Skip to main content

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde


A Love Song for Ricki Wilde

Tia Williams follows up the success of SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE (a 2021 Reese’s Book Club pick) with A LOVE SONG FOR RICKI WILDE, an immersive, haunting and joy-filled blend of history and the present day, fantasy and fact, romance and creation.

According to the Wilde family, if you look in the dictionary under “black sheep,” you’ll no doubt see a photo of Ricki Wilde. Ricki is the youngest of the privileged, esteemed Wilde girls, who are heiresses to their father’s lucrative funeral home business. Her proud socialite sisters were happy to work their way up to owning their own franchises, thereby assuming control of their trust funds, but Ricki wants to make something of her own on her own.

While her family has hosted galas, sipped on vodka and scheduled Botox appointments, Ricki has been quietly building her own empire. It’s not a brick-and-mortar business like her father’s, but an Instagram account, “Botany Flowers Lately.” Here, she shares her creative floral arrangements and boasts an impressive 300,000+ followers and brand partnerships lucrative enough to have secretly put herself through night school to earn a horticultural degree. In the Wilde family, though, the man --- that would be Richard Wilde, Sr. --- is the boss. And as the boss, he swiftly fires Ricki, telling her that if she wants to do it herself, she can go for it.

"Williams’ writing is...a fresh and modern take on love and creation that is grounded in immense, sweeping history. The blending of these idiosyncratic tones reads like her love song to readers."

A chance meeting lands Ricki in the basement apartment of a brownstone in Harlem, worlds away from her home (and family name) in Atlanta. She immediately sets to work cleaning up the front basement apartment, where she plans to launch Wilde Designs, and the smaller back studio, where she will live. After selling her car and three engagement rings (she has a type: quick to fall in love, quicker to fall out), Ricki has just enough savings to launch her business and give it her all. For exactly six months. If she fails, it’s back to Atlanta, back to Wilde Funeral Homes, and back to what she not so affectionately refers to as the “brunchification of death” --- aka her family’s capitalist spin on the inevitable fates of their customers.

Luckily for Ricki, chance is on her side. Her first few months in New York are marked by three incredible events: a steamy hookup with a smooth-brained, conspiracy-loving artist; an accidental meeting with Tuesday Rowe, a former child star and her current best friend; and, in her opening month, she not only meets her goals but doubles her projection. Then in January, she loses every cent when people stop coming to buy her gorgeous but expensive creations.

However, chance isn’t quite done with Ricki. On a midnight walk to blow off steam, she bumps into a man she comes to call Garden Gentleman. His features are cut from granite, his jawline is impossible, his brow is commanding and stern, and he’s a musician, a creative like her. He tells Ricki one thing: that whatever is brewing between them can never, ever happen. But when repeated run-ins turn into daily drop-ins, it becomes obvious that there is something magical, fated between them, that has been building since before Ricki ever stepped foot in Harlem.

Alternating timelines, Tia Williams takes readers to 1920s Harlem, where another young Black artist has just arrived in the city of magic. Ezra “Breeze” Walker III or IV (he can never be sure) has lost everything to Ku Klux Klan violence in his Georgia hometown, and he is finally ready to shed his dead-end sharecropper identity and give music, the thing that keeps him alive, a real try. Within five years, he is at the top of the jazz music scene in Harlem, where Black people are celebrated and his contemporaries aren’t the church organ player but the likes of Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire and Ma Rainey.

Unfortunately, with the highs come the lows. As fame takes over, Ezra (unknowingly) begins to race toward a cursed end. I won’t reveal the mystery of how Ricki and Ezra’s stories converge. But if the suspense isn’t enough to draw you in, Williams’ meticulous handling of history, sex, romance and fate will do the trick.

To read Tia Williams is to read pure joy, unabashed and proud. Even when she is detailing the racist history of our country (especially sobering is the celebration of jazz-era Harlem compared to the current gentrification of those same buildings where history was made), her willingness and courage to find beauty in transformation is awe-inspiring. In her characters, particularly gorgeous, anxious and brilliant Ricki, Williams unlocks new levels of awareness and strength. Against all odds, they find ways to cultivate beauty in the world, turning their grievances and anxieties into pure creation. Much like a jazz song erupts from the fingers of its player, A LOVE SONG FOR RICKI WILDE soars.

In an early scene, Ricki tries on the identity of a flâneuse, a French concept built on idling and observing. She remarks that “Harlem was a modern neighborhood superimposed over an old one. But in the negative spaces…Ricki could make out the contours of a ghost city.” Williams’ writing is exactly like this: a fresh and modern take on love and creation that is grounded in immense, sweeping history. The blending of these idiosyncratic tones reads like her love song to readers.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on February 9, 2024

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde
by Tia Williams

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 153872670X
  • ISBN-13: 9781538726709