New Women's Fiction That's Stirring Up a National Debate
by Venita Ellick
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.
The Reluctant First Lady asks -
"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."
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