Given Wallace’s previous gigs as G.W. Bush’s communications director and an advisor to the McCain-Palin ticket, it is impossible to read her first novel about the tribulations of the country’s first woman president without trying to glean factual nuggets from the often-transparent fiction.
Moderate Republican Charlotte Kramer, 45th president of the United States, heads into her re-election campaign struggling with the troubled economy and war in Afghanistan left by her (Republican) predecessor and beset by criticism that she’s too cool and unemotional—aside from being female, white and Republican, she sounds a lot like Barack Obama. Chief of staff Melanie Kingston, who is burned out after 15 years in the White House, learns from her media source that Charlotte may be about to face a sex scandal on top of her governing issues. The truth that Charlotte already knows but doesn’t want to share with Melanie is that her husband Peter is the one having an affair, with White House correspondent and weekend anchor Dale Smith. The presidential marriage has been a sham for years since Charlotte began putting her career before Peter and their children (cardboard characters conveniently tucked away at boarding school). When Charlotte comes under sniper attack in Afghanistan, her Secretary of Defense Roger Taylor—whose devotion is barely platonic—saves her life by switching helicopters with the press, causing Dale serious injury. Wracked by guilt, Charlotte drops everything to sit by Dale’s bedside until she’s well enough to travel. Charlotte fires Roger and acknowledges Peter and Dale’s relationship in what turns into a PR coup. Then her trusty vice-president drops off the ticket so she can replace him with the crude, despicable Tara Meyers, a conservative Democrat with no experience but vaulting ambition; fashionista Melanie’s antipathy toward Tara comes across largely in her disdain for Tara’s clothes. Meanwhile go-getting Dale recovers under Peter’s care only to go to work for Tara. The poor men in this novel are such pushovers.
No serious insight into how governing works, but an enjoyably gossipy dishing of Inside-the-Beltway residents of all persuasions.