Party Lines/The Easy Part #3- Emma Barry

I’ve been saving the third book in Barry’s The Easy Part political series for just the right time. And what better time for a romance about two political aides working for competing presidential candidates, than primary election season?

While the primary in Party Lines is nowhere near as strange as the 2016 edition, I couldn’t help but substitute real-life players for the book’s candidates.  Republican Scott Stafford is a Jeb Bush-like moderate, whose main appeal is that he’s less crazy than the other GOP front runner.

Democrat James Randall is a charismatic governor with a reputation as a womanizer, and a politically savvy wife. No word on whether Mrs. Randall has presidential ambitions of her own.

But the real drama is behind the scenes, where political aides dig up dirt on opposing candidates, then stay up all night watching CNN and Fox as they wait for the scandal to break. 

Democrat Michael Picetti and Republican Lydia Reales meet while flying to Iowa for the January caucuses. The attraction is instant, and for Lydia, so is the hostility. Michael wrongly assumes the brainy young Latina is a fellow liberal, and though she’s socially moderate, Lydia is a true believer in the Republican hard-work-creates-opportunity ideal. Too bad her boss sees her only as the campaign’s token person of color, and overlooks her contributions.

Michael’s idealism has been crushed beneath the grind of running a campaign and mitigating routine disasters, such as when his candidate’s affair with a TV reporter goes public. His job is to put a Democrat in the White House, and he’s long since stopped caring whether Randall is the best man for the job.

With goals that couldn’t be more opposed, Michael and Lydia don’t see any possibility for a relationship. But an emotional bond grows between them, fueled by hot sex, and fiercely intelligent banter.  In a nice change-up from typical romance tropes, it’s sexy, sensitive Michael who finds himself longing for something deeper, while smart ambitious Lydia seems content to keep things casual.

Barry portrays both campaigns with an even hand, giving us sympathetic and unlikable characters on both sides. The nitty-gritty details of how a campaign works were fascinating, and I loved how she was able to create sizzling romance in such mundane settings as a hotel gym and an Applebee’s parking lot.

If you’re looking for a different kind of read that’s not only sexy, but gives a taste of what life is like on “the trail,” during “the cycle” don’t miss Party Lines.