A novel based on a real-life romance set in Cape May will be the subject of a talk and book signing event titled “Tea & Romance” to be held 1-3 p.m. Thursday, May 11 in the Sunset Lounge of the Cape May Ferry Terminal in Lower Township.

The book, titled “The Girl in His Dreams,” was written by South Jersey author Terri Ely and is based on a true story that occurred in her family, which has ties to Cape May, according to a press release.

Set in 1994, the novel unfolds around Rosemarie, a widow living in Haddonfield who receives an anonymous romantic birthday card on her 83rd birthday, and again on her next two birthdays. The phantom Romeo signs the cards “I Love You” in shorthand — a style of speed writing she learned in business school decades before.

Amused at first, Rosemarie is shocked by the third card, which states, “You have been my ‘First Love’ since 1926.” A search for the sender leads her to Charles Benson in Cape May, a man she doesn't know.

The story twists and turns, and finally the two meet, and an unlikely romance begins. Despite his age Charles pursues the “girl” of his dreams with dashing fervor. Some of their dates take place in Cape May, on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, and in Lewes, Delaware.

Ely will provide the backstory to her book at 1 p.m. and talk about the adventures of this aging couple as they step out of old age and back to their youth to enjoy love and romance once again. The birthday cards will be on display. At 1:30 p.m. there will be a buffet-style tea featuring sandwiches, cookie desserts, tea and other assorted beverages, followed by a book signing. 

Admission is $15. For $10 more, guests can purchase an autographed copy of the book, which retails for $15.

Reservations are required. To make a reservation call ferry guest services at 800-643-3779 (FERRY) 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.

Ely's work has been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and in Guideposts and Reminisce books. In addition to writing, she also enjoys watercolor painting, gardening, and seashore vacations with her four sons and their families. She and her husband, Gene, live a quiet life surrounded by nature in Upper Deerfield, Cumberland County.

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