Today I'm psyched to have author Rumer Haven to the blog! I loved her ghostly historical romance Seven for a Secret. After my review, stick around for the interview and giveaway.
Seven For A Secret by Rumer Haven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Secret Lives, Secret Deaths
"There's souls not at rest here. It's a troubled place, this."
A historical romance set in Chicago, one of my favorite cities? Sign me up! The classy cover also drew me in.
In the year 2000, 25-year-old Kate moves into Camden Court, an apartment complex that used to be a 1920's hotel. She meets a cast of quirky elderly neighbors who report they didn't find the former tenant Olive in Kate's apartment until three days after her death. *shudders* Then Kate gets locked in her bathroom, and it feels like she's not alone. Eek!
Kate works at a museum with her boyfriend Dexter. While Dexter is sweet, he's no Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. (The 80s and 90s references made me happy.) Kate also feels intrigued by her hottie neighbor and wants to take a "break" from her relationship with Dex. (Anyone who knows the Ross/Rachel saga from Friends worries this won't turn out well.)
As Kate gets to know spunky Vera and kind-hearted Leo from the geriatric crowd, they tell her more about the ghostly Olive and her older sister Eva from the well-to-do 1920's Hughes family. The story then travels back through time to the scene of a decadent house party, full of flappers and moonshine. Bachelor Lon meanders through the crowd with cynical distaste, until he comes upon an "exquisite nymph" of a woman, Eva.
Lon first notices Eva's eyes:
They burned with a jade green he'd once seen in a great bonfire, the hottest of flames devouring all they came into contact with.
A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps? Sadly, Eva is betrothed to a man from another of Chicago's socially elite families. But Lon won't give up easily.
The historical romances in the 20s and 00s gradually pulled me in deeper to the point that it felt like I lived in Camden Court myself. The descriptive writing style authentically captures the proper debauchery and impending sense of doom from the twenties. This is a long novel, which allows both stories to unfold at their own pace (unlike my dissatisfaction with jamming two stories into one in Ugly Love).
One story has a happy ending and the other ends on a tragic note, but a common thread woven throughout is the search for love with the right partner, no matter how tangled the threads (or bonds) of life become. Kate's friend Blair tells it so well:
"Kate, trust me. When a guy's genuinely into you, the rules don't apply. Real love isn't a game, and that's how you'll know it when you see it. You'll recognize The One when you aren't overanalyzing him. You'll just ... be, and it'll play out organically."
And Kate responds:
"Why do I always feel like Enya should be playing in the background of your advice? I can almost smell herbal incense spraying out of my phone." Hehe.
View all my reviews
And now I interview Rumer:
Jennifer Lane (JL): Welcome to the blog, Rumer. I loved the uniqueness of Seven for a Secret. What sparked the story for you?
Rumer Haven (RH): Thanks for inviting me over, Jennifer! I'm so delighted that you enjoyed Seven for a Secret and am honored to be at your blog.
While there were an assortment of inspirations along the way, I suppose the real foundation for this story was a quite literal brick-and-mortar one. I modeled Camden Court after the Hampden Court apartment building in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, where I lived a decade ago. I loved the atmosphere of its vintage interior and exterior, enchanted by the idea that so many different lives had dwelled within those same walls for almost a century, and how so many separate lives continued to coexist in the building—the crowded isolation of people living within feet of each other, vertically and horizontally, hearing each other through walls or seeing each other through windows, yet rarely actually meeting in person…the idea of being both alone and surrounded by people…and the bizarre circumstances it might take for these otherwise parallel lives to intersect. Oh, say, like getting trapped in a bathroom and having to call for help out the window (that happened to me) and an old woman dying in her apartment, which freed the unit for another tenant, whose cat then pawed at the empty air inside it (that happened, too). That last bit was all the encouragement I needed to make this a ghost story. But in general, I gravitate toward stories with a strong sense of setting, so Hampden Court became Camden Court, which in turn became my big ol’ cauldron to fill with characters and bring to a boil.
JL: I also love Chicago! What made you choose the Windy City for the setting?
RH: After relocating from Chicago to London and first writing a manuscript set in the UK, my imagination itched to return home. Without question, Seven for a Secret is my Valentine to Chicago. Not just the 1920s but my twenties there—living in Lincoln Park, working downtown, volunteering at the Adler Planetarium. In addition to its sentimental value to me, its amazing history and architecture provided an ideal framework. So many iconic establishments from the Capone era still stand and serve one function or another, so the city couldn't have been more perfect for a dual-time-period story. Like London, Chicago is living, thriving history. The past so strongly coexists with the present there, and I couldn't help but write about it.
JL: You’re an editor and an author. Which started first? What is your favorite thing about both?
RH: I started writing first and became an editor on the heels of completing my first novel-length manuscript. Working on both sides of the publication fence has certainly been interesting in many respects, but I’d say my favorite thing about editing is working with other authors and being a part of their creative process. I used to be an English teacher, and while there's so much I miss about the classroom, I still get to instruct as an editor—not only with regard to writing but in recognizing people's potential and helping them reach it. That is hugely satisfying and provides an important balance, I think. Because while my favorite thing about writing is losing myself to another place, time, and situation—basically, my favorite thing about reading, too—it's a solitary practice that can make me overly introverted. So though it can admittedly get frustrating whenever more of my time and creative energy goes to someone else's manuscript and leaves me depleted for my own, I'm grateful for that push to get outside of myself and help other writers realize their dreams. I don’t have to do both; I choose to and feel like the luckiest gal in the world that I even have that choice.
JL: What is one thing about publishing that has surprised you?
RH: How much authors have to market their own books! So much momentum goes into writing a book, revising it, then releasing it, and then all of a sudden, it's like...Okay, now what? It’s out there, but how do I get people to know that?? With social media, there are so many ways to interact with readers, which is awesome and fun. I can be social. But I'm not particularly skilled at marketing, nor keen on self-promotion, so when lovely folks like yourself take the time to not only read my book but review it and share it with others, I am genuinely appreciative and content knowing that someone other than me (and my mom, who’s obligated) has enjoyed it.
JL: What are you working on now?
RH: I’m revisiting my first manuscript. It’s similar to Seven for a Secret in certain ways but with a much stronger paranormal element and London setting. It shifts between two time periods, too (present day and Victorian era), but takes place mostly in the present and is somewhat darker, more psychological. A ghost story with a philosophical twist.
I’m also outlining a new story set in one house over the course of one night, which I've always wanted to try, though it’ll be a challenge for sure to keep that interesting! A rom-com dinner party with a little Agatha Christie and Ghost Hunters thrown in the mix. But aside from crazy chicken scratchings all over the pages of my notebook, I’ve only written a chapter for that one so far.
Rumer and Omnific Publishing offer an ebook of Seven for a Secret to a lucky winner. To enter, leave a comment. You can choose to answer this question: Would you rather live in the 1920s or 2000s?