New Women’s Fiction That’s Stirring Up a National Debate
by Venita Ellick
Ashley Taylor has been straightforward with her husband, the president-elect of the United States. She supported his candidacy, but she has no intention of assuming the traditional role of First Lady—a position she describes as “First Hostess.” Instead, she will resume her own career as head of one of the largest art museums in New York. The aftermath of her decision triggers reactions from the public, news commentators, late night comedians, and other political factions. While Ashley and Michael wrestle with saving their marriage and preserving their professional lives, the country debates whether the role of First Lady is a necessity, how the media influences the lives of public figures, and how much a woman should sacrifice for the person she loves.
From Chapter 3 of The Reluctant First Lady
Applause and pandemonium broke out on the other side of the curtain, indicating Michael had reached the end of his speech.A stage manager nodded and, with Ashley and the twins leading the way, followed by the vice president- elect, his wife, and family, she stepped onto the stage and into the bright lights. The noise from the crowd grew in intensity as each of them came into view. They all walked forward to stand beside Michael, Ashley and the twins to his left; Robert Hughes, Catherine, and their children to his right.
The chaos and elation vibrating through the crowd was intoxicating. Cheers from a wildly exuberant audience and music blocked out what individuals were saying, but the camaraderie of those on the stage was evidenced by their smiles, hugs, and claps on the back. Before the world, she and Michael looked like the perfect couple. Michael pulled his family, plus Richard and his family, toward him while photographers snapped pictures of this historic event.
Amid the excitement, it almost went unnoticed that a reporter shouted a question at Ashley. She ignored him, hoping he would go away.
The reporter repeated his question. “Mrs. Taylor, what causes do you intend to champion during the next four years in the White House?”
Ashley winced inwardly, but no outward expression marred her serene expression. She had a choice. She could tell the truth or continue to go along with the lie. Damn it. She’d been dodging questions like this for months about what special causes she intended to champion if her husband were elected. In fact, she’d become a master of evasion, not something she was proud of. Unquestionably the smartest thing to do would be to give the same canned response she’d been giving throughout the campaign. It would be a lie, all of it. But then she wouldn’t be accused of rocking the boat, a boat, she might add, that she knew was taking on a lot of water.
She was tired of being evasive. She was sick to death of lying by omission. Michael’s managers had convinced her that he wouldn’t be elected if she declared her intentions. But, Michael had been elected. Was it possible that she was making more of this than necessary?
She leaned toward the reporter and his microphone and began speaking in a quiet, clear voice.
“First, I’d like to thank everyone here and at home for their incredible support throughout the campaign. I’m extremely proud of Michael and have always believed he’d be a great leader and a great president. The American people have chosen wisely and well this day. As for me, with the election over, I’ll be returning to my job as director of the Cameron Museum of Art in New York. It’s never been my intention to serve as the First Lady. Over half of the families in our country are two-career families. Our family isn’t any different. In fact . . .”
Ashley felt Michael’s hand on her elbow. “Ashley, just smile and wave. We’re getting off of the stage now.”
Manic Readers: In the story, Ashley and Michael’s children are grown. Do you think that the story would have been different if they had been young children?
Venita: Yes. We are more aware of the example we set for our children when they are young. Personally, I think we mother until we die. We never lose the chance to teach our children by example. However, some of the plot ideas could not have been in the book if Ashley and Michael’s children were still at home. In fact there was a situation that occurs in the book that was irresponsible on Ashley’s part, as far as setting a good example for her kids.
Plus, there is the whole area of trying to keep your children living as normal of a life as possible in an entirely unnormal environment. My hats go off to the First Ladies who have done such a good job raising their children in such an exceptional situation.
Manic Readers has an ecopy of THE RELUCTANT FIRST LADY to give to one lucky commenter. Would you want to be First Lady and raise your children in the glare and scrutiny that goes along with the office? Giveaway ends @12am est 4-27-14. Good Luck!
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