There’s something warm and welcoming about returning home. It doesn’t have to be to the exact house or neighborhood where you grew up. The last few times I returned to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, I visited neither. Yet, something magical happens every time my husband and I drive back there from our current home in Central North Carolina.
We get excited when we see the signs for Marietta. It means we’re about to take the bridge over the Ohio River and enter our home state. Then there’s the excitement of seeing the downtown Cleveland skyline come into view. Before I lay eyes on a single friend or relative, the city itself welcomes me home. It feels like a warm embrace, even when the weather is so cold that I can see my own breath.
While we’re home, my husband drives through our old neighborhoods. He visits his childhood home, where his parents still reside, and drives past our first home, a little brick bungalow in the suburbs. Then he grabs a gyro at the hole-in-the-wall that he insists makes the best gyro he’s ever had. The place where they stack the jumbo gyro so high you’d swear it was meant to feed four people, instead of just one.
For me, returning home requires a visit to my favorite haunts. Cultural institutions like the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cultural Gardens and the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA). The museum has been undergoing a major, long-term renovation for nearly a decade. During each visit, I’m pleasantly surprised to see new elements of the renovation. I meet a friend at CMA for lunch. After we part ways, I explore the museum, visiting my favorite pieces. It’s like getting reacquainted with old friends. Rodin’s The Thinker guards the entrance to the original 1916 building. Then there are Interior with an Etruscan Vase by Henri Matisse; an elaborately sculpted sarcophagus from the ancient Roman Empire; and several sculptures I never tire of, just to name a few.
Though I’ve chosen to live in North Carolina, Cleveland will always be home. It’s also the setting for the first few books in my Bad Boys Gone Good series. My love of the city seeps into the stories in ways both big and small. In the first book, Making the First Move, my heroine returns to Cleveland after living in San Francisco for five years. She renews relationships with her family and friends, but she also falls in love with her hometown again. And I couldn’t resist setting a pivotal scene at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In my latest release in the series, Love Me Not, my heroine, Jamie Charles, is a struggling artist. The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are featured in her story. Jamie resides in the artsy, eclectic Coventry neighborhood and some favorite Cleveland foods are mentioned. My stories are very much about the characters—primary and secondary. In both books, Cleveland is one of those characters.
What are some of your favorite stories that give you a real sense of the city they take place in? Has a book or movie ever made you want to visit a particular city?
About Love Me Not:
Tortured artist, Jamie Charles’ life is a careful balance between flashes of brilliance and self-loathing. Her art is as dark and dramatic as her painful past. Her resentment of the biological parents—who were too preoccupied with their addictions to bother with her—fuels her ambition to succeed as an artist, but also takes a heavy, personal toll.
Miles Copeland climbed to the top of his advertising agency because he isn’t afraid of taking risks and because he has something to prove to the father who betrayed his family. But when he falls for a moody, Gothic beauty with zero interest in anything but a purely physical relationship, he finds himself in dangerous territory.
Jamie prefers living hard and fast without the complications of love, but finds it impossible to resist the stunningly handsome, yet incredibly sweet man who is determined to have every piece of her–including her heart. Miles shows Jamie the beauty of being loved madly and deeply, but is it enough to make her finally learn to love herself, and open her heart to him?
Read an excerpt of Love Me Not here.
Reese Ryan writes sexy, contemporary fiction filled with colorful characters and sinfully-sweet romance. She secretly enjoys torturing her heroines with family and career drama, reformed bad boys, revealed secrets, and the occasional identity crisis, but always rewards them with a happily ever after.
Born and raised in the Cleveland, Ohio, she now resides in Central North Carolina. Visit Reese online at ReeseRyan.com. Follow her on Twitter @ReeseRyanWrites. Connect with her on Facebook or Goodreads.