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The First Affair

The First Affair

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Jamie McAlister has resigned herself to the fact that in this job market, her painfully expensive degree might only get her a position at Starbucks, when she suddenly lands a prestigious internship at the White House. Although she doesn’t hit it off with the other interns—lockjaws who come from so much money that ten weeks without a paycheck doesn’t faze them—she is eager to work hard and make the best of the opportunity while it lasts.

An unexpected encounter late one evening with the charismatic President Gregory Rutland seems like just a fleeting flirtation, but when he orchestrates clandestine meetings and late-night phone calls, their relationship quickly escalates. Jamie knows what she is doing is wrong: he’s married, he has kids, he’s the President. Yet each time she tries to extricate herself, Greg pulls her back in.

With the conflicted desires of the most powerful man in the world driving her to her breaking point, Jamie can’t help but divulge intimate details to those closest to her. But she must have confided in the wrong person, because she soon finds herself, and everyone she cares about, facing calculated public destruction at the hands of Greg’s political enemies, and—perhaps no matter how much he cares about her—at the hands of Greg himself.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451643428 | 
  • August 2013
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Read an Excerpt

First Affair Prologue
It was graduation weekend, long after midnight. Parents had been packed off to their motels, or talked into making the drive home alone with U-Hauls affixed to their tails. The air had chilled and there was a fire in the hearth of that sagging house, which someone else rented the year before and someone would rent the year after, the unchanging backdrop to an unchanging drama. Of course we wanted to think our year was different, our heartbreaks, our pregnancy scares, our Fs in organic chem, but they... see more
First Affair Chapter One June 11
When I arrived at the White House the President was our shared responsibility, beyond also being the adjective attached to everything in the building. The Rutland administration. The Rutland agenda. The Rutland luncheon. He was the word in every fifth sentence, a ubiquitous stamped signature, a photograph over the royal-blue carpet on the way to the staff entrance. Under normal circumstances he would never even have known my name, but I unwittingly entered the White House at a time when... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The First Affair includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Early on, Brooke tries to give Jamie some advice about how to conduct herself professionally, saying, “Being charming….doesn’t inspire confidence.” Do you agree? Do you think that the same statement applies to men as it does for women?

2. Is Jamie a victim? What responsibility does she bear?

3. In what ways does Jamie take after her mother? Do you think that the scandal brings her closer to Erica and to her father? Consider how the dynamics and alliances within Jamie’s family evolve as the narrative progresses.

4. As you were reading, who did you suspect divulged Jamie’s secret?

5. Discuss the connection that Jamie and Greg shared. How mutual was it? Do you think it ever evolved out of lust to love?

6. To what extent did you feel that Jamie’s experience with Mike shaped her perception of how romantic relationships are conducted?

7. What do you think the novel is saying about the relationship between power and sex?

8. Discuss the gifts that see more

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