“Playing House” by Laura Chapman
She’s a work in progress. . .
Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.
He’s a fixer upper . . .
Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.
With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about are either of them willing to risk it all for love?
“PLAYING HOUSE” EXCERPT
Keeping a close distance, she followed Waverly up the cracked path to the house. Bailey took quick mental notes of her surroundings. The exterior needed a lot of work. The sagging roof missing gutters made her think they’d find the inside in similar disarray. They stepped through the front door, nearly tripping over Wilder Aldrich, who was measuring the entryway.
“Hey!” He sprang to his feet and out of their way. “What did I tell you about waiting until I gave you the all clear?”
“You were taking for-frickin’-ever, and some of us were freezing our tits off.” She pursed her lips and took on a warrior stance, seemingly daring him to say something else.
Conceding victory to her, Wilder turned and flashed an apologetic grin at Bailey. “Hey.” He offered a hand. Warmth permeated through the thin material of her glove. “Welcome to Casa de Waverly.”
Giving him a smug grin, Waverly sipped her coffee and faced Bailey. “Do you have a smart phone?”
Bailey stared blankly for a second, still dazzled by seeing Wilder up close. But she quickly snapped to attention and dug her phone out of her coat pocket.
“Good,” Waverly said after inspecting it. “While you’re on the job, I’d like you to snap some photos for our social media accounts. I’ll want to vet everything before we post it, but we need to start building the buzz for the next season while we’re filming. In exchange, we’ll cover your phone payments to take care of your data usage. Understood?”
“I can do that.”
“Good. Now . . .” She pulled out her own phone. It was the latest model that had come out on the market a month ago. With all of its reported bells and whistles, it put Bailey’s poor phone to shame. “I’m going to make a quick call. I’ll be back in a few minutes, and we can get started on,” she gestured around her, “this mess.”
She spun on her heel and waltzed out of the room, cooing into the phone.
Wilder cleared his throat, and Bailey turned to give him her full attention. She estimated he was only a couple of years older than herself—maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. He looked younger in real life than he did on TV. He was leaner and a little shorter—though she still had to crane her neck a little to meet his gaze.
He was also more handsome. Not the GQ model, your tongue-sticks-to-the-top-of-your-mouth kind of sexy. But he was hot in the same way the guy you sat next to in Chemistry was. It was enough to distract you from formulas and Bunsen burners every so often, but not enough that you’d ever set the lab on fire or forget to finish your final exam.
So far, he seemed much more serious. Where was the guy who scared Waverly with a stuffed dummy in a closet in the last episode she’d watched before calling an end to the marathon?
He was, she realized, studying her every bit as closely, with those hazel eyes speckled with green. Noting that, she didn’t feel quite as rude taking mental notes on the man in front of him.
At least she looked good. She’d laid out three outfits that morning in the hotel room. The first was a long, silky turquoise tunic that she’d paired with a pair of black leggings and knee-high boots. It was similar to the clothes Waverly favored on screen—only hers weren’t name-brand knockoffs. Then she had the casual jeans, a gray T-shirt that she could dress-up with a navy blue blazer. And there was option three: dark-wash, fit jeans, a chambray shirt, and a scarf. It was an ensemble that fell somewhere in the middle. It was the one that looked the most like her when she inspected herself in the mirror.
It was the one that felt most like her now in the middle of the foyer.
She wondered what he saw when he looked at her. Did he see a confident young woman ready to tackle major projects adeptly? Or did he see someone who was desperate to create, no matter what happened? Both were correct, but which one shone through right now?
Like a light switch, that triggered something in her. She offered her hand again. “We haven’t officially met. I’m Bailey Meredith.”
HOW IS PLAYING HOUSE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OTHER BOOKS AND WHAT MADE YOU WRITE IT?
Playing House marks a bit of a change for me as a writer. Though it still carries the comedy—and hopefully whimsy—of my previous books like The Marrying Type and the Queen of the League series, this story is different. It focuses primarily on the love story in line with contemporary romances. Plus it’s steamier—there’s no fading to black here. (Sorry, not sorry, Mom and Dad.)
That’s why I’m calling it a sexy romantic comedy. You’ll still find laughs and giggly situational elements, but there are also a few scenes that made me blush to write.
I didn’t add these scenes to be gratuitous by any means, or because I was trying to be edgy. I just realized—once this story came to fruition—that it called for some spice. Because sometimes when a woman cares for a man, and he feels the same admiration for her, they want to express it in a physical sense.
As a reader and writer, I was raised on great love stories told by the likes of Nora Roberts, Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught. Not only were they some of my favorite writers, but they also became my teachers. It felt like a natural profession to shift my writing more squarely under the romance umbrella, because these stories are among my favorite. That’s not to say I won’t return to another chick lit story or sweet romance in the future. But right now, my current roster of books to-write tends to lean in this direction. It’s been a lot of fun.
As for why I felt the need to write Playing House in particular . . .
The idea for Playing House came to me the weekend after I published First & Goal, the first book in the Queen of the League series, back in September 2015. I was attending a conference in Indianapolis for my day job at a museum. My co-worker and I, by mutual agreement, kept our TV tuned into HGTV whenever we were in the room. When we weren’t in lectures or meetings, we were in front of that TV. It amounted to hours and hours of home décor, home purchasing, and so on. At a certain point, I started to wonder . . . how much of it was real? The work, the relationships, all of it—how much of it is true and in the moment, and how much is manufactured for TV?
And I let my imagination wander.
By the end of the weekend, I whispered to my co-worker that I was pretty sure I had an idea for my next stand-alone novel. So I did what I always do when I have a story idea. I obsessed about it and researched it. I ended up reading blogs and message boards to answer some of my questions about what happens when the cameras are off. I also watched way more hours of some of my favorite HGTV shows like Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, and House Hunters. By the time National Novel Writing Month came around in November, I had the gist of my story.
Even with all of my watching and reading, the characters and situations are original in Playing House and it is a work of fiction. I did not use any of the real-life stars as inspiration, nor did I take any true stories and make them my own. The only thing I really stole was the consistent element I saw throughout every post: most of the work happens when the cameras are off and there’s always more to the whole story than what we see on TV.
I hope readers will enjoy reading about the world in Playing House as much as I did imagining and writing it.
**About the author: Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, Going for Two, Three & Out, The Marrying Type, and Playing House. A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. She loves talking to readers. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also get the latest news from her website, blog, and monthly newsletter.
This month, during the Playing House blog tour, you can enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one of 1 free Audible copy each of The Marrying Type, First & Goal, Going for Two or 1 $20 Amazon gift card.
**Click HERE to enter the giveaway!