Message From The Author
Can you imagine any job more difficult than being First Lady of the United States? Martha Washington said, I am more like a state prisoner than anything else. And that was long before CNN! Bess Truman labeled the White House The Great White Jail. During Watergate, Pat Nixon used to disguise herself in a scarf and dark glasses, and, guarded only by a single Secret Service agent, go window shopping.
In my new book, FIRST LADY, Cornelia Nealy Case has been manipulated back into the role of First Lady following the assassination of her young husband. The nations new president is a widower, and he wants to trade on Nealys enormous popularity with the American people. But all Nealy wants is to get away.
And so begins the story of the woman who becomes the worlds most famous runaway.
I conceived the idea for FIRST LADY years ago, long before you-know-who was in the White House, and then I tried to stay ahead of history. This was a fascinating book to research. Did you know, for example, that Francis Cleveland was only 21 when she married 49-year-old Grover, a man who wasare you ready for this?her guardian! Nellie Taft wanted to be First Lady so much that she nagged her husband into running for President when his dream was to be a Supreme Court justice. A gas jet set fire to the feather on Nellies hat during an Inaugural reception. Maybe it was payback.
But FIRST LADY isnt a history book. Its the story of a woman searching for her own identity against some imposing oddsthe entire might and power of the United States Government! But, it is also a story about how families are made.
First Lady Cornelia Case wants to live the life of an ordinary person. She wants to shop in a grocery store without everyone staring at her, to walk down a small town street eating an ice cream cone and smiling, just because she feels like it, not because she has to. She wants the freedom to speak her mind, to make mistakes. She wants to see the world as it really is, not polished up for an official visit.
But how can the most famous woman in America suddenly disappear?
Plotting FIRST LADY presented many challenges, and the first one hit me as soon as I started. Nealy had no intention of going to all the trouble of escaping the White House just so she could hide away somewhere. She wanted to live like an ordinary person, and that meant she needed a disguise. But I had no interest in writing a book where the heroine wears a wig and a rubber nose for 300 pages, so how was the most famous woman in the world going to hide in plain sight? Once Id figured that out (and no, Im not going to tell you!) I had to conjure up her perfect man. This is, after all, a romance. Nealy was a child of privilege, an American aristocrat. Who was she going to fall in love with? Another aristocrat? I dont THINK so!
Confidentially, Matius Mat Jorik, the hero of FIRST LADY, drove me crazy. This was a man who wanted to be the hero of a Tom Clancy novel instead of a Susan Elizabeth Phillips romance. Stubborn! Hardheaded! You wouldnt believe what I went through with him. At one point, I even threatened to give him to Linda Howard, but I dont think she wanted to put up with him either. Mat and I finally came to a meeting of the minds, but it wasnt easy. Youll understand what I mean when you meet this deliciously obstinate hero and, after all, arent they the best kind?
Nealy and Mats journey across the Heartland becomes a journey of self-discovery for both of them. The stakes are high and the obstacles these lovers face formidable. As with all my books, expect to enjoy a few laughs along the way.
Visit my website www.booktalk.com/susanephillips. For a postcard of the FIRST LADY, send an SASE to 1212 S. Naper Blvd., Suite 119, Naperville, Illinois 60540.
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