The First Affair, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.
My nights were spent sitting in the tub for too long, the phone stretched to the bath mat - even though it was always much later when it rang, two, three in the morning. He called - the records show he called - at least every other night, keeping me on the phone for hours sometimes. To tell me jokes, ask about my life and my day, and yes, believe it or not, seek my advice.
I want to make that point about the calls, because I know that's not what people remember.
The events in The First Affair will inevitably be compared to the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal - indeed, even the dress that the girl portrayed on the book's cover is wearing is blue. I was eleven years old at the time, but I remember it being a big deal - Clinton's face was splashed all over every news outlet in the country. In this novel, it's 50-year-old President Greg Rutland and 21-year-old intern Jamie McAlister; but what drew me in is that it's written from Jamie's point-of-view, and we get to see what might have gone on in a young girl's head when such a powerful man begins to pay attention to her.
Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.
An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.
With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.
Others who have already reviewed this book on Goodreads have been bashing McAlister's character for being "so young and naive." In my opinion, though, the authors - who also penned The Nanny Diaries, as well as its sequel - did a great job of getting the reader into Jamie's head, and showing why she was so susceptible to having an affair with the President, even though she knew he was married with kids. Jamie had recently moved to D.C., was having trouble making friends, and also was working an unpaid internship, with no guarantee of a job afterwards; to suddenly have the attention of a powerful man - the most powerful man in the country, to be specific - was a bit of a rush for her, and something she couldn't ignore.
There were a lot of pros and a few cons for this novel - the writing is a bit choppy in some places, perhaps that's because the book has two authors - but overall the story was very interesting, and I couldn't help but wonder how much of it was the same in the Clinton/Lewinsky case. In that case, it was the blue dress that was the most damning piece of evidence; here, it's Jamie's wool coat, which she kept and had never cleaned. The ending of The First Affair, too, was interesting; I enjoyed it, although it seemed a little unrealistic.
The First Affair is in stores starting today, August 27th. 4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.