The First Affair

By Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

(Atria, $25, 256 pages)

Who are these authors?

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus had a blockbuster best-selling success with their first jointly written book, “The Nanny Diaries,” their 2002 insider’s view of working for the rich and famous and generally appalling parents of privileged youngsters, which sold more than 2 million copies. They wrote from first-hand experience, as they were attending New York University and working as part time childcare –givers at the time. The pair went on to write “Citizen Girl,” “Dedication,” “Nanny Returns” and two young adult novels.

Here’s what they have said about collaborating on books: “While we spend an inordinate amount of time together and it may frequently feel like we are, we are actually not a) living together, b) married to each other, or c) otherwise joined at the hip. Luckily, our own homes and lives allow us a few moments of daily rest to restore and revive before we head back into the writing cave.”

What is this book about?

Unless you were sound asleep in 1998, you will soon recognize that this book is a retelling of the Monica Lewinsky/President Clinton scandal, told from the point of view of a young intern who accidently finds herself deep in an affair with an incredibly compelling and charismatic man who just happens to be the leader of the free world. It has the secret trysts, the untrustworthy friends, the moral dilemmas and the passion that keeps the dangerous and ill-thought-out affair going. And it somehow manages to make the young woman understandable if not totally sympathetic.

Why you’ll like it:

It’s almost Valentine’s Day! It’s romantic! It’s naughty! It’s got political resonance! And this novel, written from the viewpoint of the young woman herself, is both a love story and a cautionary tale about the very different things men and women want from an affair, and how public scrutiny can shine a very harsh and unforgiving light on what seems at first to be a romance worth any sacrifice. This is an old story, but a fresh re-telling.

What others are saying:

Says Publishers Weekly: “McLaughlin and Krauss craft another narrative around tabloid headlines, this time exploring a White House intern’s downfall. After graduating from college into the worst job market since the Great Depression, Jamie McAllister lands a prestigious internship at the White House Department of Scheduling and Advance, hoping to pad her resume while looking for a paying position. The hours are long, and she doesn’t quite fit in with the straitlaced D.C. crowd, but Jamie has always been a high achiever and performs well. During a tense government shutdown, she and the other interns are called in to cover for furloughed employees, and an unexpected after-hours encounter with President Greg Rutland ends with a kiss, touching off a steamy affair. Suddenly, the president is calling Jamie at all hours of the night and inventing excuses for her to visit the Oval Office. When their secret inevitably escapes, Jamie finds herself enmeshed in a scandal that threatens to destroy not just the Rutland presidency but her career, friendships, and family. Jamie is initially hard to sympathize with, but her unreliability as a narrator and complexity as a character add an interesting dimension to a story that might otherwise have seemed trashy and exploitative.”

Booklist says: “ . . . the authors of The Nanny Diaries offer up another juicy ripped-from-the-tabloids tale. Studious Jamie McAllister graduates from Vassar and scores a coveted White House internship. She’s thrilled to be working in the administration of Greg Rutland, the handsome, charismatic President. But a close encounter between Rutland and Jamie in a hidden corridor in the West Wing ignites a steamy affair. Though Jamie knows rationally there’s no future for the relationship, she falls hard and confides in three friends about the romance. Jamie is stunned when one of them betrays her and turns her into front-page news. McLaughlin and Kraus draw heavily from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, but just as they humanized a pop princess in their last outing, here they offer up a convincing portrait of a damaged young woman whose head is turned by the attentions of a dashing and powerful political figure. This compassionate examination of a young woman led astray is an utterly absorbing page-turner.”

“The authors of The Nanny Diaries have written a transparent account of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal through the perspective of the female protagonist. Although the novel is placed in the present with our familiar political woes, the plot plays out identically to the events of the Clinton administration. As a recent grad, Jamie McAllister has little luck job hunting, but then her best friend’s mother pulls some strings, and Jamie finds herself as a White House summer intern in the government of Greg Rutland, a charmer with Robert Redford good looks. Amid the usual worries—finding a real job, student loans, family problems—President Rutland is encouraging and kind. And then their flirtation becomes something else. Document deliveries turn into bathroom quickies, with his secretary all but covering for these trysts. The president calls late at night to talk, and Jamie begins to fantasize about their future life together. Meanwhile, Rutland is getting ready to defend himself in a sexual harassment lawsuit (remember Paula Jones?), and aides suggest sending Jamie elsewhere, as she’s proven to be a distraction and potential liability to the president’s re-election campaign. Jamie is furious—she had finally gotten a real job at the White House (on her own merit)—and complains to her friends, many of whom know she’s having the affair. At this point, it is hard to muster sympathy for either Jamie and her imprudent naïveté or the president and his manipulations, but then the authors introduce Mike, Jamie’s first boyfriend, an adult sexual predator who seduced Jamie when she was 12. The president? Well, he has panic attacks, and his wife doesn’t understand him, and Jamie is so fresh and hopeful. But not after the trial. In a turn of events à la Linda Tripp, one of Jamie’s friends records their conversations, and soon, Jamie is on the witness stand regaling the world with humiliating details of her affair—her only option to prevent a prison term.  A dishy, sometimes somber, scandalous tale of what happens when you fall in love with the president of the United States,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

This steamy novel is warming the shelves at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

Comments are closed.