A Scandal of Choice
The president is pregnant. What a provocative idea. How would the country, still so new to the idea of a female president, feel about her pregnancy? How would Congress react? What would the media say? How would the rest of the world react, especially in countries where female oppression is common? How would the president do her job while pregnant? She would have to fly for work, have meetings during prime morning sickness hours, and be on her feet all day long. What if the baby’s father, who is not her husband, wanted nothing to do with the child? Surely, those would be huge obstacles to overcome.
Now imagine that, due to years of sexual scandals by Democratic presidents, the now pregnant female president faces a law dictating that the president had to remain celibate while in office, even if he or she was married. Now the pregnancy, which would be impossible to hide after month six, would be illegal, and lead to an impeachment. That makes the matter infinitely more complicated. How would her staff, which depends on her for their livelihoods, react to her indiscretion? What would the Supreme Court say on the matter?
All of these questions are interesting, thought provoking, and worth answering. However, if you are reading Allyson Whipple’s A Scandal of Choice, not one of them would be addressed. Her story centers on President Lydia Worth, cousin to the first female president Lisa Finn, author of the aforementioned celibacy clause, and her struggle upon becoming pregnant not long into her first term as president. The story starts out promising, but ultimately, feels poorly thought-out, ill researched, and weakly written.
There are two characters in the story that are developed, Lydia and her best friend/gynecologist, Melanie. There are almost no other characters. Thomas, the speechwriter/baby daddy, pops in once or twice, just to disavow the child to try and save himself. At this point in the story, I thought it might be an interesting mediation on the concept of choice—that a pregnant woman with the option to have an abortion would chose not to—but I was sorely mistaken.
Lydia does nothing, as far as I can tell, as president. She does not have to travel, has no work to do, and is able to visit her friend in Connecticut without anyone noticing. Even her Secret Service detail don’t really care that much. There is no Chief of Staff, no staff at all really, no Congress members, no press, no American public. Take out the president title, and the story could have been a Lifetime television movie.
In addition, the governmental aspects of this story make absolutely no sense. Even if you give Ms. Whipple the premise that an amendment demanding celibacy would pass, she clearly has no idea about impeachment proceedings. She has the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding over the Senate while arguments are heard, and witnesses are sworn in on a Bible. As far as I can tell, the impeachment hearings in the story are set up exactly like a trial scene from Law and Order, right down to the defendant hugging her lawyer at the end.
Despite a wonderful story idea, the execution of this novella is pretty bad.