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InkKissed Book Review: A Love Song for Ricki Wilde

Updated: Feb 25

2024 was off to a slow reading start for me, but I’m not mad at it. Especially because the first book of the year has quickly become one of my favorites, and I’m itching to tell everybody about it. At approximately 4:00 am EST last Sunday, I finished A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams, bestselling author of Seven Days in June, and couldn’t stop talking about it for days afterward. (I still can’t!)

I haven’t written a book review ever, not unless you count middle school book reports, and even those I don’t quite remember how to do. So, this won’t be that. I think I’m just going to gush, and shamelessly and repeatedly tell you to go buy the fucking book!! It’s so serious for me that I offered to lend my copy to both my mother and one of my sisters; to which my mother responded, “What? Ama? Letting someone borrow one of her books?!” I never do that.

Written for the girls whose bookshelves are full of Zora Neale Hurston, Beverly Jenkins, and Tayari Jones, this book is an ode to Black girl bibliophiles, the daughters of Hoodoo, Voodoo, and Sista Souljah

Okay. Now what to say without saying everything? 

There are some stories that take you out of whatever room you’re sitting in and drop you in the world of the author. Books that breathe life into the words until it feels like you’re living the lives of the characters, tasting their food, experiencing their pleasure. The best of them, in my opinion, are always romance books, and I love them all. Modern (steamy) takes on old classics; stories that leave you blushing and sometimes a little teary-eyed; bodies of work that honor legacies, people, and traditions, while reminding us that there’s always room for love. 

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde is all of that. Written for the girls whose bookshelves are full of Zora Neale Hurston, Beverly Jenkins, and Tayari Jones, this book is an ode to Black girl bibliophiles, the daughters of Hoodoo, Voodoo, and Sista Souljah, and I want to shout about it from the mountaintops. 

Ricki Wilde is my favorite type of heroine. Fashionable, historically a maker of bad decisions, the black sheep of her family, and brave. I mean, what kinda girl quits her job at her family’s hugely successful funeral home business and moves to New York City to open up a flower shop on the first floor of some old woman’s brownstone, even though no one believes in her but her and the aforementioned old woman? My kinda girl, that’s who. 

And Ezra, lord Ezraaaaa. I’m already a sucker for a man from the South, but throw in that he’s a pianist, a good communicator, and swangin’? I have no choice but to swoon. A timelessly written love interest, Ezra drew me in from the very first time we saw him on the page. He’s a poor young Black man looking to play blues in the big, new city, and he came with nothing but the clothes on his back and enough grief to last him several lifetimes. I was hooked and halfway in love, I tell you!

What I adore about Ricki and Ezra’s story is how fresh and modern it feels while also steeping us in the cool, sexy glamor of the Harlem Renaissance. (Did I mention, this is a blues-jazz love story set in Harlem!?) And like the work of Zora Neale Hurston, it weaves a tale so infused with Blackness, you almost forget there’s a world out there that isn’t all Black, in all ways, all the time. (It’s worth mentioning that Tia Wiliams does this without seeming trite, corny, or performative for the sake of non-Black people’s comprehension and sense of inclusion.)

Beyond telling a love story that I’ll be telling my children’s children about, Tia Williams has inspired this amateur writer in ways that will probably last me for months! I finished that book and felt revitalized, like I’d stumbled across Octavia Butler’s journal entries for the first time; or when I heard Ntozake Shange talk about how she starts her writing days off with a bath and a full face of make-up, because you write your best when you feel your best. 

Anyway, I say all that because I want to impress upon you exactly how warm, giddy, inspired, and utterly fulfilled I felt when I turned the last page of the book. There was of course the inevitable feeling of grief that comes when an amazing book finally reaches its end, but I felt so, so good for having gotten there. 

Love -- being loved by others, sharing my love with them -- is one of my favorite things about being alive, and to feel it firsthand is like lightning in a bottle. The sparks of excitement at the beginnings of a crush, the deep well of satisfaction when you remember the foundation of a love that's spanned years, if not decades. Perhaps the second best thing is the ability to put love on the page, to use something as banal and commonplace as language to express one of the greatest feats of humankind. Ugh, I'm gushing again. 

In conclusion: go buy the book!


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