Friday, May 16, 2014

Blog Tour Giveaway and Review of The Reluctant First Lady by Venita Ellick

Title: The Reluctant First Lady
Author:  Venita Ellick
Genre: Women's Fiction  / Romance
Length:  352 pages
Release Date:  September 3, 2013

"Just how much should a woman sacrifice for the person she loves?"

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.”

Can you imagine the wife of a President-elect saying "No" to being a First Lady? Neither can I. You would imagine that before even deciding to run for the office, the would be candidate would sit down with his family and these things would be ironed out. In the case of our book, the wife has always contended she hated politics, would not be involved other than to help in the campaign and under no circumstances would be giving up her current job as manager of a museum in New York. Since this is a work of fiction we have something called suspension of disbelief working here. That is where you automatically accept things as true even though in real life you would never expect something like this would happen. Nevertheless, what would happen if one of our First Ladies had said NO to acting as our official hostess to the White House, etc.?

This is a well written book. It is clear, concise, straight forward. The characters are well defined and mostly likable. If you notice, I hesitate. I liked this book, yet I am conflicted writing this review. I found it entertaining, but I could not get over my apprehensions toward The Reluctant First Lady ( Mrs. Ashley Taylor). I hate to brand her as selfish, or immature, or so delusional that she would let her husband down and not take her place at his side. She does present a problem as to what exactly is the role of the spouse to the President of the USA. If the President was a woman would we have the same expectations of her male spouse? He would be what the First Dude? Would he then have to worry about curtains, napkins, the menu and play all around super host? See my conflict? I never thought I would not be liberal in my thinking... are our preconceived thoughts of what the First Lady should be so ingrained in us that we fail to realize that place in our government was designed over 200 years ago and needs to change just to keep up with our society?

Some aspects of the plot were left unresolved which makes me wonder if our author is planning a sequel. Comments?

About the Author

Venita Ellick was fated to be a writer. She was named for a character in a book her mother was reading at the time of the birth.
As a young girl, she spent so much time in libraries that librarians would save books for her almost daily visits. She began writing stories in the first grade, which her mother patiently read. The intervention of a career as an educator and raising three sons delayed her focus on writing, but she has now completed three novels. The Reluctant First Lady is her fourth.

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen captivated her as a teenager. The power and imagery of the printed word made her wonder what each heroine was thinking and feeling. She wanted to be the woman with the cape and hood standing on the edge of the cliff with the wind whipping around her. The mysteries that could be found in stories fascinated her and are echoed in The Reluctant First Lady.

Ellick draws on her experiences as a wife, mother, teacher, and principal to create her characters. Her sense of humor and recognition of the absurd and often whimsical nature of life have allowed her to capture her characters' lives with authenticity and emotional resonance. Venita and her husband David have experience as a two-career couple. They live on an island in the state of Washington.

Interview with the Author

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you started as an author  

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I was an only child, my mother worked full time, and I spent almost every afternoon at the library. The librarians were saints, always supplying me with interesting reading material and answering my many questions. Like many writers, I love books, reading, and getting lost in a good story. I began writing stories around the age of five. Before that I told oral stories to my cousins and anyone who would listen. Even then, I loved creating characters and putting them in outrageous situations.

Deciding on a major in college was a challenge. I loved almost every subject, but ultimately ended up with degrees in literature, art and history. I returned to college with three children to get a Masters Degree in School Administration.

I’m married to wonderful man, David, and have three sons. My family has always been the driving force in my life. I stayed at home with each of my children until they entered school and in between my times at home, I worked in public relations, as an elementary teacher and finally the last 12 years as an elementary principal.

After my last son left home, I returned to writing seriously, although I had written many articles, poems and short stories through the years while the boys were growing up. Finally, I found myself rushing home at night after work and heading to our bedroom to write. Words seemed to pour out of me and I soon realized I looked forward to that portion of my day more than being a principal. That first full-length book turned out to be The Reluctant First Lady. Since then, I’ve written four more full-length novels and I’ve loved every minute of it.

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