When twenty-year-old Ashby Overton travels to Overhome Estate for the summer, she hopes to unearth her ancestral roots and the cause of a mysterious family rift surrounding the horseback riding death of her Grandmother Lenore many years ago.
From the moment she enters her room in the oldest wing, Ashby feels an invisible, enfolding presence. She learns the room belonged to a woman named Rosabelle, but no one is willing to talk about Rosabelle—no one except Luke, the stable boy who captures her heart. As Ashby and Luke become closer, she realizes he can be the confidant she needs to share the terrifying, unfolding secrets.
Ever present is a force Ashby never sees, only feels. Candles light themselves, notes from an old lullaby fall from the ceiling, the radio tunes itself each day. And roses, always meant for Ashby, appear in the unlikeliest places. Are the roses a symbol of love, or do they represent something dark, something deep and evil?
Wow. Let's hear a bit from Ashby.
Where are you from? I’m from New Jersey, but my dad grew up in Southern Virginia and I’m visiting there this summer—to be an au pair for my 7-year-old cousin, Jeff. He and my Aunt Monica and Uncle Hunter live in the historic family estate, Overhome, on Moore Mountain Lake, an active horse farm. I wanted to search out my family roots while there.
Tell us a bit about A Red, Red Rose. My first night in my room in the oldest part of Overhome I had the oddest feeling—like someone was welcoming me, wrapping me in a warm blanket, and I smelled roses, though none were evident. With each passing day, I became more and more aware of this invisible, enfolding presence, that seemed to be responsible for the self-lighting candles, the self-tuning radio, the melody from an old lullaby that fell on my ears at all hours. I kept finding roses in the unlikeliest places. Did they represent love or something I should fear? I finally got Miss Emma Coleville, the housekeeper, to tell me a bit about the first occupant of my room many years ago. Her name was Rosabelle and she had served as a nanny to the first family of Overtons in the house during Revolutionary times! With every nerve in my body, I knew Rosabelle’s spirit was still present at Overhome and I knew she had something important to tell me. It took a lot of sleuthing and snooping to ferret out the secrets that lay buried deep in the past in A Red, Red Rose.
What did you think the first time you saw Luke? Well, that’s an easy question. Luke, the stable boy, was the first person from Overhome I met, since he picked me up at the bus stop the day I arrived. Luke was cynical and sarcastic with a thick hick accent; he acted like I represented a Yankee invasion, or something. And. oh Lord, his hair! Like a haystack struck by lightning. I knew for sure there was no future with Luke Murley.
And your second thought? When I saw how beautifully Luke interacted with my cousin Jeff and his own grandfather Abe, I became more interested in the stable boy. Jeff coaxed Luke into teaching me how to ride a horse. I began to look forward to those early-morning lessons, knowing Luke would be in close proximity while teaching me to ride, touching my hands as he settled the reins and grazing my legs as he helped me mount my horse. When I discovered his job as stable boy involved a lot more—keeping the books, organizing the pony club and other horse events, managing the estate—I knew he was a rare and genuine guy. And underneath that haystack of hair, Luke was ruggedly handsome. I could not figure out why he seemed supremely uninterested in me.
Did you think it was love at first sight? No way! Not for either of us. I'd pegged him for a local yokel and Luke figured I was a spoiled, rich city girl come down South for the adventure and nothing more. It took a while, but eventually we both came to realize a depth of character within each other to admire—to cherish. I admit: I had to do a lot of growing up myself for this to happen.
What do you like most about him? Hard question because there’s so much! His intelligence, his work ethic, his love for his grandfather, his patience with Jeff and, let’s face it, with me. Plus, he was the best kisser I’d ever met!
How would you describe him? Luke was a river running deep—no currents visible on the surface. He made my Jersey boys look like adolescents.
Good one! How would Luke describe you? Once he realized I was neither rich nor in search of thrills and that I was acquiring maturity through my experiences at Overhome, he fell for me pretty hard. He liked to call me his “Beautiful Babe.”
What made you choose writing for a career? I had always been a writer and a reader—especially historical romance. Put me in an old setting and I immediately found myself interacting with the natives—no matter how long ago they lived. So, you can understand why I found my muse at Overhome.
What is your biggest fear? My biggest fear, I think, was that I would never find out who I really was. You see, my aunt and uncle adopted me when I was two years old because my birth-parents were killed in an auto accident while living at Overhome. We adopted children feel a blindness—a blank spot when it comes to our bio-parents. We feel an innate need to know who they were and, thus, who we are. Much of what I sought at Overhome had been purposely hidden.
How do you relax? I learned to relax while riding my beloved horse Sasha over the bucolic fields and streams of Overhome Estate. Luxuriating in the rhythm of the ride, I experienced peaceful freedom from my fears. Once I was in the saddle, I felt my worries whirl away with the wind.
Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Oh dear—I have so many! Anyone conjured up by a Bronte author or Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart! And I cannot remove from my psyche Mrs. DeWinter from DuMaurier’s Rebecca. What trials that woman faced—haunted by the beautiful, dead Rebecca.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Miss Emma, the long-time housekeeper at Overhome, told me, “I’d be real careful of what I say if I was you. You never know who might be listening.” Oh boy! Did that ever turn out to be true.
That was great. Thanks, Ashby. Now a few questions for author Susan. What movies or books have had an impact on your career as a writer and why? Like my protag, Ashby Overton, I am a sucker for romantic mystery. I re-read Jane Eyre every year, whether I need to or not! Some classic movies like Gone With the Wind and Ben Hur are among my favorites.
What real thing or event from your private life were you able to bring to this story and how do you feel it impacted the novel? Well, two things, really. My husband, a real estate broker, actually listed an old historic estate very similar to Overhome in the hunt country of Virginia—rumored to be haunted, of course. That became the prototype for Ashby’s family estate, Overhome. Then, the fictional setting of Moore Mountain Lake is based loosely on where I live now at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.
Would you do the same [use a real event or person/thing] at in your next story? Yes—Beneath the Stones (under contract with The Wild Rose Press) is actually the sequel to A Red, Red Rose—same characters, same setting, five years later, though it is very much a stand-alone cozy mystery/Southern Gothic, as well.
Tell us a bit about your publisher. How did you hear about them? The Wild Rose Press was recommended by another publisher and colleague authors. I knew A Red,Red Rose would fit their line perfectly. The name alone says it all!
Tell us about the submission process and how long from date of query to date of release. They were able to get A Red, Red Rose out in about five months and I’m hoping for a similar time line with Beneath the Stones.
Add anything else you feel blog visitors would like to know about your publisher. The Wild Rose Press is a joy to work with at every level. The editors, cover artists, administration, marketing and promotion tools—all are outstanding. What project[s] are you working on now? I will soon be hard at work on edits for Beneath the Stones. After that—who knows? I may go for the third book in the series and make an Overhome Trilogy.
Thanks for visiting, Susan. Kat and I appreciate the time you've taken out of your busy schedule.
Here is the buy-link for A Red, Red Rose: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVKMG0K/ref=cm_sw_su_dp