Local author Becky Flade weaves an upbeat and romantic tale in her novel set in Mayfair.
Eight novels into her career, lifetime Philadelphia resident Becky Flade finally decided to write a book based in her hometown.
Her newest novel, romance/thriller A Love Restrained, is due for release Oct. 4 on all e-reader devices. It’s set in Mayfair, where the author has lived for 20 years.
Flade, an avid writer who takes notebooks everywhere, recalled eating lunch in Washington Square Park and seeing two cops chase a criminal through the park. The park was bustling with people, but everyone continued on with their business, undeterred by the arrest happening right there.
“That’s as Philly as you can get,” Flade said with a laugh.
It was also the missing piece of her novel. That scene ended up becoming the opening to A Love Restrained. Philadelphia Police Department officer Kylee Parker (fictional, obviously) chases a man caught in the midst of a drug deal. The crook turns out to be Jayson Donovan, an old high school flame who broke Kylee’s heart. So she takes special pleasure in his arrest.
The flame is far from extinguished, though. Much to her chagrin, Jayson is released from jail due to lack of evidence, and proceeds to aggressively flirt with her, reigniting their old connection.
At first, his advances lean toward stalkerish (leaving potted plants as gifts everywhere she goes throughout the day, including her mom’s house), but the chemistry between the two is undeniable.
Their backgrounds and careers couldn’t be more polar opposite, though. Kylee upholds the law for a living, and Jayson breaks it as a drug dealer and overall sleazebag. But Flade supplies a steady stream of clever twists that keeps the characters together, for better or worse.
Flade’s playfulness (both in her personality and writing) make the novel a brisk read despite being bogged down by melodramatic, at times unbelievable dialogue and questionable plot advancements. (Jayson, as flawed as he is, sometimes comes across creepy when he’s supposed to be charming).
Even if the characters seem unrelatable at times, the story they’re intertwined in is a fun, lightning-quick and unpredictable one. Flade is an expert at leading readers toward one conclusion, then yanking the rug out from under their feet. There are at least two huge moments in the story that will electrocute readers just when they think they’re getting comfortable.
Flade is aware she is writing romance novels in a post-Fifty Shades of Grey era in literature, when the stigma against the genre is experiencing a surge from mainstream media.
“I don’t want to entirely blame sexism, but it’s an underlying presence,” she said. “It goes all the way back to the 1800s, when Mary Shelley published Frankenstein anonymously because she was a woman.”
(“Those ’80s covers didn’t help,” she said, referring to romance book covers featuring obscenely shredded long-haired men, or as Flade calls them, “Fabios.”)
Flade instead defines the romance genre as love-based stories with happy endings. Contrary to genre stereotypes, Flade’s novel avoids graphic sex scenes, instead focusing on the character-driven story. Flade uses the sensuality between her characters to add believable motivation and layers to her characters, rather than as a way to sell copies.
Plus, she said her mother, her biggest fan, won’t read her erotic work.
“I didn’t want to write a story and turn around and say mom, you can’t read it,” Flade said.
But Flade didn’t write the book to make a statement about the entire genre. Money wasn’t her motivation, either (unless you write Harry Potter, or, ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s hard to turn a profit).
Flade wrote the book because her husband had been begging her for years to adapt their own story into a novel.
Which isn’t to say Flade and her husband met during a botched drug deal and subsequent arrest. Flade made it quite explicit that the characters and events were fictional.
But as a love letter to her husband, she slipped in some references that only they would recognize. (In one scene, Kylee dances like a fool in her house, not knowing she’s being watched. Flade likened that to her own dancing, which she described as “funky,” and of which she is a frequent executioner.)
Flade also wrote the book because she’s just a passionate storyteller. She said she strategically places notebooks around her home and workplace so she’ll have quick access in case inspiration strikes.
Like when she sees police chasing criminals through the park. No one else looks up from playing Frisbee or reading to watch, but Flade sees an entire story. ••
A Love Restrained is available for pre-order at all major booksellers now and will be digitally released Oct. 4. On Amazon only, the book is priced $0.99 for pre-order.