Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama are examples of First Ladies who put their own careers on hold when their husbands were elected President. Now Bainbridge Island author Venita Ellick has written a novel around the idea that there will soon come a day when a President's spouse, female or male, balks at the idea of being relegated to hosting duty.
In "The Reluctant First Lady," Ashley Taylor avidly campaigns for her husband, California Congressman Michael Taylor, during his bid for the presidency. But when he wins, she makes it clear that she is not interested in serving as "First Hostess." She plans to return to her longtime career as director of a major art museum in New York City.
For nearly two decades, the couple has had a bicoastal marriage, commuting from the West Coast to Manhattan to the nation's Capitol, and raising twins along the way.
Ashley's adamancy comes as a shock to her husband and his advisors, all of whom assumed she would be a compliant political wife - despite her previously stated assertions that she was not comfortable in the political sphere.
The public announcement about her intention of returning to New York sets off a media uproar that eclipses any other news about the President-elect's plans and has all the pundits stumbling over one another to pronounce judgment.
Ashley's desire to stay out of the limelight has just the opposite effect - once she's back in her old job, people are more fascinated with her than ever. This turns out to be a boon for the museum - attendance at the annual fundraising dinner is way up, and a billionaire playboy wants to meet privately with Ashley to set up an endowment fund.
Her husband, seething with hurt that his wife will not be by his side in the White House, hires a California socialite as director of protocol to assume hosting functions.
Subsequent events prove that some adjustments will have to be made.
"The Reluctant First Lady" is a glittering tale of ambition, machination, jealousy and passion, and Ashley Taylor is well-articulated as the title character.
But for all of the relevance of this story, there are some problems in the telling.
The first page is a tip-off to a problem throughout the book - the text is burdened with too much dialogue, much of it overtly expositional. Ashley and Michael have the same argument over and over again - the repetition may be an accurate reflection of the wheel-spinning in a real-life marriage, but it doesn't translate into good reading.
Also, the transitions between points of view are sometimes clunky.
Finally, there are problems with plausibility, most glaringly the idea that Ashley's refusal to be part of a White House "package deal" doesn't come up until election night. Was there nobody in the campaign leadership who might have anticipated this? These two already had spent the majority of their married years apart in a successful non-traditional arrangement - how could the Taylors' marriage have gone undissected during the campaign?
Barbara Lloyd McMichael writes a weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com