Summary Review: The married President of the United States has a relationship with another man, apparently with the consent and approval of his wife and daughter. Is it possible for the President to continue in office in the glare of the world press? ‘Yes’ and there could even be an HFN.
When USAF Colonel Chad Ryan accepts a new job on the White House staff he is soon making friends with the First Family – and with charismatic and troubled President Douglas Ford Kearney himself. They have scarcely begun to explore their feelings for one another, however, when it becomes apparent that their relationship is under threat from enemies both within and without. As world events look certain to drive them apart, can Chad and Doug find a way of holding on to their happiness – and can there be any chance of a future for them together?
As soon as I saw the blurb for this book I wanted to read it because I find American politics intriguing and exciting, but I wondered whether the author would be able to pull off a story like this and make it believable. My fears were allayed immediately because I became so engrossed I couldn’t put the book down. Of course the plot is pure fantasy since I could not imagine this happening in real life, but the story was so well written, the complex global issues highlighted were dealt with so intelligently, that I found it a riveting read.
45 year old USAF Colonel Chadwick Ryan had saved the President’s life by taking a bullet meant for him 6 months ago. As payment for his bravery, when he recovered he was offered the position of Deputy National Security Advisor, replacing the current incumbent who was retiring. Chad, (described as “The Quiet Hero,” “conscientious” “colorless” – in other words, boring) didn’t feel that he had done anything special and was embarrassed about his new appointment, since he regarded his actions as just doing his duty. However, when he met President Doug Kearney he realized that he was attracted to the 56 year old President who was not only married to a very beautiful woman 15 years his junior, but had a teenage daughter. During Chad’s first few weeks in the White House he and the President developed a friendly informal relationship in between swimming and movie nights, whenever Doug was free. Then one night everything changed. When they went for their usual swim Doug suggested that they go skinny dipping, which opened a whole can of worms. I guess they became intimate friends pretty quickly.
Chad, an unassuming man, whose act of bravery brought him to the attention of the President, was caught in the most incredible love triangle that boggled his mind. Notwithstanding his love for Doug which was returned, he knew that his value to the administration was almost nil and his new high profile could get him killed as collateral damage, not exactly comforting information for anyone.
Relationships in the White House were strained between the Commander-in-Chief and the Vice President who was strongly against Chad’s appointment, and when he found out through one of his spies that Doug and Chad had been indiscreet in the pool, his anger knew no bounds. Here’s part of the prose and dialogue between the President, the VP and Chad on that occasion:
During a meeting in the Oval Office the VP said angrily “We all worked far too hard to get here in the first place. I’m not going to see it thrown away for the sake of some ….” He stopped, looked Ryan up and down with a censorious expression of a pest exterminator wondering which brand of rodenticide to use “Let’s face it” he said devastatingly, “some cheap cocksucker.”
“That’s enough” seethed Kearney “One more word and I’ll bust your ass so far you’ll be glad of a job counting paper clips in a bomb shelter in Arkansas”
“You can keep your goddamn’ queer hands away from my ass. Get rid of him Doug – whoever a President fucks it has national security implications and if you can’t see that …. well, maybe you just shouldn’t be the President any more”
“I’ll have your resignation on my desk by noon” The fury had gone from Kearney’s expression to be replaced by the sickening recognition of inevitability
Much later the after the matter was resolved, the VP said to Ryan
“Nothing personal. I don’t know you. I shouldn’t have called you a cocksucker”
Ryan shrugged “Technically, sir, it’s perfectly accurate, although I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as cheap”
With prose and dialogue like this it was no wonder I couldn’t put this book down.
Dear Mister President was engaging on many levels, not the least of which were the characterizations. Doug Kearney had risen to the White House from obscurity as the Junior Senator from Vermont. He was folksy, laid back, informal and intelligent and being President had not isolated him from the American people, which made him that much more appealing. He was a few months away from the end of his first term and the issue of whether he would run for re-election was front and center for everyone. He didn’t feel that his party would allow him to opt out, something he was seriously considering because he wanted to return to private life but the party had no other viable candidate so it seemed he was stuck. His wife was an interesting character, with an amazing sense of self, busy with her own charitable causes such as Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). She knew that her husband had homosexual tendencies when she married him since that was what had destroyed his first marriage, and she realized that she would have the face this issue head-on if he ever met a man with whom he fell in love. Now that Chad was in his life she made her position clear – she would support her husband during this term and a second one if he were re-elected and be the public face of the First Family. She was quite accepting of Chad in his life however this was no “woman standing by her man” in Tammy Wynette fashion while her husband was unfaithful, in fact she was strong, independent, funny and likable and made it clear to Chad that he was very important to the entire family, including herself.
The plot is incredible and the author, Adam Fitzroy, handled the multitude of issues and challenges that the President faced on a daily basis with competence and ingenuity. Obviously he must have done a great deal of research before writing this book because there was a sense of gritty realism about the story and emerging global issues. The life and death decisions made by the President and the head of the CIA made me wonder how much of this could actually happen in the real world. This is the kind of book I gravitate to every chance I get, and when the author does the type of masterful job that Adam Fitzroy accomplished in this case, it make the story all the more compelling.
I think one of the most fascinating and engaging characters was the First Lady, Kirsten Kearney, who knew that this day was coming and had a plan in place to share her husband which she implemented with a wonderful spirit of grace and generosity. She obviously approved of the bond between her husband and his lover and fostered it by encouraging Berry, their daughter, to spend time with Chad so that she would get to know him and develop her own relationship with him. You have to read the book to understand the dynamics of a marriage like this, with a couple who respected and were fond of each other and would do what was necessary to ensure the other party’s happiness. Kirsten promoted the relationship between Doug and Chad because, in her estimation, he needed Chad in his life in order to function effectively in his job and it was a balancing act on everyone’s part to make the personal and public relationships work. While the first couple were genuinely affectionate both in public and private there were many hints throughout the book that they did not share a bedroom, but lived separate lives, so clearly any ‘cheating’ would be purely perception not reality. One of the other wonderful characters of whom I was particularly fond was the National Security Advisor Mitchell Booth, a long time friend of Doug’s who was much older at 70+, but had a decidedly contemporary outlook on gays in the military and provided another perspective on his boss. Berry, the first daughter, was also another personal favourite.
If you’re interested in reading a book about complex relationships, with an incredible plot, a myriad of multifaceted global issues, combining fresh and intelligent prose and dialogue, and wonderfully crafted characters, I would highly recommend that you read Dear Mister President.
The author plans a sequel to this story which I’m eagerly awaiting to see if he can top this wonderful book.