Actress Eden Riley’s decision to make a film about her mother plunges her into a shattering confrontation with her own past, irrevocably altering her life and the lives of those she loves. Her mother, Katherine Swift, was a renowned children’s author who died when Eden was very young. Now Eden, recovering from a divorce and disillusioned with her glamorous life, returns to the childhood home of the mother she barely knew. She moves in with her uncle, archaeologist Kyle Swift and his wife, Louise.
Eden gets more than she bargained for when Kyle gives her the journal her mother had kept from the age of thirteen until her death. Eden is spellbound by the powerfully written, intimate diary that chronicles a life of hardship, madness and tragedy. But her fascination turns to horror when she discovers the shocking truth about her mother’s life.
Eden turns for comfort to Ben Alexander, Kyle’s colleague, not knowing that Ben has a secret of his own that could ruin Eden and her career. Now Eden must make a heartbreaking decision as she struggles to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and come to terms with her own future.
Shifting gracefully between Eden’s world and Katherine’s, Secret Lives seduces with the power of its images and the lyricism of its prose.
“…the brisk, atmospherically evocative narrative is absorbing reading.” Publishers Weekly
“Secret Lives is a complex and emotionally wrenching tale of the power of love.” RT Reviews
“Dramatic. . . welcomes one into its pages.” Washington Post
Copyright 1991 Diane Chamberlain Originally published by HarperCollins
I’m thrilled to make Secret Lives available to my readers as an e-book. Originally published in 1991 when my readership was small, it has long been out of print. It’s become extremely hard to find and I know it’s been a challenge for some of you to track down your own copy. Finally—at least for those of you with e-book technology—Secret Lives is once again available.
I’ve written seventeen novels since Secret Lives, but it will always hold a special place in my heart and I’d like to tell you why.
Although I love my first two novels, Private Relations and Lovers and Strangers, I don’t feel as though I truly discovered my “voice” as a novelist until Secret Lives. With this book, I began to understand how important structure, pacing and revelations are to a story. With Secret Lives, I believe that I learned how to engage my reader to the point that she (or he) might stay up all night reading.
I also fell deeply in love with my characters, particularly Kate. Kate’s chapters are written in first person, since they’re all in the form of journal entries. I’d never written in first person before and I discovered how incredibly close I could feel to a character by putting myself inside her heart and mind in that way.
Another reason Secret Lives touched me was Kate’s agoraphobia. I never set out to make her agoraphobic–she simply became that way over the course of the book. I, too, suffered from agoraphobia as a child and young adult, which is another reason why I related to her so strongly. I understand Kate very well.
Finally, the setting. I visited the Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley when I lived in Virginia and was mesmerized by their beauty and mystery. I knew from the moment I set foot in the caverns that I wanted to use them in one of my books.
I’ve chosen not to update this story because Kate and her journal belong in a specific era. The contemporary portion of the story takes place around 1990 and you’ll find no cell phones or personal computers or iPods and definitely no e-book readers!
I hope you’ll enjoy this tale of love and family. . . and one very special woman.
Diane Chamberlain, 2010
In Memory of Diane Mary McCrone
Eden Swift Riley was good at pretending. That would get her through this interview, her first in many months. She stood at the edge of her Santa Monica living room, watching the television crew shove her sofa this way and that, and breathed slowly, deeply. She would feign calm. The viewers would marvel at her composure, her dignity. She was the master of make-believe. Ironic. It was for that very reason that Wayne had left her. “You’re always on,” he said. “Always acting. Always playing a role.”
Nina walked across the room to stand next to her. “God, you look good,” Nina said as she straightened the collar of Eden’s blouse. “I haven’t seen you look this terrific since . . . in a long time.”
“You look pretty cute yourself,” Eden said. Nina was wearing blue jeans—she was not your typical Hollywood agent—a red T-shirt, and a purple scarf tied at her throat which set off her gamin-cut, jet- black hair. She was only thirty-four, one year younger than Eden, and she did indeed look adorable.
“They’re trying to move your sofa so they’ll get a view of the ocean through the windows behind it,” Nina said.
“Uh huh.” What they were really trying to do, she thought, was to make this living room look as though it belonged to a star, someone worthy of a Monika Lane interview. Well, her house should come as no surprise to anyone. She was not known for her pretensions.
Nina shook her head. “They’re making a mess of your rug.”
“I don’t care.” She didn’t. The crushed dents in the toast-colored carpet seemed insignificant. Since Wayne left, this house had no pull on her. The thought of moving had been slipping in and out of her mind the past few weeks. Someplace where there’d be more kids Cassie’s age; someplace quieter, away from the beach. Lately she’d found herself longing for trees, for something undeniably green.
Finally the crew was satisfied with the room, and Monika Lane settled her elegant self onto one end of the steel-blue sofa and nodded for Eden to join her. Eden sat down at the other end. She pictured the scene through the camera’s lens, the way she and Monika would balance each other. Monika with her dark, dark hair. Eden with her blond. But they were more alike than different, she knew—two self-made women who’d worked their way to the top with ambition and integrity.
Eden curled her legs beneath her. Her feet were bare. She wore white silk pants, a soft, full white blouse open at the throat. It was her favorite outfit for difficult situations. It comforted her. It was like being wrapped in a cloud. Her hair was down today, although lately she’d taken to pinning it up. And there was a single braided gold chain at her throat. She wore very little makeup. No one would expect her to.
Someone handed her a mug of coffee, which she cradled on her lap between her palms.
As soon as the interview started Eden knew Monika was going to be gentle with her, at least more gentle than usual. Monika knew her audience would not appreciate her ripping apart the beloved and betrayed Eden Riley.
“This is one of the best periods for you professionally, Eden,” Monika said, “but one of the worst for you personally.”
“It’s been difficult,” Eden agreed. “But I’m surviving.” She should say more. Take control of the interview, as Nina would say. She imagined Nina standing against the wall, muttering to herself, and the thought gave Eden some pleasure.
“Your marriage survived a long time by Hollywood standards.”
“It was thought to be one of the most stable marriages around.”
Eden sat up straighter. Monika wasn’t going to let her off as easily as she’d thought. “Well, a
marriage can look healthy on the outside and be loaded with problems inside.”
“Was yours loaded with problems?”
Eden looked down at her mug to think her answer through. She hadn’t known there were problems.
She had been as shocked as anyone when Wayne walked out.
“I think there were problems I was unaware of. I worked long hours, he traveled a lot, and I guess our communication suffered along the way. Wayne’s been made to look like the bad guy, but a marriage is a two-way street.”
“You don’t blame him?”
“He no longer wanted to be married to an actress. I can’t blame him for that.” For other things, yes. But not for that.
“He’s remarrying soon, is that right?”
Eden nodded. “Next month. A woman in Pennsylvania.” As if Monika didn’t know. As if the world didn’t know she’d been traded in. A schoolteacher, Wayne had crowed. You can’t get much more down-to- earth than that.
“And your daughter. Cassie. You’ll have joint custody?”
Eden felt a jab of pain behind her eyes, so quick and sharp she’d had no time to prepare for it. Cassie was the one topic that could throw this interview, turn her into a wailing fool. But she caught herself, smiled broadly. “Yeah. She’ll be a bicoastal kid.”
“How old is she now?”
“Four. This year’s actually been good for me in a way. I haven’t been working much and it’s given me time to be just a mom.”
“You’ve also been hard at work on your pet project.”
“The Handicapped Children’s Fund. Yes.”
“You were so wonderful as Lily Wolfe in Heart of Winter.” Monika changed the subject abruptly.
She probably thought talk about the Children’s Fund would put the audience to sleep. “Thank you.”
“What was it like for you, after years of making films that appeal to the under-thirteen crowd?” “Freeing. And frightening. I wasn’t certain how seriously I’d be taken in that type of film.” “Your Oscar should put that concern to rest. Did it surprise you to win?”
Eden uttered something modest–humble words that poured from her mechanically and that she would forget moments later. The truth was, she had not been surprised by the Oscar. She’d gone to the premiere of Heart of Winter, more anxious about what she would see on the screen than she’d ever been before. But once the film began, once she saw how thoroughly she’d become Lily Wolfe, she knew she’d done something extraordinary. When it was over and the audience sat hushed and limp for a few seconds before breaking into wild applause, she knew that they knew it too.
“Why were you so adamant about not doing a nude scene?” Monika asked.
Eden shifted on the sofa, wishing she had a place to set the mug of now cold coffee. “It seemed too great a leap,” she said. “You know, one minute I’m playing the heroine of ten-year-olds, the next I’m rolling around naked in bed with a guy.”
“And that guy was Michael Carey.”
Eden felt the color rise in her cheeks.
“You’re blushing, Eden.” Monika grinned, delighted.
“Everyone’s blown our friendship way out of proportion.”
“Is that all it is? Friendship?”
“Absolutely.” She thought of Michael watching this interview. He’d heard these words from her dozens of times. Maybe he’d finally believe her if she said them in public. “I like his company, but I’m not rushing into a serious relationship with anyone.”
Monika shook her head in disappointment. “You two seem so very right for each other. I don’t think I’ve ever, despite the fact that you were clothed the entire time, seen a more erotic love scene in a movie than that hotel room scene between the two of you.”
Eden smiled, felt the color rise again. “There was chemistry between the two characters. That doesn’t mean there’s chemistry between the two actors.” Oh, God, did she really say that? Sorry, Michael.
“Your childhood, Eden. It’s the one topic you steadfastly refuse to discuss in an interview.”
Eden kept her smile in place. “And I’m not about to change my policy on that now, Monika.” She discussed her childhood with no one, not even herself. She felt as though someone else had lived her life before she moved to California.
“Well, let me just summarize a little. You’re the daughter of the extremely successful children’s author, Katherine Swift, who died when you were quite young. Do you think being Katherine Swift’s daughter had anything to do with your success as an actress?”
Eden nodded. “It got my foot in the door. It helped me get parts in the films that were based on her stories. But after that I was on my own.”
“You coauthored the wonderful screenplay for Heart of Winter. Did you inherit some of your mother’s writing talent?”
“I hope so. That was new for me and something I’d like to do again.”
“Are you at all like her in other ways? I mean, she earned the reputation of being an eccentric of a sort—an odd, reclusive woman who kept people at a distance.”
Eden ignored the urge to come to her mother’s defense. She laughed. “Do you think I’m odd and eccentric?”
“Certainly not on the surface.”
“Not below the surface either,” she said, with a hint of bravado, but she heard Wayne’s voice in the back of her mind. “Who the hell is the real Eden Riley? I don’t think I’ve ever met her. I don’t think you’ve met her either.”
“What’s next for you, Eden?”
She knew Nina’s ears would prick up at that question. Nina was fed up with her. She’d turned down one offer after another. She told Nina none of them were right for her. The roles were too earthy; they would cost her her fans. But the truth was that since Wayne left she’d had no motivation. No steam. No energy.
She looked at Monika’s carefully made-up eyes. “I don’t want to dive into something I’m not sure of,” she said. “The next thing I work on will have to be a project I can throw myself into whole . . .” The image of her mother slipped into her mind: Katherine Swift sitting at her desk, bending over her typewriter in the candlelit blackness of the Lynch Hollow cavern.
“Eden?” Monika raised her eyebrows.
Eden leaned forward. “You mentioned my mother. I’ve been thinking of doing something on her life, perhaps.” She sounded as though the idea had been percolating in her mind for months rather than seconds. She could actually sense Nina at the side of the room, standing straighter, tilting forward. What the hell? Nina would be thinking. “I could make her more understandable,” Eden said. Her palms pressed against the mug in her hands. “More sympathetic.”
“You mean you would make a movie about your mother?”
“Yes. I’d like to write the script myself. And play her as well.” The words were flowing and she had no idea of their source. She felt a dampness under her arms, a prickling at the nape of her neck.
Monika grinned. “What a terrific idea!” She continued her questioning with new enthusiasm, and Eden offered answers, but her brain burned now with the images—the cave, the lush green valley of the Shenandoah, the clapboard house of her childhood in Lynch Hollow. Her aunt and uncle lived in that house now. Lou and Kyle. Would they see this interview? What on earth would they think? She imagined them turning to each other with incredulous eyes.
She would have to film in summer, when the heavy, breath-stealing greenness would fill the screen. But she knew next to nothing about her mother. It would take an enormous amount of research, and she would have to spend time in Lynch Hollow. Could she do it? Her heartbeat pounded in her ears with excitement. And with fear. Because Lynch Hollow was real; as real as the cave, as real as the river. She would not be able to pretend there. She would not be able to make believe.