Top critical review
3 1/2 *s A little light on romance, but a nice story
on September 23, 2003
Not so much a romance as an homage to family (the non-traditional variety) and to those decent folks willing to subject themselves to the scrutiny and ugliness that can accompany a life in politics.
First Lady Cornelia "Nealy" Case is burned out. She's been in the public eye all her life first as the daughter of the Vice President (now the party chairman) and most recently as First Lady. But the death of her President husband presents her with her first thoughts of freedom - until the new President, a widower, asks her to stay on and act as his First Lady. She very reluctantly agrees, but after six miserable months she plots her escape!
Journalist Mat Jorik is in career crisis. He's looking to regain his journalistic integrity after an ill-advised foray into tabloid TV. All he needs is that Big Story that will put him back on top again. But in the meantime, he's got other, bigger problems. He's become responsible for the two daughters of his ex-wife who has recently died. The last thing he wants is to care for two kids that aren't even his (especially after practically raising his six younger sisters!), and so he packs them into a Winnebago and embarks on a trip from Pennsylvania to their grandmother's in Iowa.
These unlikely travelers meet up at a truck stop when Nealy's car and money are stolen. Nealy, disguised as a pregnant woman down on her luck, is not recognized and Mat offers to let her travel with them if she will take care of the children and she agrees. And so begins this strange odyssey of a man who doesn't want a family, a woman who's getting her first taste of a normal life and two kids who desperately need a family. My heart went out to fourteen-year-old Lucy, sullen and cynical on the outside yet vulnerable and hopeful on the inside, she's desperate to get Mat and Nealy together so that she and her baby sister are not separated and put into foster care. As the days pass they begin to bond, but will Mat's reluctance for family life mean the girls' future is in jeopardy? And what happens when Nealy's true identity becomes known, not to mention when she discovers Mat is not the steelworker she assumes he is - that he's that sworn enemy of anyone in political life, a journalist? Is Nealy his Big Story? Would he betray her and all they shared to re-establish his journalism career?
A very enjoyable story with characters you will care about. However, as with other reviewers I do have a couple of issues. Given how much she enjoyed her freedom, Nealy's choice to go back to life in the public eye (and subjecting the girls to it) seemed odd. And I would have like to have seen more romance between Mat and Nealy, though their close proximity to the girls made intimacy difficult. The kids (Lucy in particular) were almost more interesting than the adults and the epilogue was a little too cute and idealistic. A flawed but still enjoyable read.