Review + Interview: The Redhead Plays Her Hand (#3, Redhead) by Alice Clayton

My Thoughts

This book had it all.
Humor. Romance. Heartbreak. Drama. Lots of it. Hollywood style.
What shone through the most, however, were the true-to-life feelings
it evoked. The emotional affliction felt real and heartfelt as the
quirky couple we fell in love with fight to stay together.

5stars

Synopsis

redhead plays her hand coverThe third sexy novel in USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton’s playful and erotic Redhead series continues the sizzling romance between actress Grace Sheridan and Hollywood’s hottest leading man Jack Hamilton. 

Grace has landed the lead in a new TV series—but when the director asks her to lose fifteen pounds, she goes public with her weight struggles and suddenly develops a huge fan club who support her right to have curves. But between that and the public’s continuing fascination with her “are they or aren’t they” relationship with Jack, Grace begins to wonder if anyone’s really interested in her because of her upcoming TV series, or if it’s all speculation about the size of her ass and her bedroom partner.

Meanwhile, Jack is voted the Sexiest Man Alive and becomes a little too enamored with the party-hard lifestyle. Grace vows to give him the space he needs to find himself, but then he begins to spiral down from lovable Brit to Hollywood brat. People are talking, but are Jack and Grace? Her career is on the rise, and his continues into the stratosphere, but will she be able to catch him if he falls? Will they ever be able to just be a couple who can hold hands when they walk down the street?

My Review

This has been one of my favorite series, first off, because Alice Clayton wrote it and every book she’s written has been pure gold. Secondly, because since the beginning, she adeptly mixed romance, playfulness, seductiveness and humor in just the right amounts to deliver a well-crafted, well-balanced story that is truly heartfelt. This last installment in the Redhead series followed the same trajectory, but this time, the experience felt deeper. The author amped up the drama and emotion while she softened the humor a touch. It was still undeniably Jack and Grace with their endearing wit and sweetness, but the story felt more meaningful, the problems felt real despite the surrealism of Hollywood, from which the drama was rooted. In my opinion, this was a slightly more serious Alice Clayton and I found myself really feeling the sadness, heartbreak and angst. I thought it was a great conclusion to the series as Grace and Jack struggle to define who they are, who they want to be, and what they are willing to lose when all bets are off and the choices they make can forever change their future.

Jack’s career is skyrocketing. After the huge success of TIME, he’s in hot demand, lusted over by fans, directors, producers alike. With Holly’s strategic direction shepherding his next move, he’s chosen a gritty war movie as his next project. Meanwhile, Grace is getting ready to begin shooting her new TV show and truly, it seemed life couldn’t be better. Gracie and George were happy.

With Holly dictating his every move, emboldened fans accosting him constantly and the rising frustration at not being able to go public with his relationship with Grace, Jack begins to break as the pressure mounts. In addition, he begins to deal with his tumultuous emotions by going out and drinking himself into a stupor.

“As I worked, Jack played. Sure, he spent his days on the set filming, but he spent his nights out on the town. And then his days sleeping it off. He was young, and this town laid itself out for him. Clubs were packed to capacity on the nights he was in attendance, and the photographers were out in full force.”

Being the young Hollywood actor he is, Grace dismisses his behavior as a way to let loose and blow off steam, ignoring that gut feeling that something could be wrong. At the same time, Grace is put under some pressure too. Producers of her new show feel that she’s a little too heavy for the role.

“The exact note is: ‘We need her to have a little more cheekbone, a little more jawline.”

So Grace goes full speed ahead on Operation Cheekbone. Sucking down as much non-caloric air as she can and clocking as many hours at the gym as humanly possible, Grace swallows her pride and gets to work in order to achieve her dream. In addition, as if the weight situation wasn’t enough, Jack’s fans continue to antagonize her, constantly mentioning her more mature status in every single article publicized.

One of the notions this book explores in very sharp focus is the price of fame. Both Grace and Jack fight their raging feelings in an environment that constantly pushes and pushes and pushes. Whether it be the blinding lights and incessant clicking of camera shutters or the carefully orchestrated outings and the strict directions on what to do, what to say and where to go every minute of every day, it’s all too overwhelming, especially for a 24-year-old who detests the limelight.

I imagine some might debate on whether Jack succumbed to the pressures of stardom too easily, but I think the point is that people handle things differently and in this case, whether it’s a result of his youth or his persona, it was simply too much to handle. Jack became someone else entirely and his choices threatened to split Grace and him up permanently, that is, if he didn’t do damage to himself first. Fueled by a “friend” with perhaps insidious intent, Jack’s life spirals out of control. He refuses to see it, blinded by his own frustrations and dispelling any concerns.

“Don’t worry about a prat like me. I’m fine….”
“I wish I could believe you, George…”
“I wish you could too.”

There are moments that are so heartbreaking, that I really felt Grace’s helplessness, Jack’s frustration that threatened to explode, their inability to reach each other and the sadness I felt seeing something so good fall apart. But in order for them to reach their happily ever after, they both needed to evolve. Grace  needed to do some growing up of her own, gaining the confidence to be herself regardless of the circumstances… regardless of what others say. Regardless, despite the intensity of their issues, there are absolutely moments that are happy and funny and normal and I simply reveled in those instances. I particularly loved Grace’s inner musings.

“In this moment, in this car, on this stretch of highway, we were a couple in love. We were not an older woman and a younger man, Jack wasn’t the Sexiest Man Alive, but he was the sexiest man in my world. I wasn’t an up-and-coming actress who’d been asked about the size of her boyfriend’s dick the night before by a total stranger, I was a girl in a convertible in my pajamas, holding hands with the man I was in love with.”

Overall, I loved this book. Loved that it made me feel so much. Loved these characters. Loved the witty and sweet exchanges.  And in the end, loved the way it ended. LOVED. I can’t wait to see what new kind of “crazy” Alice Clayton comes up with next in the first book in the Cocktail series, Rusty Nailed, coming out summer of next year (see news announcement here).

addseriestogoodreads

 

Interview

First off, congratulations on the release of The Redhead Plays Her Hand! How are you feeling now that the final installment in the series is out?

I am so nervous! Seriously, this book means so much to me, and to finish the story of Jack and Grace in a way that makes the Nuts Girls happy is a tall order. I hope I got it right, I adore these two.

Before we dive into this last book a little deeper, let me step back and ask you a few questions on your writing style. You infuse humor so brilliantly in your books, but I think that writing humor can be incredibly difficult. Is it for you? Or does it flow naturally?

For me the humor is the easy part, it’s the schmaltz that’s harder to write for me. I naturally see the humor in everything, it’s something I look for constantly so it’s an easier fall back. To funnel real emotion through the humor, to turn from the slapstick into the sweet moments is where I really try and challenge myself.

What’s your writing process like? And how long does it typically take you to complete a book?

It depends on what else is going on. I wrote the first 2 books in the Redhead Series while I was still working full time, so I had to sneak writing time wherever I could. Now I write for a living, which is amazing! But presents its own unique challenges I have found. I CAN KILL A DAY LIKE NO ONE ELSE! I can binge watch Netflix like someone is going to take it away from me. So now I try to structure my day and my week like I am still working a full time job. I can just do it in my pajamas now! I also get out of my office most days and head to my local Panera, great place to write. A book for me, start to finish, if I am really concentrating can take me about 5-6 weeks. If I am dicking around…5-6 months.

Do you think you’ll always gravitate to romantic comedies (or comedic erotica as you like to call it), or do you hope to one day write in another style or genre?

I love to read paranormal, but I don’t think I have the chops to tackle something like that. I am in the middle of Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, and I’m in awe. I just finished her other series Immortals After Dark (READ THIS SERIES, READ IT NOW) so I knew I’d love it. But I’m just amazed by the mythology she has created, what all these authors that can write in these worlds can come up with. Astounding. I’m sticking with my romantic comedies for now 😉

Speaking of humor, I thought that this last installment in the Redhead series felt a little bit more serious. Your trademark humor was evident of course, and the dialogue was undeniably Grace and Jack, but I also really felt the pressure, sadness, disillusionment, and heartbreak. The emotions felt a little more real, more profound. Gracie and George sure went through some tough times in this book. Do you agree and was that the tone you set out to achieve?

Yes, you’re exactly right. And it thrills me to no end that you feel that way. To finish this story, to take Jack and Grace on their journey together in a real way, Jack needed to be knocked off his pedestal a bit, and Grace needed to grow up. The heart of their relationship is the humor, so that’s certainly there, but there needed to be a more serious tone for that they have to go through in this book.

The first two books in the series were written together, was it different/ harder/ easier to write this last book?

Much harder! I wrote the first two books back in 2009 so there was a 5 year gap between the 2nd and 3rd book. It took me awhile to get back into their headspace, but once I was there it was like old times. I also have grown up a bit as a writer I think since then, so there was most certainly a different pattern now to the writing.

Were there any scenes particularly tough to write?

Jack in the backyard at their house. I can’t say anything else.

You recently shared some exciting news with us regarding a new book deal with Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. We’ll be seeing some new books as part of the just-announced Cocktail series!!! First up is Rusty Nailed, which will be out next June. What can you tell us about these books? What can we expect? The series is based on characters from Wallbanger, correct?

YES! Rusty Nailed is a sequel to Wallbanger, getting us caught up on what Caroline and Simon have been up to and where they might be headed. And getting caught up on the entire gang as well. The 3rd and 4th book in The Cocktail Series (Screwdrivered and Mai Tai’d Up) will be all new characters, all new stories, but with a few familiar faces stopping by from time to time.

What’s going on in life beyond books? It seems you’ve always got your hands in something… TV, film…  Anything new you can share? Wallbanger movie news?

I am always working on something! I’m still working on my travel show with actor Greg Grunberg, actress Keili Lefkovitz, and blogger Brittany Gibbons. Have Boobs, Will Travel will be coming to you soon, hopefully. And yes, I do have news on the Wallbanger film/tv front, but I can’t share yet…stay tuned.

Have you been doing any reading lately? Any recommendations?

I am ALWAYS reading, and I always have recs for anyone who’s interested. As I mentioned earlier, Kresley Cole has been owning my ass lately, and of course my girls Christina Lauren and their Beautiful Series is fantastic. I was also lucky enough to read an early copy of not only Samantha Young’s new book Before Jamaica Lane, but also Ruthie Knox’s latest Deeper. Both of these are fantastic, keep an eye on those in 2014.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview… for making us laugh and for bringing the fun into the Crazy! Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

Vilma
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