When she's not traveling through time, posing seductively for 17th century artist Peter Lely or juggling two love interests, Mt. Lebanon native Campbell Stratford takes the 44U home to her Washington Road loft.
The heroine of romance novelist Gwyn Cready's third novel, "Flirting with Forever," is an art historian at the Carnegie Museum of Art, who discovers a time portal that sends her back to 1600s London. There, she meets Mr. Lely, portrait artist for the royal court, and an adventure -- involving time travel, the afterlife, nude portraits and Aldo Coffee -- ensues.
Ms. Cready, herself a Mt. Lebanon native, said nobody thinks his or her hometown is worthy of a novel, but she disagreed and made Mt. Lebanon the scene of significant plot developments.
"Romance can happen anywhere, with the right hero and the right heroine," she said.
The municipality pops up throughout the 415-page book. In one scene, Stratford and her sister recall childhood rivalry over getting the attention of a Mt. Lebanon Magazine photographer.
A vital plot point occurs when Stratford's friend drops a time-traveling Mr. Lely off at the Washington Road apartment, then must send him into the building alone because she has to dissuade a meter maid from ticketing her illegally parked car.
Later in the novel, the Restoration-era Lely, plopped in the 21st century, appreciates Mt. Lebanon's Aldo Coffee shop as an oasis for the time-travel weary. There, "amid the smell of roasted beans and cinnamon, the gentle hum of the steam machine and the scene of the high street at twilight framed in the wide front windows, he could almost forget the cares that had brought him low."
The novel dashes the characters between centuries, across an ocean and into and out of the afterlife, but the main drama of the book happens in and around Pittsburgh.
"I love Pittsburgh, and I think it's a great place for a romance to occur," Ms. Cready said. "We have so many wonderful secret places that people don't know about."
Her four time-traveling novels, including one that will be released in October, all feature Pittsburgh, and Ms. Cready said it is a trend she intends to maintain.
"As long as I can, they will all be set in Pittsburgh," she said. "I'm determined to be named the romance laureate of Pittsburgh."
After her younger sister died suddenly at the age of 31, Ms. Cready, a self-described voracious reader, though never a writer, wanted to do something in her sister's memory. She decided to write a book and dedicate it to her sister.
"Tumbling Through Time" was published in 2008, and she followed it with "Seducing Mr. Darcy."
After a 22-year career working in brand management at GlaxoSmithKline in Moon, Ms. Cready, a 48-year-old mother of two, now writes full-time.
This summer, she'll continue writing and will be making appearances promoting her book, including a book signing June 22 at the Whitehall Public Library, and a book club event and gallery tour at the Carnegie Museum of Art July 8.
Details: www.cready.com. "Flirting with Forever," published by Pocket Books, can be found at local bookstores.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.