Sammy’s Hill

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Novels set in D.C. continue to fascinate me, particularly because of all the different genres and author interpretation of the city. In my search for stories set in my current city, I came across Sammy’s Hill, a novel by Kristin Gore, the second oldest daughter of Al Gore, the Vice President under President Bill Clinton from 1993-2001.

The eponymous “Sammy” is protagonist Samantha Joyce, a 26-year-old health care analyst for Ohio Senator Robert Gary. Life on Capitol Hill can be demanding and stressful, but Sammy’s dedicated to her job, complemented by her somewhat neurotic personality. Sammy’s social life is minimal, but when handsome speechwriter Aaron Driver comes in to her life, Sammy quickly falls for him and forms a relationship. But as she soon finds out, mixing work and romance is not always a good thing. A presidential election also throws her into the hectic and crazy life of campaigning across the country.

What I enjoyed the most about this novel is that there was an actual plot and story, unlike Jennifer Close’s D.C.-set novel The Hopefuls, which reads more like a nonlinear diary than a book. Gore presented Sammy Joyce as a likeable, realistic character set against the backdrop of D.C., and accurately portrays the majority of Washington’s employees who are transplants from other states. Written in first person, Sammy makes humorous observations about D.C. color cast of characters.

Sammy’s experience on the campaign trail echoes Gore’s firsthand experience of her father running for Vice President and President. It always intrigues me when the author incorporates his or her personal experiences in to their stories, as it adds substance and authenticity.

I recommend Sammy’s Hill to anyone who enjoys a good romantic comedy set in the capital city. I will most likely be checking out the sequel, Sammy’s House, pretty soon.

 

 

 

The Hopefuls

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Washington, D.C. has been the center of media attention since the beginning of this year. It makes sense, since we are in the first year of a new administration and all the newness provides countless stories for the press. The fact that I currently live here too gives me a front row view of what is going on. But there’s another side to D.C., one that has to do with the people and the culture. This is one of the plot points of Jennifer Close’s novel The Hopefuls.

Beth and Matt Kelly have recently moved to Washington, D.C. from New York City due to Matt getting a new job. While Matt settles into his new workplace, Beth, unemployed and stir crazy, struggles to adjust to life in a new city and to make new friends. Things get interesting when they meet Jimmy and Ashleigh Dillon, Texas natives who offer a new perspective on what moving to a new place has to offer. When Jimmy decides to move back to Texas and run for public office, they invite the Kellys to manage their campaign and live in Texas for the year. Though Beth and Matt are looking forward to an adventure, they soon find out that campaigning is not as easy as it seems.

I could relate to Beth on many levels. The adjustment to living in D.C. is a definite one. I never lived in New York, but it took some time to get used to all the people, navigating the streets and the grocery stores. The unemployed factor: I at one point did not work for over two months, and while it was nice at first, not having a job made focusing and maintaining and identity difficult.

Close did a great job of capturing the city’s essence, from people knowing each other’s connections to the nicknames of the Safeways. However, I felt like the setting was what made most of the story. There was no real plot, and the pages were mostly filled with descriptions of Beth’s experiences: what people were doing, where they were going, and so on.  There was some insight as to the stress and mental toll a campaign can have on those involved and some character development, but no major climax or anything like that. I found myself skipping ahead a couple of times just to see what would happen.

I recommend this novel for those who enjoy a perspective of D.C., but be prepared for a story that doesn’t have much substance other than that.

Edge of Black

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This book is part of the Dr. Samantha Owens series, written by J.T. Ellison. Last summer, I reviewed What Lies Behind, the latest in the series. Wanting to read the rest, I backtracked to the second novel.

In Edge of Black, Sam has just arrived in D.C. and is teaching forensic science at George Washington University. She is enjoying a fresh start in a new city with her new boyfriend and new house. However, when a foreign toxic substance is released in to the Washington metro system and sickens hundreds, Sam soon finds herself pulled into a national security investigation. With the help of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and her homicide detective friend Darren Fletcher, Sam follows the trail of the villain, not knowing what might happen next.

I really like how Ellison’s main character is a medical examiner, a change from the usual protagonists of detectives and lawyers. Sam’s medical perspective creates an interesting angle with investigating the crime, particularly with examining the victims’ bodies. I myself can’t imagine doing a job like that, but I admire those who do. I also appreciate that Ellison did her research for the scientific terms that are used in the novel.

Living in the same city as Sam, it was easy to picture the places she went to during her research. The plot was decent, but I felt like it was a bit more predictable than What Lies Behind. Even so, I do recommend this novel to people who want to read about crime investigations from a different point of view.

Dealing in Deception

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Deception is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “the act of making someone believe something that is not true.” This is the basis of Dealing in Deception, the second book in the Love in Disguise series by Samantha Joyce. (My review of the series’s first novel, Flirting with Fame, can be found here.)

This novel follows Veronica Wilde, the main antagonist from the first novel, or the girl that had pretended to be the author of Elise Jameson’s best-selling book series. Set a few years later, Veronica, now 25, makes her living as an actress-for-hire in Washington, D.C., playing parts from a business partner to a new girlfriend.  Playing pretend and “dealing in deception” has become the center of her life, and she is okay with that.

This all changes when she meets Baxter “Bax” Linton, an entrepreneur who hires her to help him get investors for his product. Initially put off by her dismissive attitude, Bax’s willingness to give her a second chance surprises her, and their relationship begins to grow beyond their business deal. Veronica find herself opening up about her troubled past, something she hasn’t done before.

The story is written from the perspective of both Veronica and Bax, with the chapters alternating between the first-person narratives. It was great being able to read both of their thoughts, because it showed the contrast between their personalities and how it affects their relationship.

I was intrigued by Veronica’s character and the reason behind her chosen profession. Although gorgeous and charismatic in her looks and attitude, learning about her inner insecurity and past made her relatable, and demonstrates the important message of not judging someone by their looks. It also illustrates how people can use deception to make themselves seem better than they are, something that unfortunately happens often in society.

Another reason I liked the story was its setting of Washington, D.C., the city where I currently live, and at exactly the time of year that it is now, around Thanksgiving. Having spent last Thanksgiving here touring the museums, I could visualize Veronica and Bax’s adventures on the National Mall perfectly. Reading part of it while hanging at a Capitol Hill coffee shop only further helped my imagination.

I recommend this novel, not only because of its important messages and real-life issues, but because it successfully combines genres of romance, comedy and drama set in the backdrop of the nation’s capital.

 

What Lies Behind

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Used book sales are usually places to find books that might be older, or even out of print. In this case, though, I found this novel that was published just last year.

J.T. Ellison’s thriller What Lies Behind follows Dr. Samantha “Sam” Owens, a medical examiner and college professor, who lives in Washington, D.C. When an undercover FBI agent is found murdered and an ex-medical student severely injured in a Georgetown apartment, Dr. Owens is called in to examine the scene by her friend, homicide detective Darren Fletcher. It’s soon discovered that the FBI undercover was investigating a much larger conspiracy involving bioterrorism that could threaten the entire population. Sam and Fletcher must figure out who is behind the conspiracy in a matter of hours.

Being that this novel combined two huge interests of mine, Washington D.C. and police work, the story instantly appealed to me. The writing is in third person, but the chapters change perspective, following not only Sam’s actions but also the activities of another FBI agent, and, in some cases, the perpetrators. This sort of writing style gives the characters and stories more depth since we get the chance to see what they are thinking and feeling.

Another element I enjoyed was its setting of the city where I currently live. Ellison’s descriptions of the District were very vivid and accurate; I could easily imagine where these characters were going in almost every scene. It wasn’t surprising to find out that Ellison had once worked in the White House and lived in the city. I liked reading a crime story that was set in the nation’s capital as opposed to the common settings of New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles (at least for those popular crime shows.)

I definitely recommend this novel to anybody who likes a crime or thriller story, or is an avid fan of the Law & Order series. This novel is actually the fourth in a series, and I plan to check out the preceding books in the near future.