Review of Inside the Beltway by Ellen Holiday


Rating: 4 stars

Senator Davis Hudson’s life is all about politics. Endless committee meetings, Senate hearings, as well as constituents to attend to, all contribute to an almost 24/7 work day.  But Senator Hudson has his eyes on a bigger target these days as several of his senior staff members are urging him to make a run for the Presidency.  Davis decides to test the political waters to see what kind of support he might have and that means he needs more publicity. To that end, Senator Davis ends up sitting in the makeup chair at CNN, under the care and skill of makeup artist Kurt Lamb. Davis finds Kurt’s opinions interesting.  As they spend the time before the interview chatting, Davis Hudson realizes it’s not just Kurt’s viewpoint he likes, but the man himself.

A return trip to CNN means a chance to reunite with the attractive makeup man, Kurt and things start to progress out of the Senator’s control. Kurt is gay, Davis finds Kurt compelling in a sexual way, and his entire self image shifts in a manner he is not really comfortable with. Kurt is interested back and doesn’t try to hide how he feels about the Senator.  As Davis Hudson tries to come to grips with his feelings about Kurt, he realizes he could be jeopardizing everything he has worked for his entire life. Unknown to him, Davis’ ex-wife is watching him being touted as the next presidential candidate and fuming over the fact that she should be standing there with him ready to reap the long denied benefits.  Outside forces are aligning against Davis even as he tries to find a future with Kurt.  Can David Hudson find the courage to be himself before he is forced to leave Kurt behind?

I picked this book up based on the title alone.  OK, I live in the DC metro area and that title is like  catnip to a mouse around here.  We are so steeped in politics,on county to state to federal levels and everything in between, that I am usually very skeptical of any book purporting to have a view of DC from the inside.  Imagine my delight when Ellen Holiday gets it right from almost every aspect.  A quick trip to her bio gave me the answer.  She lives in DC.  No wonder there is not a wrong touch here.  From the various locations, to the inner workings of the Senate, and even the local news, Holiday gets it right, again and again.  How I loved this as nothing is more grating then reading an author’s attempt to tell me that someone made it from Reagan National to the Mall in 10 minutes, via the Red Line no less. No worries on that front here.  She knows DC and depicts it exactly as it should be.  Great job as well as a example in writing what you know.

Then there are the characterizations.  Here comes my first quibble.  Ellen Holiday gave us very believable people to read about.  From the ego centric and arrogance of Davis Hudson, smug in his belief that his smooth manner, a good looking face and physique (but not too goodlooking, mind you) will see him into the President’s seat, Holiday gives us a realistic portrait of a politician at the top of his game.  Kurt Lamb with his interesting background is typical of the types of people drawn to DC.  As for Davis’ staffers, from Matt to Alex, both are such great depiction of the staffers seen every day on the Hill.  My favorite?  That would be Senator Pierce Randolph.  Yes, Senators like him do exist. So if I am all that about Holiday’s characters, why the quibble?  I just didn’t like David Hudson very much.  He is such a smooth politician that I didn’t buy his conversion.  Or the fact that he fell in love with Kurt.  Kurt deserves a much better person than Davis, even a lobbyist and that’s saying something. So I never really invested myself in the love affair, that’s my quibble.  Holiday did a great job making Senator Hudson a believable Senator, the consummate politician.  Those A types don’t throw over their careers, in my opinion unless they are forced to as was Davis.  Our newspapers, news casts and TMZ  contain no small amount of stories such as these. Do the names Jim McGreevey , Anthony Weiner or Eliot Spitzer ring any bells? That doesn’t make them likable, just realistic.

So I had a great book, full of terrific characters, accurate locations and believable drams.  And half a great couple.  I can’t wait to see what Ellen Holiday comes up with next.  Just no lobbyists please.   How about some nice schmo who works for the Smithsonian or a think tank wonk?  All good characters for me.  We have a great city that just legalized Gay Marriage.  I look forward to reading what Ellen Holiday does with that.

Cover by Catt Ford.  Great design but that red font color still doesn’t work for me.