FOR SPARROW, my new contemporary erotic romance, and the third book of the Dream Dominant Collection, is set in my home, Palm Beach County, Florida. For this Behind the Book series, I want to take you on a tour of some of my favorite local places, places I love so much, I had my characters go there.
The first stop on our tour is a funky diner called Howley’s. Their catch phrase is on the sign: Cooked in sight…must be right. I love Howley’s for a lot of reasons.
Built in 1950, it’s a nostalgic throwback to a simpler time. The business was purchased in 2004 by a group who appreciated what Howley’s was, and they lovingly restored its iconic terrazzo floors and tin ceilings. The furnishings are retro, from the long counter to the awesome mid-century tables.
I love the staff at Howley’s, too. They’re all young, and rather gender-fluid, with lots of piercings and tattoos. A nose ring seems to be standard equipment. And they’re all super nice.
The food is fantastic as well. The last time I was there, I enjoyed a mimosa over a delicious breakfast.
Unsurprisingly, they’re very arts-positive at Howley’s. The paintings displayed on the walls are for sale. But my favorite artwork is the mural on the outside, done by local artist Amanda Valdes. Check her out if you’re interested. When I’m rich and famous, I’m going to commission her to paint the huge blank wall in my kitchen.
As I thought about my story line, I wanted just the right place to serve as the backdrop for where Judd might have spent time with Jessi’s husband, Graham. Howley’s seemed like the perfect place for the two men to get together for coffee once in a while.
Here’s a little sample of FOR SPARROW.
“Does being a paramedic keep you safer than being a firefighter?” Her brow furrowed with worry.
Judd smiled. “I suppose. I don’t run into many burning buildings anymore. We wait for the guys to bring victims out of the fires. And we respond to heart attacks, injuries, car accidents, that kind of thing.”
He watched Jessi’s eyes widen. “No,” he shook his head. “I didn’t get the call for Graham’s accident. I was off that day.”
“How did you know…“
“Jessi, your eyes show everything you’re thinking,” he said gently. “It’s the damnedest thing I ever saw.”
Jessi immediately looked down at her plate, concerned about what else her eyes might give away. Judd went back to eating and she picked at her burger some more. Looking back up, she spoke again. “How did you know Graham?”
Judd looked back up at Jessi, swallowed his bite of burger, and cleared his throat. “I followed his blog for quite a while.” Jessi blinked, trying to make the leap from following a blog to being friends.
He sighed, wiping his mouth and setting down his napkin. “I told you my marriage ended because we wanted different things in life. As things started going south, I realized that one problem was that both of us wanted to be in control. And it didn’t work. There was no yin to the yang, you know?”
Jessi nodded, frowning.
“I started looking online for anything that could help, some kind of advice to help me save my marriage. The more I looked, the more I realized that in my core self, I’m Dominant.”
Judd paused to let that sink in. Jessi was listening raptly. “I found a few websites about being Dominant, you know the kind of thing, ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’. When I started going out again after the divorce, I tried some things, some really stupid things. I made a few dates through FetLife and they were disastrous.” He shook his head, half smiling. “Graham’s writing was a revelation. I thought, here’s a guy who knows what it is to be Dominant, to lead a submissive in the right way.”
She still didn’t say anything so he pushed on. “I became something of a stalker,” he laughed, “reading every article, digging through his archives… I commented on his posts and asked questions, and he was always nice, he always took the time to answer me.” Judd took a break, nibbling on a handful of fries. Jessi sipped her beer and waited.
“When I realized he was local, I worked up the nerve to ask him to meet me for coffee, and he agreed. We met at Howley’s, and we talked for hours.”
“Howley’s,” Jessi repeated.
Judd grinned wryly. “Cooked in sight…”
“Must be right,” she finished, smiling sadly.
He nodded. “We met about once a month after that. He was my mentor, but he was also my friend.”