The best friend of the first female US president comes to terms with her legacy after the charismatic chief executive's assassination. Melanie Lombard and Nora Whitney were freshman roommates at Penn; 25 years later, Melanie is elected president, then promptly murdered. Now it's the first anniversary of her death, and Nora, a high-powered executive at an educational software company, gets a call from Hank, Melanie's widower. A famous biographer is doing a book on Melanie, and Hank fears that he'll discover her longtime affair with a handsome Frenchman, Jacques DeBrin, who has suspicious connections in the Middle East. Nora, who'd told Melanie about her own significant romance with Jacques, feels betrayed that Melanie told her nothing in return, but she's still committed to protecting her friend's reputation. And so she jets to London to debrief Jacques. While there, she also meets a brilliant young software designer who has created a revolutionary virtual-reality geometry lesson. After Nora agrees to help Danny Court, the current American president, by pressing his agenda on Melanie's former allies, funny things start to happen: A van almost runs Nora down; then her brakes are tampered with. Who's behind this intimidation campaign? Nora goes to Harlem to woo curmudgeonly power broker Nathan Marks, offering him a free demo of the geometry program as her calling card. Meanwhile, the biographer is closing in on Melanie's secrets, but he's also proclaimed himself attracted to Nora. The shaggy-dog conspiracy behind the attacks is not this debut novel's strong point. The real draw is Nora--a powerful, sexy, self-doubting 47-year-old who's spent her life in the shadow of a magnetic and manipulative woman, and who is only now coming to terms with her anger at her second-fiddle role, and with her own abilities. Anemic suspense, then, but a complex and engaging portrait of a late-blooming politico and her halting efforts at an adult romance.