Some Thoughts on “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo since I finished it five days ago. This is not abnormal. Not when it comes to novels by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who quickly became one of my favorite authors after reading One True Loves last year.

Reid has this extraordinary way of creating at once the most complex, infuriating, satisfying and likable characters I’ve ever had the honor of getting to know. The Seven Husbands is no exception to the rule. In fact, Reid took her skills to a whole other level.

“[The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo] is an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.”

I can’t even begin to put into words how much I loved this book. It was beautiful and engaging and a little something like reading a gossip column, but in the best way. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it. Reid has outdone herself, continuing to show amazing growth as an author. I can’t even begin to guess where she’ll take us next, but I know I’ll be first in line to buy it.

And can we talk about the book cover for a moment? Everything about it is so beautiful, the colors so rich. It is so perfect.

Because I share so much of what I read online I often get asked the top five books that I would recommend. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has definitely found itself a place on that list (speaking of which, would anyone actually like me to share my top five list?).

Anyway, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is out tomorrow, so you should think about grabbing yourself a copy.

 

3 Things from the past week | 12

This is 331. I turned 33 this week. I’ve been having a tough time with that number; what it means, what it doesn’t mean, what it’s leading towards and what it means I’ve left behind. I try not to be the type of person who looks back on their life, tortured by the things they cannot change. Instead, I want to look forward as much as possible—to what is ahead of me. To the wonderful things that will happen to me this year—at 33.

A work trip to a city, a state I’ve never seen before.

Two days spent by the water with my boys.

Finishing writing and re-releasing Finding Lily.

Bedtime stories.

Meals with friends and family.

Waking up beside the love of my life.

… and so many more things I can’t even begin to dream of.

So perhaps 33 won’t be so bad. Maybe it will turn out to be one of the best years of my life.

I certainly hope so.

2. An ex messaged me on my birthday. He was a wonderful boyfriend, but we were young. We thought we knew—but had no idea—who we really were. We’ve both, separately, made wonderful lives for ourselves. Still, it’s odd to look back now, knowing it’s been this long since we were together, knowing how I felt about him back then. It’s a startling reminder that love can fade, but that hurt can, too. I couldn’t imagine my life without him once. But look how well we’ve done. Apart. The way we were meant to be.

The truth is that it made me unbelievably happy to know he was thinking of me on my birthday, if only for the five seconds it look him to reach out.

3. There’s somewhere I’ve been wanting to go. A real destination, not some place in my head like I often go to. There, the trees are thick and plentiful. The water calls for me. Nothing but fresh air. Nothing but quiet.

We may go, finally. But it’s not for certain, and by saying the name out loud I feel like I may stop it from happening.  So I’ll keep it in my head and my heart, for now.

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1. As an introvert I sometimes find being a writer to be a terrifying process. The act of writing is great—wonderful even. But everything else: reaching out to readers, projecting a fun image online—that’s where I struggle. I was not popular in school. I’m certainly no more popular now. And sometimes the writing game feelings a little too much like I’m jumping up and down, waving my hands around, asking for people to pay attention. And well—I’m too shy for that. I’m too worried that people won’t like what they see. Worse; I’m worried that even if they do see me, they won’t care.

2. Yesterday I cracked open Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin. I haven’t gotten too far but I think it’s safe to say that i’m going to enjoy it immensely.

Something he wrote has stuck with me. He was talking about his mother sending him out of the house to the grocery store. “I’d be more than willing to go. ‘I’m out!’ I’d think. I was nine years old and addicted to solitude.”
Addicted to solitude.
I couldn’t have said it any better.
3. Did you know that I blatantly stole the idea for my 3 Things series from this beautiful woman right here?. I stumbled across her writing somehow and was so inspired by her honest writing that I knew I wanted to write some of my own. Each week, I try to push myself to open up more and more. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but I love having these little snippets of my life to look back on. Some day I hope I read back on today’s post having mastered the art of catching—and holding on to—readers’ attention. Maybe then I’ll be thinking: hey, I’m introverted, but I can still do this.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

May Reading List

Wow, somehow I managed to read six books in May, which kind of blows my mind considering all I had going on. Wait—that’s not entirely true. When life gets crazy and my stress levels go up, I find I read more in order to try and balance things out.

What I read in May:

  • BROKEN BAY BY ANDREA DUNLOP – This one was short and sweet and boy oh boy did I want more. Andrea Dunlop is a fantastic writer.
  • WOMAN NO.17 BY EDAN LEPUCKI (BOTM) – This one started off with so much potential, but left me wanting.
  • WRITE NAKED BY JENNIFER PROBST – This book was absolutely brilliant. I am certain that Jennifer’s teachings will take my writing to a new level. A must for every romance writer.
  • THE FOXE & THE HOUND BY R.S. GREY – I enjoy Rachel’s books; they’re light and fun and always funny. While this one wasn’t my favorite, I still enjoyed it.
  • YOURS TO BARE BY JESSICA HAWKINS – My first (and certainly not my last) Hawkins read. This book was so sexy and I absolutely loved it. So much so that I finished it, put it down, and picked up Something In The Way.
  • SOMETHING IN THE WAY BY JESSICA HAWKINS – I read this book in one day, that’s how good it was. If you like forbidden romances, pick this one up. But just a warning: it’s a three part series, so it leaves off on a cliffhanger.

In Progress

Here’s what I’m currently reading:


Coming Up

I’ve just put in my order for BOTM and here’s what I chose:

If you want keep up with what I read during the month, follow me on instagram @racheldelxo and @alovelettertobooks.

3 Things from the past week | 10

1. You give me a book or a movie with a protagonist writer (or photographer, for that matter) and I’m all in. Just one of the many reasons that I’m thoroughly enjoying my first Jessica Hawkins read, Yours To Bare.

2. It’s been a good week. The hubby and I got out on the jet ski for the first time this season, we watched a movie together in the middle of the day. I’ve been writing; not just my novel but a lot more journaling, which always makes me feel great. Do you keep a journal? I’ve been working out again, which feels truly great. Work seems to have calmed down a little and I feel like I can finally breathe normalizing again. Plus, it’s a long weekend, so there’s still tomorrow to sit back and do absolutely nothing.

3. The heat here in Las Vegas is ramping up. I find myself kicking off the covers mid-sleep and turning on the overhead fan and boy! am I sleeping well. Finally.

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1. I spent some time (a little too much time) scrolling through the Instagram account of an author I admire. I went all the way back to the beginning. At first I was dismayed. I thought: my feed will never look like this. I’ll never be able to write as quickly as her and share so many new book release posts. There will never be photos of me posing with fans at book signings. I can’t even remember how long it’s been since I was able to say “I just wrote ‘the end’.”

I was feeling sorry for myself. Oh god, that’s embarrassing to say, but it’s true.

But I kept scrolling. And slowly, I snapped out of it. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to feel inspired, motivated, determined.

I opened up my novel and wrote for the first time this week.

And you know what? I know that one day my Instagram feed will be pull of those pictures; because this is what I’m meant to do. Write.

It will happen; just you wait and see.

2. I’ve been thinking about summer a lot. I’ve written a whole blog post about it that I hope to share soon. It’s around this time each year that the temperatures ramp up and my heart goes along with it. Summer is when my heart is most full. Drinking my morning cup of coffee with the back door open, eating outside every night, lounging by the pool, cool weekend mornings at the park with my son—I am myself in the summer. I know how to shut off my brain at the end of the work day. I know how to enjoy my weekends.

I know how to just be.

3. Late Saturday night I caught a bug, or something, that had me incapacitated for most of the night. When I woke this morning, my body was aching like never before. I could barely roll over without my stomach twisting and turning. It’s been a while since I’ve had anything like this, whatever it’s called. But if I really think about it it happens when I’m at my worst. When I’m stressed out and not myself and not eating well or exercising enough.

It’s my wake up call.

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1. I finished reading a book this week that blew me away in the best kind of possible way. Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success—(phew! That was a mouthful)—was just what I needed to read. Ever since I decided to re-write Finding Lily, I’ve been struggling with how to truly give it life. It was the first book I ever self-published and it’s horribly lacking in so many ways (hence my decision to re-write it).

And then Write Naked and Jennifer Probst came along. Through her words, through her guidance, she made it easy to pinpoint exactly what was wrong with my book. In the days since I finished reading her book I have gone through my original manuscript and finally—finally!—come up with a plan of action as how to re-write it… and re-write it well. Like it should have been in the first place.

There’s a lesson here: don’t rush!

And also: thank you, Jennifer Probst.

2. A few days before mother’s day I was clearing out a bag of things that my mother-in-law had sent home with us and I came across an envelope addressed to me. I didn’t think much of it and absentmindedly tore it open. Of course, then I realized: it was for mother’s day.

I don’t quite know what I expected. My mother-in-law has this way with cards; they always perfectly encapsulate the receiver. So, I knew it would be sweet.

I opened the card, read it, and burst into tears.

It said: “For you, daughter-in-law…Our family just wouldn’t be complete without you.”

I cried because I felt loved. I cried because I felt appreciated. But I also cried because had I not just been feeling overwhelmed by his family? By the sheer size? By how involved everyone is in each other’s lives and the way that can make me feel sometimes?

I cried because, for a moment, I didn’t feel worthy of their love.

3. I got to attend a last-minute wedding this week. Some family of my husbands’ were coming into town and decided they should finally get married. Everything came together pretty quickly. After the short ceremony at The Flamingo’s garden chapel, my husband, his sister and I were standing around talking, watching the photographer take photos of the happy couple and his sister said (about the bride), “She looks like a real woman.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I agreed wholeheartedly.

Days later, while driving to somewhere or home from somewhere, I brought it up again with Dom. “I don’t know what makes me look at her and think she’s a real woman. She’s in her thirties, she’s a mother, she has a real job, she’s married. I am all these things, but I don’t look at myself and think ‘now there’s a real woman’.”

Dom said, “one of my favorite ages, besides when I was around twenty-seven, was when I was your age (thirty-two).” And then he smiled reassuringly as he gave my knee a squeeze.

“As hard as it has been to admit that I’m in my thirties now, there is something to be said about how I feel now versus five years ago. I have my shit together more than I ever have before, so there’s that.”

Dom smiled again and said something I’ll have to remind myself of time and time again. “I think you’re a real woman. But it’s always hard for us to step outside of ourselves and be able to look at ourselves objectively like that.”

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1. I’m a strange person; this is no secret. I was that kid in school who spent more of her time bent over a notebook journaling or writing short stories. I was painfully shy, wildly unpopular and the recipient of a whole lot of bullying. When I started College I thought the best thing to do would be to hide those parts of me that people thought were strange. I wrote at home or on the bus to and from school. I didn’t tell people I wanted to be a writer. I never told anyone I played the flute—not just played it; I performed, I competed, I took theory lessons alongside my weekly lessons. I sketched here and there, but rarely showed anyone my work.

And then I grew up and I learned that no one is universally liked. I cannot please everyone. And by hiding my true self I am doing a terribly disservice to myself.

I’m happy to say that I’m more strange than ever. And I no longer hide it. Plus, I found in a partner an equally strange man who constantly makes me laugh. I read somewhere that one of the key factors of a successful marriage is that the couple be able to make each other laugh. So, we’ve got that down pat.

2. There’s an indie bookstore downtown that holds the most interesting events. On Thursday I convinced Dela to join me. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that inspired, so thank you, Laura McBride. And to make the night even more golden, I finally got to visit PublicUs. It’s officially my favorite coffee place.

3. I’m pretty confident in saying that besides ensuring our basic needs are met (shelter, food, love, health, etc) that everyone just wants to feel understood. To be surrounded by people who get you. Really get you.

When I left Canada I was convinced that no one in Las Vegas would understand me. How could they when they didn’t know my past? And maybe, for the most part, this remains true—though not for the reasons I once expected. No one here has known me for longer than seven years. The majority of them don’t know that I grew up singing and performing Hakuna Matata with my three cousins at our cottage every summer. They don’t know that once, while my best friend and I were babysitting her younger brother, we locked him in his bedroom and he put his bunk bed ladder through the back of his door. They might not know the details of why I have a complicated relationship with my mother, or why I’m a total daddy’s girl—but, they get me.

It turns out they don’t need to have known me for my whole life to understand me.

They know that if I’m not writing; I’m grumpy as hell. That I’m fiercely loyal. That I’m terribly hard on myself. They know I drink too much coffee and that I can’t stop listening to John Mayer and Ed Sheeran. They know I read voraciously. They know I’m absolutely useless after 8pm and that I get the most work done between 7 and 11 am.

They know me. I am understood.

APRIL READING LIST.

So, I’ve been bad about posting my book lists each month. When the writing is flowing, everything else seems to fall to the wayside. But I’m not complaining one….tiny… bit. I’m actually surprised that I got through four books (and started reading a fifth) this month.

As always, comment and let me know what you’re reading, or what I should be reading. Or even what I should steer clear of.
1. STARTUP BY DOREE SHAFRIR
Startup is a novel based around the hyper-competitive tech startup market. A tech blogger uncovers a juicy secret and, well, most everything unravels from there. This was such a funny, topical book. I found myself nodding along, or groaning in embarrassed agreement. And let’s not forget about the strong women at the core of the novel—you’ve got to love that.
2. REVELRY BY KANDI STEINER
I could have devoured this book, but chose instead to read it slowly. To savor it. To really enjoy it. And I’m so glad I did. I loved this book. No surprise there! Kandi Steiner remains one of my favorite authors these days, and REVELRY is a perfect example of why.”He was trying to figure out my story–who I was, why I was there. And I’d have told him, but I didn’t know myself.”Whether or not I could relate to the fact that she was going through a divorce, Wren is an incredibly relatable character and I found myself rooting for her from the very first page. And as usual–I wasn’t disappointed.
3. WHEN YOU FIND OUT THE WORLD IS AGAINST YOU BY KELLY OXFORD
Read this one quite quickly because I couldn’t not. Witty, clever and so relevant. And man did she make me miss Canada!
4. ALL AT SEA BY BECCA AITKENHEAD
I really enjoyed All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead. Though heartbreaking, it left me feeling grateful for and in awe of my life and the little family I have built. A great reminder for those of us who are just going through the motions every day instead of truly living.

3 things from the past week | 6


(image by Paul Citone)

1. My hubby celebrated another birthday this week. I won’t say the number out loud because he’d probably feel better if I didn’t. But to me, his age has always been a plus. He was the first real man I ever dated and the moment I realized that I never looked back. I had a few gift ideas for him, but he kept saying, “I don’t need anything” and unlike me saying that (and not meaning it), he meant it.

Once our son was asleep, he showered and dressed and came into the bedroom to kiss me; he was off to spend some time with his cousin. I asked him, “was it a good birthday?” and he said “it was a great birthday.” I lament often about how different him and I are (would I have been satisfied if this were how my birthday played out?), but in the end, as long as he’s happy with how his day went, than so am I.

2. At the time of this blog post, I will be nearing the end of my self-imposed social media detox. I have mixed feelings about how the past five days have gone. On one side I feel great. Renewed. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a part of of me that feels like I’m missing out on something (which is really silly, I realize; but it’s the truth). What’s truly amazing is how many times a day I think: oh, I should document this (on instagram). And then I stop and think to myself: why? Which is when I remember why I truly decided to take this break.

3. I can’t believe I didn’t mention it last week, but the hubby and I went to see John Mayer last weekend (The Search For Everything tour) and just as I imagined, he blew us away. I’d seen him before, but this was Dom’s first time. He was a good sport for coming along, considering it’s not his kind of music at all, but I had faith than JM’s guitar brilliance would win him over. And it did.

I catch him humming along to JM’s songs during the day. He’s learning how to play Helpless on the guitar. He sings, “Still feel like a man” instead of “still feel like your man,” and it might possibly be the most endearing thing about him yet.