Doug and Elle Brennan are the first couple of NYC. He is the mayor and she is his beloved wife of 20 years.
While Doug hails from a wealthy and well connected political family, Elle's background is more yeoman. She was a certified genius who completed her PhD at the age of 19. It was while celebrating her degree that she and Doug first met and fell in love. Nerdy and bookish, Elle at first feels out of her depth living in a fish bowl. But in the past 20 years she has made the transition into a flawless political spouse.
As a reward for her support and selflessness, Doug promises to retire from Politics once his term as Mayor is over. Elle is over the moon and is delighted to be able to spend time with her husband and two teen-aged sons as a family.
But two things happen to scuttle this grand plan. First the newly elected President taps the junior from senator from New York to serve as his Secretary of State. The Governor of NY will need to appoint a replacement and turns his eye on the young, handsome, charismatic Doug. Unable to reign in his ambitions Doug is seriously tempted by the offer. Knowing that he'd never forgive her if she scuttles his chances, Elle gives her blessing to the idea.
But even as the newspapers speculate on Doug being the possible new senator, Doug's younger Rory becomes embroiled in a scandalous domestic drama. Rory's bitter wife files for divorce and publicly names Elle as the reason. Rory and Elle have a great relationship and often meet for lunch etc. Angela's wife had them followed and the PI pictures, while easily explainable could be compromising in certain contexts.
This sets off a nasty chain of events as Doug tries to salvage his political life while Elle tries to salvage their personal life.
The concept of this story and the plot is what first attracted me to this book. I was, however, a tad disappointed in the execution.
There were some very strong elements in the book. The foundation for Angela's bitterness was well laid because it was clear that Rory was in love with Elle and had been for years. I liked how she presented his unrequited love for his sister in law. It wasn't cloying or uncomfortable, but it was there. And luckily Elle was completely oblivious.
I also liked how she handled Doug's political ambition. He clearly wanted to be Senator and he wanted it badly. Bad enough to act like a politician when the scandal hits rather than a husband. I really wish she had delved deeper into that dichotomy of Doug's life because I thought that piece of characterization of him was very intriguing.
But some things didn't wuite work for me. For one thing, I wish she had expanded on how Doug and Elle fell in love. I hate to say it, but I could see how Elle could be immediately fascinated with Doug, but for the life of me I didn't get a sense of what was so fascinating about Elle that Doug fell in love with her so quickly.
I mean, Elle was sheltered, her childhood was very different because she was never in the same age group as her scholastic peers (she was in college at the age of 11). It wasn't until the age of 19 when she first meets Doug that her parents let her off her leash. He was the first guy she really met outside of school. And what a doozy he is, handsome, rich, famous etc. But Elle's appeal to Doug was never fully explored. She was a 19 year old he met on a beach. And suddenly they are getting married. I felt there was an incredible hole int he story that never got filled for me.
But once the author established that Elle and Doug had been happily married for twenty years, I think she did a great job of it. Honestly I think she did too good of a job establishing the very strong, deep and abiding love between Elle and Doug throughout much of the book to later try to introduce doubt in the fabric of their marriage. To have Doug start to possibly doubt the platonic friendship between his brother and wife didn't ring at all true or logical. It felt contrived because there wasn't enough conflict internal to the marriage, all of it was external to that point.
Personally, I thought Doug's response to the scandal could have created enough conflict in the marriage without adding his possible doubt about his wife and brother to the mix.
And then there was the ending. Honestly, I thought the ending was kinda...well...lame. I thought Elle's reaction was a bit over-the top. Instead of acting like the poised wife of a man she's known well for 20 years, she acted more like a ninny half her age who was unsure of her relationship. Again, this could have worked had the foundation been laid for a weak marriage, but that wasn't the case.
So, while this book was not a knock out the park for me, it was a nice little read and the writing was very well executed and polished. I also liked the fact that while this is an IR romance, race is not at all an issue. It is mentioned as a matter of fact -- Elle is Black, Doug is white, their kids are biracial --- but isn't part of any conflict. I will definitely look for more from this author.