Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. First Lady (2000). 384 Pages. Avon. $6.99*
Wynette Texas | Book Four
I mentioned First Lady in my review of Call Me Irresistible, but I’ll bring it up again, and point out that there are a fair amount of character cameos, though it is not necessary to read them in strictly chronological order. Sure, knowing that they end up together can put a small kink in it, but really, it’s a romance novel, and if you’re surprised the headliners end up together, I’d have to be a bit concerned. I will mention that there are two or three “generations” in these books, and this in particular deals with the first. Lucy makes her own appearance later in Call Me Irresistible, but that is not really her book. (Her book is The Great Escape, due July 2012)
The beautiful young widow of the President of the United States thought she was free of the White House, but circumstances have forced her back into the role of the First Lady. Not for long, however, because she’s made up her mind to escape — if only for a few days — so she can live the life of an ordinary person. All she needs is the perfect disguise…and she’s just found it. As an entire nation searches for her, the First Lady teams up with an infuriatingly secretive, quietly seductive stranger and two adorable little orphaned girls in need of a family. And all together they head out across the heartland chasing their own American Dream — on a wild journey, adventure, and glorious rebirth.
Cornelia Litchfield Case had an itchy nose. Otherwise, it was a very elegant nose. Perfectly shaped, discreet, polite. Her forehead was patrician, her cheekbones gracefully carved, but not so sharp as to be vulgar. The Mayflower-blue blood that rushed through her veins gave her a pedigree even finer than that of Jacqueline Kennedy, one of her most famous predecessors.
Cornelia ‘Nealy’ Case has been in the public spotlight since childhood. Raised as the perfect politician’s daughter by her ex-Vice-President father, married to the late President of the United States, and now functioning as First Lady for the current President, Nealy knows politics. She knows that when one is in the public eye, every detail of your life matters. And she’s tired of it.
So she escapes. Disappears in the middle of the night, hoping for a chance to live for the first time in her life. That’s how she meets Mat Jorik.
Mat is an investigative reporter in the middle of a career crisis and family drama. He’s famous, but unlike Nealy can fly under the radar; people know his words, not his face (for the most part.) He’s got his two young daughters in tow; in his custody due to the death of their mother. He doesn’t want or need any more complications, but he’s a good guy, and when “Nell” needs his help, he ends up helping more than he bargained for.
It’s a unique setup, and though it requires a healthy suspension of disbelief, it’s not impossible to accept. Letting it go and just letting yourself sink into the story leads to a very pleasant read. It’s a little silly, but a lot of fun to read.
I suppose it helps that I loved Lucy. She was strong and vulnerable all at once. Brilliant, determined, devious, sarcastic, sweet, and just all around entertaining and interesting to read about. She was probably my favorite character in the novel, which is saying something, since I still really like Nealy and Mat.
Its biggest flaws revolve around the fact that it’s got less romance than a typical Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel. It’s really a story about family; the ones you’re born with, and the ones you find. Nealy’s always had a family, but it’s never felt like one. Lucy and Bug need and want a real family. Mat is trying to avoid one. Yet, somehow it all comes together to be a ridiculously sweet story. By the end of the novel you really care about the characters. You want to know they’re going to be happy.
As I said before; this is one of the earlier “generations” in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ novels. Eventually we see a grown up Lucy and a much older Cornelia. I believe Mat makes at least one cameo I recognize.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s less about passion and lust, and is more about love and family, but sometimes it’s nice to switch it up and read those. It gets a 4/5; I really liked it, but it was a little too cheesy at times for me to fall in love with it.
* I love when the ebook edition is cheaper than the print, considering it’s significantly cheaper to distribute. Unfortunately, this means that the $6.99 I quoted was for the kindle edition I purchased. A print copy may run $7.99 new (or significantly less, secondhand.)