Title: Out of the Gilded Cage (Condor One #4)
Author: John Simpson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Political Thriller
Length: Novel (214 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A new book in the Condor series that, while I had some issues with it, was a welcome addition.
After his eventful term in office, former President of the United States David Windsor is looking forward to retirement with his husband and love of his life, former First Gentleman Shane Thompson. As a part of their new start, they’ve bought a home in beautiful Cape May and started proceedings to adopt a homeless gay teenager. With the faithful Marys—his secretary and his Scottish terrier—at his side, David’s set to enjoy a life out of the limelight. But fate has other plans for the no-nonsense politician.
An agreement forged between China and the Taliban sends new President Victoria Wilson to David for advice. David will do anything to help his former Vice President keep Al-Qaeda from destroying the world, and he soon finds himself back in the heart of the storm, Shane at his side. Toe to toe with the leaders of the opposition, both foreign and at home, David must convince them to turn aside from their deadly plan.
Condor One Series
Out of the Gilded Cage is book four in John Simpson’s interesting Condor series that centers on the first gay — and now former — president David Windsor and his Secret-Service-agent-turned-lover-turned-spouse Shane Thompson. I felt that the series wrapped up well with Condor and Falcon (reviewed here), so I admit that I was really surprised to see a new novel with these characters. Even though this begins a new chapter in our heroes’ lives, I would not consider OotGC a stand-alone book; not only are there very close timelines between the four books and many mentions of prior happenings, the series really needs to be read in order to capture all of that as well as the relationship David and Shane have built. While I overall liked it, this new installment left me with very mixed feelings because there were some big problems for me, including an unexpected change in voice and several continuity issues. In the end, I decided to give the story four stars, even though other books with the issues I outline would probably be given a lower rating.
Our story begins immediately after the end of CandF with David, Shane and Mary (David’s Scottish Terrier) flying off on Inauguration Day 2016 after handing the political reigns to Victoria Wilson, the first female president and his former vice-president. They begin to settle in a large house at the beach on Cape May, New Jersey, loving the fact that they no longer have to dread the phone ringing in the middle of the night with some emergency and now can smexx it up with abandon. Living with them is David’s long-time secretary, Mary, and they are surrounded with the normal security former presidents get after leaving office. First up? Acquire space locally where they can set up a formal office to administer the various projects David and Shane currently have and are going to take on. Second? Find a homeless gay teen to foster/adopt. And because David is David and misses being involved in the international political arena, he can’t but say yes to Victoria when she asks for his help with a very delicate situation as the Taliban and China pair up to start to cause problems in South Asia, as well as another offer.
What I liked about it:
The general plot. I felt like it was a good continuation of the story so far and transition to David and Shane’s life now that they are no longer president and first gentleman. And since I do like the series, I was happy to spend time with this bunch again. It is much less of a rollercoaster ride than the previous three books, with attacks on the White House, threats on David’s life and biological terrorism mostly gone now that he is out of office. Even though I know next to nothing about what happens to a president when he leaves office, it seemed generally realistic to me. I thought the diplomatic trip to Pakistan and China was a good break from what could have been almost boring plot line filled with what David and Shane did in their new daily routine of going to the office and home life. The plot is left wide open at the end for both new stories of David and Shane, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new book or series centering on Jack, David and Shane’s son.
The characters. I have always liked David and Shane, even though they continue to be Gary-Sue-ish (seemingly perfect in every way). I like the way they are together, and how Shane still makes it his duty to protect David. Their longing to have a child in their lives — a gay teen, at that — made me also think about fostering. I love both Marys — David’s secretary and Scottie — who add some comic relief to the story, and Jack seems to be a great addition to the cast and I hope we see more of him (my only niggle about him is listed below).
What I had problems with:
First, as is my style with most series books, I re-read the three prior stories just before I started this installment, so I finished up CandF and immediately began OotGC. The first three books are penned in first person, with David narrating them. I was completely taken aback, then, to find that this newest novel is told in third person. On one hand, it allows for us to see the world through other characters’ eyes and be in multiple places, which is a good thing. On the other hand, it was incredibly disconcerting; I had just read three novels where I was inside of David’s head so it was a shock and it took me many chapters before I could relax somewhat into the new narration. This may not be an issue for other readers, but for me, it was unwelcome. I am not sure why the author chose to make this change, especially since a) I thought he penned a pretty successful first person narrator and b) in the end, the majority of the story is told from David’s POV, so I have to question why Simpson even bothered to switch. I am curious to see if other readers feel the same.
Second, I found some big continuity errors that I consider to be sloppy, and wonder why these were not caught during the writing and editing process:
At the end of CandF, we are told in the very last paragraph they were flying “…to Palm Springs, California, where Shane and I had made our home,” yet the fourth paragraph into OotGC we find them “en route to New Jersey, the state where David and Shane had decided to live.” I read that and did a double take. I even went back to CandF, to see if I had misread it.
Brandon Wilson, the now-president’s adopted son, was nineteen at the end of CandF, yet in OotGC he is sixteen.
There is also an issue with this statement written at the end of chapter one:
Since there had already been a black President, next was a minority President…
In the series, the succession is Clinton and GW Bush for their correct terms, (I am guessing Antonin) Scalia for one term, then David for one term. Assuming the author is talking real presidents before Clinton, there was no black president, making this an untrue statement.
Some smaller things:
I felt that the ease at which Jack was acclimated into the family was a bit unbelievable and the level of affection between Jack and his dads somewhat on the saccharine side. Here is a kid who lived on the streets for a time and in a homeless shelter, yet the only issue he seems to have is a very low-level problem with cussing. I am sure there are teens who are just so grateful to have the affection and love of an adult and a stable place to live that they’ll cause few problems, but it just seemed too…easy. I have very close friends who have fostered children of varying ages on and off for a few decades and none of their kids came in from moment one perfect like Jack did. Even the easiest of them had some issues — guarded in their feelings, lying out of necessity, attitude, hording of food — that had to be addressed.
Early on there is another gay teen David and Shane have serious interest in fostering who is given time to think about it and we never hear his name again.
At one point, David says “This is early March,” yet by my calculations from what we are told in the story, it is less than two weeks after leaving office when he says this. Inauguration Day is January 20, so this statement is off.
Lastly, I am not sure I’ll ever forgive Simpson for making me cry blubbering buckets. 🙂 If you read the story, you’ll understand.
Despite my issues, Out of the Gilded Cage was an unexpected and welcome new book in the Condor series. For fans, it is a must-read. I also recommend it and the series to those who like politics and kids/pets in with their romance, but remember to pick up the first three books first.