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Do we need a first lady? Questions and controversy in ‘The Reluctant First Lady’
What happens when the newly elected president’s wife has no interest in being the first lady? How much is a modern woman expected to give up to support the career of her husband? What are the true consequences of being a public figure? What does it really mean to be married to the leader of the free world?
These are just some of the timely questions asked by Bainbridge author Venita Ellick in her new novel, “The Reluctant First Lady,” released Tuesday, Sept. 3 by Brown Books Publishing Group.
“This is clearly an issue whose time has come,” Ellick said. “If a woman were elected president, would our nation expect her husband to be the official White House host?”
The novel focuses on the issues that arise after Ashley Taylor refuses to give up her position as the director of a prominent art museum in New York to take on the traditional role of first lady when her husband, Michael, is elected president.
Though she has always supported his candidacy, Ashley maintains that the first lady position is not on the ballot and that she never volunteered for the job.
The decision ignites a national controversy and media frenzy as people around the nation begin to debate what exactly are the responsibilities of the first lady and if the position is even necessary at all. Ashley and Michael have to save their marriage and their professional lives, all while coming to terms with the enormous impact that the media actually has on the lives of public figures.
When discussing the origin of the undeniably intriguing premise, Ellick reveals a surprisingly domestic starting point.
“The idea occurred to me during a family dinner,” she said.
“I was telling my sons what a great president I thought their dad would be, but that he would be hindered by me because I would refuse to be first lady,” she said. “One of my sons said if I took that position on the role, I would automatically become the most famous first lady of all time.
“Out of that conversation, the idea for the book was born,” she said.
Taking inspiration from her own experiences as a wife, mother, principal and teacher, Ellick creates a realistic and thought-provoking modern scenario for readers to ponder, based on a well-documented historic trend.
“If you look at past first ladies,” Ellick said, “you’ll see that none of them continued their careers while their husbands were in office. Personally, I think that expectation should change.”
The novel is already garnering positive reviews. ForeWord Reviews described it as “a fun, energy-charged read,” and the book has even been invited to the Emmy Awards.
The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and airing live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 22 on CBS, has tapped the novel for inclusion in this year’s 2013 Red Carpet Style Lounge. Nominees including Tina Fey, Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Edie Falco, as well as Alec Baldwin, John Hamm and Jim Parsons are just a few of the many celebrity guests who will be taking home copies.
Ellick maintains that she is not arguing that any one choice would be right in such a complicated situation as the one she has written, but argues that it’s a conversation America needs to have.
“First, I hope they [the readers] enjoy a good ‘what if’ story,” she said.
“Second, I think it’s time to ask these questions: Is a first lady truly a necessity? Shouldn’t each wife of a president have the right to choose to accept the position or not? Also, it’s time to start thinking about what role a husband would play when a woman is elected president.”
Venita Ellick lives with her husband David on Bainbridge. “The Reluctant First Lady” is her fourth novel.
For more information, visit www.VenitaEllick.com.