In this sequel to Eighteen Acres (2010) and It’s Classified (2011), her political romps about America’s fictional first woman president, political insider and The View co-host Wallace goes darker but not deeper, centering her story on the White House reaction to a major terrorist attack on American soil.
The novel opens shortly after bombs have been detonated in five American cities, including Washington D.C., causing an unknown but probably high number of casualties. Moderate Republican Charlotte Kramer faces this crisis well into her second term as the country’s 45th president. She and husband Peter have reconciled. She has even hired his former mistress, Dale, as her press secretary. Charlotte’s former chief of staff, Melanie, is now secretary of defense; she's on a visit to still–war-torn Iraq. Once the bombings are confirmed, meetings follow press statements that follow meetings on how to handle the press and how to address the public. There are arguments by Melanie (seemingly as a stand-in for the author) for military readiness, revenge, and "enhanced interrogation," as well as a behind-the-scenes look at internal White House politics, all clearly drawn from the author’s experience as communications director for President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, despite the crisis, Charlotte, Dale, and Melanie each deal with their own personal issues. Charlotte obsesses about the flaws in her marriage. Secretly 20 weeks pregnant, Melanie wonders how she’ll balance motherhood with her career and worries about being cut from Charlotte’s inner circle. Dale is in a new relationship with Melanie’s close friend Warren, a saintly war veteran now serving as a political consultant to Charlotte, but she worries that he's more committed than she is, partly because she’s not completely over Peter; word of the bombings interrupts their attempt to rendezvous.
The balance is off here, Wallace’s comic gifts wasted. What felt frothy and fun in the first books turn leaden when a national tragedy is less important than who slept with or back-stabbed whom.