Inside The Beltway

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Title and Link: Inside the Beltway
Author: Ellen Holiday
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher URL: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Buy Link:
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/198 PDF pages
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Review Summary: An honest politician – Is there such an animal? Read on to find out.

THE BLURB

Senator Davis Hudson has a silver tongue that has so far kept the stress off those lesser political organs, the heart and the brain. But he’s just made a political speech that will transform him from a Senate back-bencher to a public figure and presidential contender—whether he’s ready or not—and suddenly he wants his words and actions to mean something. It’s a crucial time in his political career, and Davis needs all the publicity he can get. He just doesn’t expect the highlight of his first CNN interview to be the conversation he has with makeup artist Kurt Lamb.

Kurt is smart, politically savvy, and uninterested in being part of a congressional sex scandal, which is why he tolerates being Davis’s dirty little secret. Despite the poor timing, Davis falls for him hard.

But Kurt isn’t the only skeleton in Davis’s closet. Davis’s ex-wife isn’t happy that he’s pursuing the presidency now, after all her years of hard work, and he has at least one more enemy on the Hill. Between them, they have all the tools they need to ruin a presidential candidate—and maybe his shot at happiness too.

THE REVIEW

I can’t resist books about politics or politicians. Sometimes I’m disappointed in these stories, but more often than not I’m pleasantly surprised at the depth of the characters and the complexity of the plots. The last book I reviewed with this theme was Where There’s Smoke by L.A. Witt which I absolutely loved. I wasn’t sure about Inside the Beltway when I started reading it but quite soon I was engrossed in the characters and realized once again that politicians play by different rules to the rest of us.

Representing his constituents as the Democratic Senator from Connecticut was a bit of a comedown for Davis Hudson after being CEO of his business and subsequently elected as Lieutenant Governor. He had grown tired of being one of 100 Senators dependent on his colleagues’ goodwill or reciprocal favours to get any bills passed, plus it was hard to get noticed in a crowd. With a year to go before he needed to campaign and raise funds for his re-election, his options were wide open. He felt the pull to do something tangible and exciting so he decided to take a run at the presidency. Although he didn’t say that was what he was doing, it was obvious to everyone that he was considering going after the job of being the man in the White House. As expected, his carefully crafted speech on the floor of the Senate with this objective in mind created quite the buzz, and he was on all the news feeds later that day, which was a good thing; except he still wasn’t sure whether he wanted the job should he be lucky enough to win his party’s nomination.

Kurt Lamb was the CNN make-up artist charged with making Davis’s face look even better for the cameras, and they made the usual small talk as he went about his job. After the interview as he was waiting for his driver Davis saw Kurt again and they chatted to pass the time. Davis was so impressed he suggested that they meet for coffee since Kurt seemed to have a lot of fresh ideas. Of course one meeting wasn’t enough and soon Davis realized that he was in trouble – he was attracted to Kurt who was quite upfront about his sexual orientation. Kurt pointed out that it was a bad idea for them to even be friends given their relative status, but human nature being what it is very soon Davis wanted more than friendship. Their first kiss was a revelation to him and he knew that it would be a mistake to continue seeing Kurt, but he was too emotionally involved by this time and despite his misgivings, they started an affair at the worst possible time for Davis.

Helen, Davis’s ex was furious when she heard the rumours that he might be considering a run at the presidency. His timing meant that she would not share in the glory she felt she deserved, should he win. Part of the reason why their marriage had fallen apart was they had different goals at the time. She was very ambitious and he preferred to go with the flow; she was bitterly disappointed that Davis didn’t have bigger ambitions beyond being a Senator and policy maker. That he was considering running for the presidency at this particular time, something that she had strongly urged him to do when they were married, was galling, and she was determined to stop his campaign in its tracks with the help of her well connected friends

It was fascinating to watch Davis strategize his next moves without appearing to be running for the job everyone knew he wanted. He grew a lot during the course of this book from someone unsure of what he wanted in life to a man who knew what was really important in his life.The biggest issue he faced was his relationship with Kurt. Was America ready for a gay president or could Davis’s campaign be over before it had even begun? There was no issue about his choice between his love for Kurt vs his political ambitions – Kurt would win hands down.

One reason I love stories about politics and American politics in particular is because most of the characters in these books are so complex, the issues are almost incomprehensible, the objectives are unattainable, and everything is bigger than in real life. Manipulation, backstabbing and outright sabotage are not unheard of from those who should be above petty oneupmanship. It was amazing to see how dirty the fighting became when Davis stepped on one toe too many, and his various enemies conspired to bring him to his knees.

Kurt, the other MC, was a wonderfully crafted character. Although he worked as a make-up artist he had a background in media analysis and politics so he and Davis had a lot in common and weren’t the mismatch they appeared to be on the surface. Davis knew he could absolutely trust Kurt to have his back and that he would never betray him, no matter the cost. He was the one person in Davis’s life who gave everything he had unconditionally, and he never expected anything in return other than Davis’s love. Kurt sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking and I fell for him as much as I did for Davis.

The writing was excellent and I would definitely read another book by Ellen Holiday. She did a great job of showing the inner workings of the Senate without too many boring details, (a difficult task I’m sure) and in addition demonstrated the level of intrigue in a place where the members are revered but a few are unprincipled, barely restraining themselves when bent on revenge.

Inside the Beltway is told from two POVs – Davis’s and a limited POV of his ex wife Helen. I almost didn’t give this book 5 stars because of Helen’s character who was the usual one dimensional manipulating, cunning, bitter witch of an ex wife bent on destroying the man she had once loved. I wish she had at least one redeeming quality to offset the “evil witch” portrayal, but her characterization ran true to form for most females in this genre. However the book deserved to be rated at the highest level in my opinion, so I disregarded this one flaw.

Inside the Beltway was incredible in the way it showed Davis’s conflicts about the job he wasn’t sure he wanted, his ambitions, his need for more meaningful and challenging work, as well as his emotions expressed in his love for Kurt. I liked that both MCs were older – Davis was 46 years old and Kurt not much younger, and there was no attempt to make Kurt into a great looking man, in fact his looks were quite ordinary which made Davis’s love for him more special. In case you were wondering, this is also a wonderful love story. :)

Some of the other characters of note were Senator Pierce Randolph, the Chamber’s longest serving member and a man of integrity, who was a great friend to Davis and acted as his conscience and sounding board; on the opposite side of the ledger was Junior Senator Harry Adams who was not the kind of person one should ever cross; another great character was Alex Hu, Davis’s Chief of Staff, a smart and ambitious woman who was very well drawn – flaws and competence make for a heady mix.

To answer the question in the summary – yes!

America will probably never be ready for a gay president, but If you’re looking for a complex, highly entertaining story about US politics you shouldn’t miss Inside the Beltway. A wonderful debut novel.

Highly recommended.

 

34 thoughts on “Inside The Beltway

  1. Susan

    Thanks for your usual brilliant review, Sammy. I read this book when it was first released based on the blurb. While I didn’t rate it as highly as you, I definitely found the plot to be refreshingly original. I may have to go back for a reread after seeing your comments, because basically I agree with everything you said. Not really sure I recall what I didn’t like about the story.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Susan

      It’s Wave, not Sammy. :grin: I really loved this story and read the book a couple of times before I rated it.

      As I indicated in the review, I didn’t like the portrayal of Davis’s ex wife but that’s true of the way most women are characterized in M/M. Other than that, the intrigue really held my attention as well as Davis and Kurt in love, and it was one of those books I couldn’t put down because I really wanted to see how it would end. Maybe if you re-read it you may understand why I rated it as high as 5 stars. It definitely was a keeper for me but then I love books about politicians.

      1. Susan

        God, I need help! I saw ‘Review Summary’ and translated that to Review by Sammy. Sorry, Wave. It was another one of YOUR brilliant reviews.:) The portrayal of the wife didn’t bother me. I definitely have to do a reread. I, too, love books about politicians.

        1. Wave Post author

          No worries Susan. :lol:

          The reason the portrayal of the wife bothered me, while it probably would be an accurate one for most ex wives in her position, is I think women are portrayed as evil in 90 – 95% of gay romances. I even did a post a couple of years ago with Sean Kennedy and Jenre about how ill served women are in these books. My pet peeve, among others. :grin:

  2. Raine

    Sold…..Sirius recommended this one too, so with your great review as well – job done. Thanks very much. :grin:

  3. Lasha

    Since I grew up “Inside the Beltway,” I don’t like books about politics, but just as I sold you on shifters in space, you’ve sold me on this. I am going to check it out. :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Sorry Majken. If it would help, if you don’t like books about politics you might not like this one, although I think it’s quite possible that you would. :lol: Sorry. :grin:

      1. Majken

        Sadly I’m always curious about American politics -and DADT, I keep reading, but get no wiser ;)

        1. Wave Post author

          Looks like a sale to me. :lol:

          I promise if you don’t like it I’ll buy your next ebook. :grin:
          BTW I think DSP books are on sale.

              1. Majken

                *Points to her first comment* this is what happens when I accidentally go to Rainbow Ebooks on a Tuesday :eek: fortunately there wasn’t a sale at DSP so I safely added the book to my wishlist, without further shopping ;)

  4. Lisa Sullivan

    Well Wave, I generally hate books on politics! However, I gave “Where There’s Smoke” a chance, based on your review, and I loved it! (I just went back and reread our comments!)
    Anyway, I will be reading this on too!

    Thank you Wave!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Lisa

      I hope that lightning will strike twice and that you will like this story just as much as Where There’s Smoke. It’s very different but just as wonderful a story. I really liked the characters. Loved the ending. :grin:

      1. Larissa

        Lol! Just because I review paranormal romance a lot, doesn’t mean I don’t read contemporary. i just don’t like politicians!

      1. Wave Post author

        Please let me know what you think when you’re finished Lisa. I’m hoping that this rec. is 2 for 2 for you. :grin:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hey Lynn

      You might like the wife because she’s well drawn, if you like a harridan. :eek:

      I hope you find the book as entertaining as I did. I believe this might be the first full length book by Ellen Holiday and I think she should be proud.

      1. Aunt Lynn

        Read it last night. Super duper. Loved it. Great writing. Great characters. Hated the wife. :) Hard to believe it’s a first novel. Eager to see what’s next from this author.

        1. Wave Post author

          Lynn

          Damn you’re fast. :) Really happy you enjoyed this book because you and I both know how difficult it is to find a book in our genre with an actual plot, great characters and wonderful writing.

          This author is definitely a “find” and I’ll be on the look-out for her next book.

  5. Sirius

    I LOVED this book, if this is a debut novel, it is even more amazing. The writing was IMO just so bold and confident and the characters came alive on the pages from the moment they appeared. I loved how Davis changed throughout the story and how him changing did not mean that his personality did 360 degrees at the end, just that his better part shined through.

    Yeah, totally agree about the wife. I almost did not give a five stars because of her either. It is not even the question whether the character fits in the specific book, because to me she fit in this one, I mean talented writer can make anything fit IMO. It is the trend I am so *very* fed up with. I mean, just think about the possible conclusion we can make from those characters inhibiting mm books, especially where they are the *only* women characters in mm books. Sad :( And I do not ask for them to be perfect, or anything, just human.

    Anyway, the reason why I gave it five stars anyway besides everything else being so awesome, is because of Alex. As long as there are other women characters in the story and they are somewhat multidimensional and human, I can tolerate caricature evil exes just a tiny bit better. Sorry, rant over.

    Thanks for the awesome review, and awesome recommendation, since I originally purchased it on your recommendation.

    1. Wave Post author

      Sirius
      I can only find a couple of shorts from her in DSP anthologies. I’ll have to re-read her stories. :)

      I’m so glad you loved this book as much as I did. The characters rocked, except for Davis’s ex who was one dimensional. I was hoping that there might be one saving grace in her character, but it was not to be. I’m so tired of the evil exes. Anyway she got her comeuppance in the end. :grin: :cool: Alex did make up for her – what a treat: a powerful, strong female character, and likeable too. :)

      Ellen Holiday did an excellent job and I can’t wait for her next book.

  6. Raine

    Thank you very much Wave, this is now on my very short list of books I’ve most enjoyed this year. :hurrah:

  7. Lisa Sullivan

    Hey Wave!
    This was a 2 for 3! I really enjoyed this book! The storyline and the characterizations were outstanding!

    Thank you for the review, otherwise I would have never given it a chance!

    1. Wave

      Thanks Lisa. 2 for 3 isn’t a bad average but I’m curious – which book did I recommend that you didn’t like? :)

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