Book Review for “The Wicked Redhead” by Beatriz Williams.
There are two main characters in this book. Geneva (aka Ginger, aka Gin) Kelly, and Ella Gilbert. According to Goodreads, Ginger is “a smart-mouthed flapper from Appalachia, barely survived a run-in with her notorious bootlegger stepfather. She and Oliver Anson, a Prohibition agent she has inconveniently fallen in love with, take shelter in Cocoa Beach, a rum-running haven.” This part of the story takes place in 1924. Ella Gilbert’s story takes place in 1998 New York, where Ella, finds herself knocked up by Patrick, her cheating husband, in love (or is it lust) with Hector, her upstairs neighbor, and the owner of a very rare, racy 1920s picture postcard entitled “Redhead Beside Herself,” which only she seems to know is a portrait of Geneva Kelly, given to her by her great-aunt Julie. After quitting her job, she has a mystery to solve – finding Ginger. Goodreads closes its blurb with “And as their link grows, she feels Gin urging her on, daring her to forge her own path, wherever it leads.”
Because I didn’t read the first book in this series, “The Wicked City,” I admit I’m at a big disadvantage here. Apparently, in that book, we learn about how Ginger got into the mess she’s in at the beginning of this novel, including details about the dirty picture postcards. This whole part of Gin’s life gets hardly more than a tiny nod in this novel, but it is the basis of the whole conceit surrounding Ella’s story. Now, don’t get me wrong; I really liked Ella, and I found her an interesting character – strong and flawed, professionally intelligent and yet floundering in her own life. She’s the type of character that could become extremely fascinating, and there’s enough complexity, and some interesting subplots there to turn her story into its own novel. That said, I kind of felt like her story in this book was… somewhat superfluous, to be honest. I believe Williams included her in the book to draw certain parallels to Ginger, and the connection is clear. However, I’m not sure why we needed these parallels or this connection… unless… Ella is going to be the main focus of the next book in this series. If that’s the case, then the setup is very effective, while also being frustrating because it feels incomplete.
Ginger, on the other hand, is a real cracker of a character, and Williams draws her so creatively, with such adoration and admiration, that it oozes out of every line. Furthermore, Williams has developed Gin’s voice to total perfection, so there’s absolutely no mistaking the parts where she’s telling the story with the parts of Ella’s story. I particularly loved how irreverent Williams made her, and how she shamelessly breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. Now this can sometimes have its drawbacks as I’ve had authors write like this and make (what I feel is) a huge mistake of allowing that person to foreshadow events to heavily. Williams avoids this with aplomb and you can’t help but want to meet her in real life – she’d be such fun to hang out with, and you just know she’d never hold back on what she’s thinking. Furthermore, don’t think my opinion of Ginger would have been any different had I read the first book, since I’m certain Williams portrayed her in the same light.
What really makes this book is Williams’ prose style, which I can only describe as sparkling. In fact, Williams’ writing is probably the thing that makes up a whole lot for my not having read the first book, the feeling that there were holes in the plot, and the additional feeling that there are some cliffhangers here that will not be resolved until her next novel in the series. See, this is the reason why I don’t usually read series – I hate cliffhangers. Now I know that I shouldn’t judge this book on the fact that it’s a series that I’ve come to one book late in the game, but I can’t really help myself. The fact is, I have read sequels that felt a whole lot more like stand-alone novels than this one does. So, while I truly admire the writing, and character development here, I have to say that I can’t give this more than four out of five stars (which is still a very good rating), but I’m certain that those who read the first book will be thrilled with this one and will probably rate it much higher. Bottom line: if you’ve read the first book, you’ve GOT to read this one. If you haven’t, you still might like this one, but perhaps your first introduction to Williams should probably be one of her stand-alone novels (and I just got an ARC of her next one)!
William Morrow – Harper Collins released “The Wicked Redhead” by Beatriz Williams on December 10, 2019. This book is be available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.