth Gilbert has fallen in love again — this time with a man

But this week in an Instagram post, Miss Gilbert, 49, introduced her new love to the world with the following words: ‘Please meet my sweetheart, Mr Simon MacArthur. He’s a photographer from the UK. He’s a beautiful man who has been a friend of mine for years.’

She continues: ‘Even more touchingly, Simon was a beloved friend of Rayya’s for decades. They lived in London together over 30 years ago, and they adored each other like siblings. This, as you can imagine, means the world to me. Of late, Simon and I have found our way into each other’s arms. And now here we are, and his heart has been such a warm place for me to land.

‘I share this news publicly, despite the fact our love story is so new and young and tender, for a few reasons. For one thing I just want to say: If you see me walking around with a tall, handsome man on my arm, don’t be buggin’. Just know that your girl is happy and following her heart.’

As for Mr MacArthur, who is believed to have recently split from his American wife, his Instagram reply to a surprised friend’s query ‘Really?’ suggests that he is as stunned as Miss Gilbert’s fans by this sudden and unexpected turn of events.

‘I hardly know where to begin. Liz and I have been friends for a couple of years. A few months ago the stars seemed to align. We were both out of relationships, both believing that we were destined to be alone for the rest of our lives,’ he writes.

‘But Liz has had strong feelings for me for years and kept those under wraps. A few weeks ago she revealed them to me and we’ve found an incredible love here ... We’re madly in love and planning our future together so, watch this space. We’re in the throes of introducing all our friends to each other.’

The object of Elizabeth Gilbert's affections is British photographer Simon MacArthur, 60, who was for years one of Rayya’s closest friends and a former flatmate

The object of Elizabeth Gilbert's affections is British photographer Simon MacArthur, 60, who was for years one of Rayya’s closest friends and a former flatmate

Born in Claverham, Bristol, New York-based documentary photographer and ‘environmental portraitist’ Mr MacArthur describes himself on his website as ‘a globetrotter, intensely curious about the way the world works and how best to pass on that curiosity to others — always looking for what’s around the next corner’.

He continues: ‘A friend told me my photos have all the hallmarks of a humanist. I think it fits. I am an ardent animal rights advocate and avid scuba diver, campaigning for the end of the use of plastics that are devastating oceanic life.’

A graduate of Gwent College of Art and Design in Newport, South Wales, he has travelled the world capturing arresting images of people and nature in black and white. His subjects range from Welsh dry dock welders to fishermen in Mombasa.

‘Why do I shoot solely in monochrome? The answer is because I want my work stripped bare of everything but cause and emotion,’ he writes. ‘As an emotive human being, I need to feel what I’m shooting, to feel as though I’m almost an integral part of everything I shoot ... ideally, interacting with my subject, in their skin.’

As for Miss Gilbert, in her Instagram post presenting her new sweetheart, she offers the following advice to others mourning a loved one — it’s OK to fall in love and feel like a ‘dumb and crazy and excited and insecure’ 16-year-old again in middle age.

‘Do not let your gorgeous loyalty to the deceased stop you from experiencing the marvels and terrors of your short, mortal, precious life. It’s OK to live, and to love.’

Born in Claverham, Bristol, New York-based documentary photographer and ‘environmental portraitist’ Mr MacArthur (left) describes himself on his website as ‘a globetrotter, intensely curious about the way the world works in how best to pass on that curiosity to others — always looking for what’s around the next corner'

Born in Claverham, Bristol, New York-based documentary photographer and ‘environmental portraitist’ Mr MacArthur (left) describes himself on his website as ‘a globetrotter, intensely curious about the way the world works in how best to pass on that curiosity to others — always looking for what’s around the next corner'

Certainly the intertwined lives of these three New Yorkers — who for years were nothing more than just good friends — would make a remarkable third memoir for Gilbert, whose follow-up to Eat Pray Love was called Committed and explored her ambivalence towards marriage.

You could argue it has all the hallmarks of another blockbuster, sequel perhaps to the 2010 film adaptation of Gilbert’s bestseller

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