Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips *****

This is one of my all-time favorites that I have now listened to several times! I just did a re-listen, sorta in tribute to the upcoming inauguration of a new president.

Cornelia aka Neely Case is the widow of the recently assassinated president of the US. She was raised in a political family, and her marriage - although she thought it was a love match - was as politically motivated as everything else in her life. And her stint as First Lady wasn't over when her husband died - the VP is a widower and asks her to stay on as his First Lady. It's too much! She needs some time for herself, so she finagles a costume/disguise and gets into a group touring the White House, and escapes. She realizes she will get caught sooner or later, but meanwhile she plans to enjoy the joy ride of freedom for a few days.

Mat Jorick has somehow ended up as the father of a mouthy teenage girl and a 1 year old toddler. It seems he was married for a short time, 15 years ago, until he realized she was pregnant with another man's child, and he divorced her. She kept his name, and gave it to both kids - even the toddler who was conceived and born a good 14 years since she'd even been near Mat. When she dies, leaving the girls orphaned, the teen manages to keep city workers at bay until the lawyer gets Mat involved. And now he's in a motorhome, driving them to their grandmother's house in Iowa when he runs across a pregnant woman whose car has just been stolen. Poor Mat - he grew up the oldest brother in a family of women and sisters, and he just wants to get away from females.

The pregnant woman, Nell Kelly, looks an awful lot like Cornelia Case, the First Lady who has coincidentally gone on the lam - enough that she wins 2nd place at a local mall celebrity look-alike contest, behind a fellow who won for his resemblance to Santa Claus! But even when Mat figures out the pregnancy is just a pillow, he still doesn't guess her real identity. And he's not very forthcoming with her about his identity as a journalist either...

These are such great characters - the toddler, referred to as The Demon by Mat and called Butt by her sister, is wonderful; the teen Lucy is every bit as confused and belligerent and teenagery and smart as you'd expect; there's even some adopted grandparents, Bertis and Charlie, that they picked up in an RV park! Lucy's main objective is really to find a great family for Butt, and she pegs Mat and Nell as potential parent material right off the bat. Mat's main objective is to get the girls to their grandmother and get his career and his life - sans women - back on track. Nell's main objective is just to get away for a while - it's a nice bonus that their little make-believe family fills a hole she didn't even realize existed.

Going back to the SEP/Anna Fields audios is such comfort-food for me, like macaroni and cheese. I get something different from them every time as well as getting a nice comfy feeling from the story I already know will make me happy. It's a 5 star listen, through and through.

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