"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review #32: First Lady, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I downloaded First Lady from the library and it wasn't quite what I expected, but I suppose it was okay. Very middle-of-the-road, fairly predictable, but relatively serviceable.

Cornelia "Nealy" Case is the defacto First Lady to the first bachelor president the United States has had in years. After taking a month to grieve after her husband - the president - was killed (and I can't remember if he was assassinated or just died of...something), Nealy's father (the party chairman) volunteered her to stay on as First Lady, and she reluctantly agreed. Except she's terribly unhappy, so she conspires to escape, and outsmarts the Secret Service by donning a grey wig and old lady clothes, and slips out with a White House tour group. On the other side of the story, we have Mat Jorik, a journalist who feels as though he has sold out to tabloid television and is looking to repair his reputation. But before he can do that, he's tapped to help settle the estate of his ex-wife, who has died and left behind two daughters, fourteen year old Lucy and a young baby who remains pretty nameless throughout the book. The girls aren't his, but Mat's sense of decency can't leave them behind to foster care, so he packs them up in a run-down Winnebago and they set off to their grandmother's house in Iowa. When Nealy, who by this point is disguised as a pregnant woman down on her luck, has her car stolen at a truck stop (which Mat sees happen, and totally sits back and lets it, by the way), he allows her to hitch a ride with him as long as she helps to care for the girls. Of course, it isn't long before they run in to trouble, and eventually Nealy must confess to her subterfuge and go back to the public eye, and the family she and Mat have cobbled together falls apart, as well as any relationship they may have been able to salvage.

I can't decide how I feel about this book. On the surface it's a perfectly serviceable romance novel, although there isn't a whole lot of chemistry between Nealy and Mat. But it's just... dull. And Mat is kind of an asshole. (Also, what's with the one T in his name?) I'm finding that most of Phillips' men are kind of assholes. And upon more reflection, her leading ladies are usually drawn as pretty buttoned up and prissy. Plus, there are plot holes all over the place. Am I supposed to believe that the First Lady of the United States managed to sneak out of the White House by joining a tour? How did she get from her suite to the tour group without tipping off the Secret Service? Granted, the only knowledge I have of Secret Service procedures comes from The West Wing, but I'm pretty sure Dr. Abigail Bartlet wasn't allowed to wander willy nilly about the White House grounds without an escort. And those tours are pretty small, my guess is that it would be noticed if someone extra showed up, even if it was a sweet old lady. Phillips should have gone with the whole underground tunnel thing like in the movie Dave

I was going to give this one three stars because I always feel bad giving a bad review, but I've decided to downgrade it to two stars. Between this and that stupid Heaven, Texas book, I'm officially breaking up with Susan.

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