The Reluctant First Lady
By Venita Ellick
Ashley Taylor has been straightforward with her husband, the president-elect of the United States. She supported his candidacy, but she has no intention of assuming the traditional role of First Lady—a position she describes as “First Hostess.” Instead, she will resume her own career as head of one of the largest art museums in New York. The aftermath of her decision triggers reactions from the public, news commentators, late night comedians, and other political factions. While Ashley and Michael wrestle with saving their marriage and preserving their professional lives, the country debates whether the role of First Lady is a necessity, how the media influences the lives of public figures, and how much a woman should sacrifice for the person she loves.
I was excited at the chance to read and review this book. In all the political fiction I’ve read, I’ve only come across one book that has dealt with the idea of a First Lady with a career. That book was Executive Orders, by Tom Clancy. One of the subplots was that Jack Ryan’s wife who was a world renowned eye surgeon refused to give up her career when Jack became president. I loved that part of the story and the details on how she made that work, secret service and all. So, when I was asked to participate in this blog tour for The Reluctant First Lady, I jumped at the chance and could hardly wait to begin the book. I was not disappointed. Whereas Clancy’s First Lady was one subplot in a massive book with many subplots, The Reluctant First Lady is all about the concept of a two-career, commuter marriage when the man becomes president and the woman refuses to give up her career to become the Whitehouse Hostess.
The story is contemporary and timely. Someday, we will have a First Lady with her own career, and someday we will have a woman president. One of the aspects I found fascinating was how men and women on both sides of the political aisle reacted angrily to ashley’s decision. Surely, I thought, liberals, women at least, would understand and applaud Ashley’s actions. But the character receives heat for her choices from many corners. She sticks to her guns and is almost too adamant at times. I occasionally found myself wanting to grab both ashley and Michael, knock their heads together and hiss the word, “compromise”. But mostly I felt proud of these two characters and wanted them both to have what they wanted.
I know little about art and museums, and the scenes dealing with ashley’s career were some of the most interesting to me. I love learning about new things, and the touches about art and running a museum were just enough to give me knowledge and make me want to learn more without bogging down the overall story.
Ellick shows us the public reaction at times by slipping in imaginary newscasts by real news people or jokes from famous comedians, and I loved that! I’d smile when I heard a familiar name, no matter what I thought of their commentary on our Reluctant First Lady. It was touches like these that gives the story an authentic feel and makes it seem as if it could be coming right out of today’s headlines.
As the story unwinds, eventually, Ashley must come up with a plan both to keep her career and her marriage, and it was then I loved her most of all, because she chose to have both and she made it work. Isn’t that what we women have worked so hard to achieve?
The Reluctant First Lady is fun and funny, heartwarming and thought-provoking at times. It’s one hell of a good read! After all, when an author says she was captivated by the books Mistress of Mellyn and Pride and Prejudice, you know she’s going to tell a tale you’ll want to read again and again. I will read this book again and will be looking for more by this author. I want to know more about how this reluctant First Lady changes what it means to be the First Lady.