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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Split Personalities

The Rossetti Letter
Christi Phillips

Pocket Books, 2007

Claire Donovan always dreamed of visiting Venice, especially now that she needs to research her Ph.D. thesis on Alessandra Rossetti, a mysterious courtesan who wrote a secret letter to the Venetian Council warning of a Spanish plot to overthrow the Venetian Republic in 1618. Claire views Alessandra as a heroine and harbors a secret hope that her findings will elevate Alessandra to a more prominent place in history. But an arrogant Cambridge professor is set to present a paper at a prestigious Venetian university denouncing Alessandra as a co-conspirator -- a move that could destroy Claire's paper and career. Not having any other options, Claire agrees to chaperone a surly teenager to Venice in exchange for her airfare and accommodations so she can finish her research and publish her results before the professor publishes his findings first. As Claire races to locate the documents that will reveal the courtesan's true motives, Alessandra's story featuring sensuality, political treachery, and violence of seventeenth-century Venice is revealed. Claire also falls under the city's spell. She is courted by a handsome Italian, matches wits with her academic adversary, bonds with her troubled young charge, and, amid the boundless beauty of Venice, recaptures the joy of life she thought she had left behind.

Alternating chapters between Claire’s and Alessandra’s stories do not work together well. There’s a lack of meaning and emotion in the historical chapters which creates a gap between the reader and the events and characters portrayed in 16th century Venice. It is hard to identify with Alessandra or her contemporaries, and it is even harder to keep all the characters straight. I wanted to skip past the historical accounts and get back to the business at hand: will Claire discover the truth about the Spanish Conspiracy? I understood Claire’s anxiety about her research and her life plans; I sympathized with her reluctance to enter into a romantic engagement; I fully appreciated her troubles with the snotty teenager who eventually turned into a decent sort of person. But then I had to slug through those historical chapters again, which were BORING. In my opinion. Cool cover, though.

For the record, I usually like historical fiction.

Rating for Claire’s chapters:

Rating for Alessandra’s chapters:

This is the author’s first novel.

Other titles you may enjoy:

The Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss (2000)
Benjamin Weaver is an outsider in eighteenth-century London: a Jew among Christians; a ruffian among aristocrats; a retired pugilist who, hired by London's gentry, travels through the criminal underworld in pursuit of debtors and thieves. Now he is investigating a crime of the most personal sort: the mysterious death of his estranged father, a notorious stockjobber. Between him the answers is a network of secrecy, deception and violence.

The Stalking Horse by Miriam Monfredo (1998)
Based on an actual event, The Stalking-Horse is set on the eve of the American Civil War. Glynis Tryon's niece, Bronwen, has joined Pinkerton's Detective Agency. While on her first assignment in secessionist Alabama, two of her fellow agents are murdered. When word reaches Seneca Falls that Bronwen is in trouble, Glynis heads south and finds her niece caught in the midst of a diabolical plot designed to strike at the heart of the United States government.

Ex-Libris by Ross King (2001)Responding to a cryptic summons to a remote country house, London bookseller Isaac Inchbold finds himself responsible for restoring a magnificent library pillaged during the English Civil War, and in the process slipping from the surface of 1660s London into an underworld of spies and smugglers, ciphers and forgeries. As he assembles the fragments of a complex historical mystery, Inchbold learns how Sir Ambrose Plessington, founder of the library, escaped from Bohemia on the eve of the Thirty Years War with plunder from the Imperial Library. Inchbold’s hunt for one of these stolen volumes -- a lost Hermetic text -- soon casts him into an elaborate

Friday, September 24, 2010

Got Mystery?

The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Nancy Pickard

Ballantine Books, 2010

One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder is unnerved to see her three uncles parking their pickups in front of her parents’ house unannounced. Of course, this house is not really her parent’s house anymore since Jay and Laurie Joe have been gone almost all of Jody’s life, but she still has trouble thinking of their house as hers even though she is now grown up. “What is this fearsome thing I see?” the young high school English teacher whispers, quoting Shakespeare as she watches them from the second floor window. Polished boots, pressed jeans, fresh white shirts, Stetsons—her uncles’ suspiciously clean visiting clothes are a disturbing sign.

The three bring shocking news: The man convicted of murdering Jody’s father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. Twenty-six years ago, Jody’s father Jay was shot and killed and her mother Laurie Jo disappeared, presumed dead. Jody went to live with her loving grandparents and caring uncles, but nothing could replace her parents. She always wondered what happened to her mother and would often search for any clues to explain her disappearance. Now, her father’s killer, Billy Crosby, has been granted a new trial, thanks in large part to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. As Jody lives only a few doors down from the Crosbys, she knows that sooner or later she’ll come face-to-face with the man who she believes destroyed her family.

An old murder that was seemingly solved many years ago comes back to haunt the victims of the crime, stirring up old fears, prejudices and once again dividing the town into opposing sides. This time, however, many people believe that Jody’s family unfairly used their power as town leaders to influence the murder investigation, thereby putting an innocent man in jail. Because Jody was so young when her parents were killed, she doesn’t know what to believe and feels pulled in different directions by the situation. This mystery is light on the whodunit question and heavy on the character development of Jody, her grandmother, and Collin, the son of the accused man. The three could be considered victims of the long ago crime and their conflicting feelings provide a thoughtful study of the effects this action so many years ago had on their lives. Mystery buffs may be disappointed in the lack of plot development and wish clues had been provided for the reader, but I liked the characters and enjoyed the story despite a lackluster and anticlimactic ending.


The author has a string of mysteries to her credit.
Look them up at!

Other titles you may enjoy:

Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie (1997)
When the talented and tormented poet Lydia dies after a prior suicide attempt, it is assumed that she has taken her own life. Victoria McClellan. a feminist biographer at Cambridge, finds herself immersed in the poet's world. Uneasy about the manner of Lydia's death, Vic calls on her ex-husband, Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, for help. But before he can take action, Vic herself is dead -- and there's no question that this one is murder. As Kincaid investigates, they are exposed to secrets that have reached out over three decades and poisoned a dozen lives.

Last Post by Robert Barnard (2008)
A mysterious envelope arrives on Eve McNabb's doorstep soon after she has buried her mother, a woman who kept many secrets. The puzzling letter inside this envelope hints at an illicit passion between the letter writer and Eve's mother, May McNabb. Even when she was a child, Eve sensed that there were parts of May's life she would never understand. She would never know the details of her parents' marriage or why her father suddenly disappeared from her life. While Eve has always believed that her father was dead, she begins to wonder whether her mother's life as a widow had been a ruse and she sets out to find the answer.

What We Remember by Michael Thomas Ford (2009)
When the body of sheriff Daniel McCloud, who went missing seven years ago, is discovered buried in a box in the woods, the family must come to terms with the murder of their father. As the investigation by the current sheriff, Nate Derry, progresses, McCloud's son, James, becomes the prime suspect, and a dark web of deception that chokes the Derry and McCloud families threatens to be unearthed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Truly Rewarding

The Map of True Places
Brunonia Barry

William Morrow, 2010

Zee Finch spent her adolescence perfecting the art of boat stealing. It wasn’t so much that she needed a boat as it was the challenge of not getting caught. In most cases, she just took the boat from one marina and then returned it to another, which caused the owners much puzzlement and Zee much amusement. Zee is now a respected psychotherapist and understands why she felt the need for attention at that time in her life. It isn’t until she starts treating a young mother who has suicidal tendencies that Zee realizes she has her own issues regarding her mother’s suicide when Zee was 13 years old. She knows she should distance herself from treating this patient, but she feels she can make a difference and perhaps save other children from the pain and grief she herself felt growing up without a mother. Unfortunately, Zee’s patient ultimately dies, throwing Zee into emotional chaos and disrupting her work and her life.

What starts as a brief visit home to Salem after Lilly's funeral becomes the beginning of a larger journey for Zee. She takes a leave of absence from her work, not knowing if she can ever help anyone again. She also puts her wedding on hold, not sure if she truly wants to marry her fiancĂ©. In addition, her father, Finch, long ago diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, has been hiding how sick he really is. Zee is needed to help him through this difficult time. Their relationship, marked by half-truths and the untimely death of her mother, is strained and awkward. Zee doesn’t know how to help her father, how to help herself, or even how to continue her work as a therapist when she feels so lost. Ultimately, Zee must learn how to follow her own heart in order to help those around her find theirs.

It’s not often that a character comes to life in a novel the way Zee does in this one. Named for a character in a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel, Hephzibah, or Zee for short, is totally confused after her patient dies and naturally wants to fix things – for the family left behind, for her father, for her father’s longtime companion. For everyone except herself, who probably needs the most fixing of them all. I think most women can identify with Zee’s attempts to “fix” everyone around her while neglecting her own needs – even to the extent that she is stuck in a seemingly loveless relationship that she doesn’t know how to end. In fact, most characters in the book are real and fully developed, full of life and quirks and faults and motivations that are surprising and understandable at the same time. Some critics have found fault with an elaborate plot with a secondary twist at the end, but I found the plot to be as complex and interesting as the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it highly.


Other novels by this author:
The Lace Reader (2006)

Other titles you may enjoy:

The Sabbathday River by Jean Korelitz (1999)
Jogging outside the town of Goddard, New Hampshire, Naomi Roth finds the body of a newborn baby girl floating face down in the Sabbathday River. News of the dead child spreads quickly through Goddard, and Naomi is shocked when the community fingers Heather Pratt, a young single mother notorious for her affair with a married man, as the prime suspect. Naomi engages the help of Judith Friedman, a lawyer, to defend the young woman. But when the truth at the heart of this astonishing case - and the body of a second baby - comes to light, it is Naomi who must confront how little she has understood her town, her friend, and herself.

Jackalope Dreams by Mary Clearman Blew (2008)
The departed men in her life still have plenty to say to Corey. Her father, a legendary rodeo cowboy who punctuated his lifelong pronouncements with a bullet to his head, may be the loudest. The story of the newly orphaned, spinsterish Corey is a sometimes comical, sometimes poignant tale of coming-of-age a little late. As she tries to recapture an old dream of becoming a painter, Corey finds herself figuring in other dramas in lives already as lost as her own.

Mirror Lake by Thomas Christopher Greene (2003)
Hoping to escape painful memories about his deceased father, Nathan Carter journeys to rural Vermont, where bad weather prompts his meeting and subsequent friendship with the aging Wallace Fiske, a social outcast with his own difficult past

Friday, September 17, 2010

Misery, Remembered

Bliss Remembered
Frank Deford

Overlook Press, 2010

Sydney Stringfellow Branch is dying of cancer at age 87, so she wants to tell her 62-year-old son the story of her life. Her story basically begins when she’s a teenager and she discovers that she possesses the ability and skill to become a suberb backstroke swimmer, perhaps even a female athlete phenomenon. Through a twist of fate she is invited to attend the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as part of the women’s swimming team, even though she cannot compete. While there, she falls in love with a young German named Horst, an assistant to director Leni Reifenstahl, who had been commissioned by Hitler to make a film about the games. While Sydney's escapades in Berlin bring her briefly into contact with Nazi politics, most of her time is spent with Horst, which develops into a physical love affair. Inevitably, Sydney must return to America, where she slowly initiates a move from her Eastern Shore Maryland home to New York City and then finds a job and joins the Women's Swimming Association (WSA). With her focus now on competing in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, Sydney does not foresee that destiny and impending war will bring further surprising changes to her life – along with a secret she reveals to her son at the end of her story.

I finished this book because a secret was foreshadowed all the way through and I wanted to know what it was. Unfortunately, this secret could not save the melodramatic writing style and corny dialogue that I had to endure to ultimately find out what happened to Sydney, her husband, her lover and finally, to her son. While it was mildly interesting to learn about the Olympics in Nazi Germany, these historical details could not save the story from mediocrity, nor could it stop my eyes from rolling every time the old lady picked up the thread of her story again. I have never read anything by Frank Deford before and now that I know he’s a former sportswriter, I don’t see any reason to read anything by him again. In my opinion, sportswriters tend to overuse adjectives to foster a dramatic and theatrical description of the ordinary, and this story is no exception.


Other novels by this author:
Love and Infamy (1993)
American Summer (2002)
The Entitled: a tale of modern baseball (2007)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Hope’s Highway by Dorothy Garlock (2004)
Abandoned by Ernie Harding, who steals her life's savings, Margie Kinnard pursues her dream of becoming a movie star with the help of her long-lost father, but her goals could be sidetracked by Ernie's reappearance.

Consequences by Penelope Lively (2007)
A love story that connects the lives of three generations, Lorna and Matt who experience heartache during World War II, their daughter Molly, and their granddaughter Ruth, who begins a journey that takes her back to 1941.

The Secret by Elizabeth Gill (2007)
London, 1944: A young man is killed in an air raid, leaving a wife, two children and a secret. The man’s brother Cal persuades the family to relocate to the North East, to the town he came from. Despite their grief and bitterness, they find a new life there which will sustain them in the hard times to come.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This Jewel is Tarnished

The Jewel of St. Petersburg
Kate Furnivall

Berkley Books, 2010

Valentina Ivanova, the daughter of a Russian aristocrat, was raised to be a member of high society, but after her sister is seriously injured she goes against her parents’ wishes and trains to be a nurse. All of the St. Petersburg elite class is watching Valentina because she is expected to make a fine match, but she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She falls in love with Jens, a Danish engineer, and they secretly meet after her work each day. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks are planning their uprising and a series of violent attacks is making everyone nervous and apprehensive. It is clear that the opulence and excess of the Tsarist period is about to end. Unfortunately, Valentina and Jens are careless in their meetings, and their unchaparoned rendezvous have been detected. This causes a scandal of epic proportions, and Valentina is forced into a loveless engagement with a Russian count. Will Jens and Valentina be together again? Will the Bolsheviks violence affect Valentina’s family?

Is this romance worth reading?
Umm, yes and no.

If you’re like me, no. Romantic novels as a genre are not my favorite thing to read. I like romance novels if they have some humor, or some exciting characters, or there is something “different” about them – some kind of hook that makes the reading experience rewarding. This romance novel is not as cheesy as your typical romance, but it’s still predictable and formulaic. Of course Valentina is not your typical society dame: she wants to do something important with her life; she meets a sexy man her parents don’t approve of; she has to marry someone she doesn’t love; blah blah blah. I can predict the end before I’m even finished, and guess what -- everyone lives happily ever after. True love conquers all. The Russian revolution is mildly interesting, but the characters and plot line are so unoriginal and boring that it overshadows any fleeting interest in the historical details.

Now, if you’re not like me and actually LIKE romances, you will love this one. And it has a great cover!

Rating (with apologies to any romance fans):

Other books by this author:
The Russian Concubine (2007)
The Red Scarf (2008)
The Girl From Junchow (2009)

Other books you may enjoy:

Sonja’s Run: Colonel Cut and the Romanov Rubies (2005)
At the 1852 Christmas party hosted by Tsar Nicholas I, the plucky half-Chinese, half-Russian poet Sonja Sankova decks Peter "Colonel Cut" Koslov, who is infamous for his necklace of ears taken from serfs and Jews.

White Blood by James Fleming (2006)
Riding out World War I in his family home near Smolensk, naturalist Charlie Doig finds himself trapped during a snowstorm by a motley group of aristocrats, servants, and soldiers, one of whom may be a Bolshevik out to destroy them all.

Ruslan by Barbara Scrupski (2003)
In glittering St. Petersburg, we meet Countess Alexandra Korvin: beautiful and intelligent, but also unmarried and—thanks to her late spendthrift father—quite penniless. In her polarized society of aristocratic grandeur and crushing poverty, a woman's only option is to marry well. Alexandra makes her way through St. Petersburg society, attending dazzling balls, lavish dinners, and operas in search of a spouse. Finally, craving freedom and rebelling against the confines of her life as a woman, she cuts off her hair and joins the army as a man—only to find the ultimate test of her feminine heart.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Road Not Taken

The Stuff That Never Happened
Maddie Dawson

Shaye Areheart Books, 2010

Annabelle McKay knows she has a wonderful life. She’s been married to the same reliable man for almost thirty years and has two remarkable adult children. She’s thankful for a stable life with a rewarding career as a book illustrator. She’s been happy, mostly, until recently. Lately, Annabelle has been feeling neglected and unappreciated because Grant, her husband, is trying to write a book and he has no time or energy left for her. In fact, he has scheduled lovemaking into his calendar for every Wednesday morning, which Annabelle resents. Other wives envy the fact that Grant is not the type of man who would ever cheat on her or leave her for a younger woman. The trouble is Annabelle isn’t sure she wants to be married to Grant anymore. The trouble is she’s still in love with someone else.

In the early tumultuous years of her marriage, Annabelle carried on a clandestine affair with the one person whose betrayal would hurt her husband the most. When it ended, she and Grant found their way back together and made a pact that they would never speak of that time again. But now years later, with her children grown and gone, and an ominous distance opening between them, she can’t help but remember those glorious, passionate days and wonder if she chose the right man. So, when her pregnant daughter needs her help, Annabelle goes to stay with her in the city, hopeful she will “accidentally” bump into this other man and perhaps pursue the other road not chosen, even if it means risking her marriage and her family’s well-being.

This thoughtful novel probes deep into the dynamics of a seemingly happy marriage to find the cracks that can occur when two people begin to grow apart. Grant is so preoccupied with his career and his novel that he can’t see that his wife needs his attention. Annabelle, on the other hand, does not communicate any of her needs to Grant, nor can she see that his inattention is a temporary situation. I could identify with both marriage partners; the author does a good job exploring the motivations and feelings of each so that the reader can sympathize and understand what is happening. I had less sympathy for Annabelle, however. She did some very hurtful things that were very self-centered but I could see that she had to explore some things in order to set her mind at ease about her decisions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book: the characters were quirky and interesting and funny; the plot moved right along and even had a couple twists I wasn’t expecting; and the ending was realistic and satisfying. I highly recommend this for readers who like authors such as Kristin Hannah, Nancy Pickard, and Elizabeth Berg.

This is the author’s first novel.


Other books you may enjoy:

The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin (2004)
The great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at his fishing camp in Maine to fish and arrange an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.

The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel (2004)
Struggling to pick up the pieces after her marriage falls apart, Trudy Marino finds support from a quirky group of friends -- the goddesses of Kitchen Avenue. As Trudy weighs what she and her husband still share against some powerful new possibilities, she'll surprise everyone -- including herself -- as she tries to reconcile the best of both worlds.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve (1999)
This novel transports us to the turn of the twentieth century, to the world of a prominent Boston family summering on the New Hampshire coast, and to the social orbit of a spirited young woman who falls into a passionate, illicit affair with an older man, with cataclysmic results.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tennis, Anyone?

Nic Brown

Counterpoint, 2010

Slow Smith is a professional tennis player in a slump, both professionally and personally. He’s stuck in limbo because his wife is in a coma and he’s afraid he’s to blame. All he can do right now is visit her hospital room to continue to document her life with daily Polaroid photographs, something she had done through each month of her pregnancy. Meanwhile Kaz, Slow’s lifelong doubles partner, is traveling the world while playing with someone new while Slow’s tennis points dribble down to nothing. When Manny, Slow’s old coach, appears one morning in a dumpy Fiat convertible, he somehow persuades Slow to return to Forest Hills, the site of a six-year winning streak. Here Slow and Manny reunite with old friends who call up long-buried desires and reveal a secret that threatens to destroy Slow’s marriage as well as his friendship with Kaz. Slow just can’t win — and especially not back on the court. Turns out Kaz can’t either. Theirs is a bond driven as much by odd habits and superstitions as it is their shared life experiences, a partnership not unlike a marriage. Soon they discover the only way to get their lives back on track is by playing together again, whether they can win or not.

This is an odd little book that meanders around and doesn’t really get anywhere – kind of like Slow’s life. The only character that readers are allowed to get close to is Slow; the others are distant shadows whose actions aren’t explained or revealed in any meaningful way. Because of this, the only likeable character is Slow – perhaps because we understand his feelings of grief, betrayal, depression and confusion. We have no idea what’s going on with the others, and frankly, don’t really care by the end of the book. Luckily, things move along pretty quickly. No one is allowed to get too close or personal to anyone or anything, kind of like a doubles tennis game. At first I was sort of ho-hum about this book, but the more I thought about how closely it resembles the game of tennis, I became more enthusiastic about the author’s skill to accomplish this with mere words.


Other books by this author:
Floodmarkers, 2009

Other books you may enjoy:

The Kept Man by Jami Attenberg (2007)
Jarvis is a dark-haired young woman of Irish descent whose offbeat beauty gets her noticed everywhere. Rising art star Martin Miller has to have her, and their marriage is one of funky, punk-rock counterculture bliss until the unthinkable happens -- Martin suffers a fall that leaves him in a coma. As the months turn into years with Martin suspended in time, Jarvis's devotion to him continues even as her life moves forward without him.

Winter Dreams by Don J. Snyder (2004)
Having developed a love for golf and literature in the orphanage where he was raised, college professor Ross Lansdale travels to Scotland to confront his personal fears and compete in a tournament at the Old Course at Saint Andrews.

Lights Out by Jason Starr (2006)
A love triangle between baseball star Jake Thomas, his one-time high-school teammate, Ryan Rossetti, and Jake's fiancée Christina, collides in violence on the streets of Canarsie, Brooklyn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ladybug, Ladybug...

Fly Away Home
Jennifer Weiner

Atria Books, 2010

When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife—her hair dyed and straightened and her laid-back and comfortable wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her most important job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.

Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more and so begins an affair that is sure to end badly.

After Richard’s extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be. Sylvie, who has many regrets regarding her daughters, finds herself back at her childhood vacation home on the beach, cooking up a storm and eating even more, delighting in every minute of it. She decides to bring her daughters to the house in order to mend their relationships and help her find the answers she needs to go forward with her life.

I have enjoyed all of Weiner’s books, and this one is no exception. She has a way of portraying women’s thoughts and feelings no matter what their age. The characters of Lizzie, Diana and Sylvie all felt true and right, even though they each had different problems, personalities, motivations, and life experiences. And they are all portrayed sympathetically and realistically. I wasn’t so keen on the men in the book – the senator is an inept knucklehead who didn’t appreciate his wife or his children. Diana’s husband is a self-centered slob that anyone would have trouble living with, and even the nice guy that Sylvie reconnects with is a little too accommodating. In other words, the men lack some depth in character, but that’s okay – we are more concerned about finding out how these interesting and complex women work out their problems.


Other books by this author:
Good in Bed (2001) – My personal favorite!!!
In Her Shoes (2002)
Little Earthquakes (2004)
Goodnight Nobody (2005)
The Guy Not Taken: stories (2006)

Other titles you may enjoy:

The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller
Meri is newly married, pregnant, and standing on the cusp of her life as a wife and mother, recognizing with some terror the gap between reality and expectation. Delia Naughton -- wife of the two-term liberal senator Tom Naughton -- is Meri's new neighbor in the adjacent New England town house. Delia's husband's chronic infidelity has been an open secret in Washington circles, but despite the complexity of their relationship, the bond between the two women remains strong.

Dog Days by Ana Marie Cox
Melanie has the job of her dreams and the (married) man of her dreams. She's helping to run the communications outfit of Democrat John Hillman's presidential campaign and she's having a romance with Washington's most powerful political journalist, Rick Stossel. In one of life's unhappy coincidences, a group called Citizens for Clear Heads emerges out of nowhere with scandalous information about her candidate at the same time as The Washington Post's gossip columnist begins calling her friends to try to sniff out details of her affair. When her world starts to fall apart, Melanie finds herself willing to sacrifice all of her long-held ideals to keep it together despite the consequences.

Sammy’s House by Kristin Gore
White House aide Samantha "Sammy" Joyce, now in her late 20s, is still handling crisis after crisis. She discovers the president is secretly drinking again and that his father was sexual accosted while living in a nursing home resulting in an out-of-wedlock infant.