(“I felt helpless,” she said. “Here it is, I thought. This is what the bargain comes down to. This is your destiny, Lara. You will be a part of this, this tragedy. And there is nothing you can do about it. Because you chose this.”)
Sofie, a former White House correspondent, is astonished to be chosen to be the biographer of the mysterious First Lady Lara Caine. As Lara tells her story, Sofie comes to realize that the secrets she’s spilling out could be ruinous – or save the nation instead.
This was an exceedingly odd book. It is very well-written and touches on the interesting theme of what makes a person complicit in a corrupt regime. It provides a portrait of a woman who has been badly burned but is learning to care about her impact on the world again. The relationship between Sofie and Lara is an intriguing one that you must peer between the lines to get at.
But this is unabashedly Melania Trump fanfiction. It takes all that speculation about real-life Melania’s views and translates it to fiction with a First Lady who is secretly against her populist husband. Admittedly, I too am against her populist husband, but it seemed odd that Lara and Henry are written as such thinly veiled versions of their real life counterparts – it feels invasive. But then again I enjoy fanfiction about the Tudor dynasty so perhaps I am on thin ice with that particular criticism.
My personal misgivings aside, there were more general problems with this book. For an espionage mystery, it is strangely lacking in twists and turns – the plot was more or less a straight road lying open to my relatively undiscerning gaze from the begin. The pace is sluggish throughout and I never grew invested in the characters. And, most frustratingly, the ending is almost hand-waved after the complicated schemes set up earlier in the book – almost as if the author herself did not know how to resolve her problem but in the most ham-fisted way.
Ultimately, very well-written, but does not I think accomplish what it set out to do.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.