Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-80807-2
Contemporary Romance, 2000
I must confess that I don’t see what’s the big deal about many of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s stories. Funny and well-written, yes, but most of the time the stories are nothing more than big babies trapped in the bodies of Playgirl centerfolds being spoiled by ditsy, virginal, naïve women from the Good Side of Town. The author also uses clichés liberally, and First Lady isn’t any different. Baby blues is the main theme here.
Let’s start with the plot. First Lady Cornelia Litchfield Case’s hubby is assassinated, but she is made to remain as a First Lady because the new President is old and needs her charisma. Since our Cornelia is raised to be a Princess Diana since young by her controlling daddy, our heroine is exhausted, fed up, wants to live a normal life, etc etc, so one day she dons her disguise as an old lady and flees. While pretending to be a pregnant woman, she loses her car and 98% of her cash, so she has to stick to our Slovak hunk Mat Jorik.
Mat Jorik isn’t happy. His ex-wife left him with a crying baby called Button and Button’s teenage sister Lucy who has an attitude. Like all poor maligned ex-wives the ex-wife here is slutty, promiscuous, drunk, mistreats her kids, and has to grace to die in an accident. The kids should be grateful they end up in hunky Mat’s care even though Mat treats them like dirt.
So there they go – the Peter Pan who wants nothing but schmooze, self-pity, and boinking after a football game on TV (pass the beer, babe) and the pristine pure, sheltered rich girl from uptown (okay, White House, Washington DC – that’s as uptown as you can get).
Fun? Well, the dialogues are funny and well-done, although I’ve read better.
Trouble starts at page 8 when I’m sold the idea that Bill and Hillary Clinton are the romantic couple of the decade. I like to think I’m imaginative, but to my dismay, I’m not that imaginative. And while I’m being philosophical, what would Hillary say to the fact that this book implies that
- She would never make it to Senate or anywhere. Move over, Hillary – shove off, make way for Cornelia, and
- The only way the First Lady can be popular is to don a Princess Di mantle and be who you are, not what you can do?
Then I get to know Mat who is whining about the kids and going on and on about how he wants to be a good journalist again, how he wants no responsibility in life (since this contradicts the first want, this proves how focused our hero is), and how macho he is because he wants to be a Real Man with a Typewriter instead of a sissy laptop. But never mind, I tell myself, all heroes start out on the wrong foot. That’s their charm.
But too much time is spent with Mat either lusting after Cornelia or prancing around to his self pity blues. He may have the hormones and the ability in the bedroom, but when it comes to the emotion department, our hero’s still in the mailing room. And Cornelia, well, what can one expect from a stereotypical Good Girl Who Is Born to Please? Naturally, she volunteers to be the babysitter for these three children, and soon Nanny Connie is off taking her charges Mat, Lucy, and Button across the country.
Why does Mat love Cornelia? I have no idea – all he seems to see is her beauty. Likewise, Cornelia is attracted to Matt because she hasn’t feel any hormonal surge like this before, and it’s okay if Mat acts like an overgrown brat, because he sure looks good. Even towards the end when the author tries to clean up Mat’s act, Mat is still throwing tantrums and sulking. And Cornelia, who I’m supposed to cheer because she finds her assertiveness and tells her overbearing Daddy off, only transfers her Let Me Make You Happy servitude to her newfound babies.
The last few chapters when Mat decides he wouldn’t let her go are fun. I adore Lucy and Button, even though I wish the author wouldn’t use something as mundane as an overused Silhouette/Harlequin category plot device in her story. But whenever I warm up to First Lady, Mat would act bratty, Cornelia would act wimpy, and I would tune out once again.
And the epilogue! Oh my God! Someone pass me my insulin shots.