White House Secrets
All right, I’ll confess that this title is somewhat misleading. Everything I will discuss is publicly available information. But it is information that I personally didn’t know before I started doing research for my new modern Pride and Prejudice variation, President Darcy. I live near Washington D.C. and I knew a fair amount about the presidency and the White House in general, but in order to write a book with several scenes set in the White House, I needed to do a lot of in depth research. In the process I learned some interesting and new facts about the president’s home.
The White House is divided into three parts. The West Wing is the most famous part of the White House. This is where the president and his staff conduct the business of government—and is home to the Oval Office, the press room, and the cabinet room. The East Wing houses the first lady’s offices. The center part of the White House has multiple floors. The bottom two floors have public rooms like the State Dining Room and the East Room as well as functional rooms for the staff like the kitchen. There’s also a chocolate shop, bowling alley, and a very large flower shop. Who knew?
The top two floors of the main building are called the Residence and comprises the top two floors of the main part of the White House. This is where the president and his family live. The most famous part of the residence is the Lincoln Bedroom, which has hosted some of the White House’s most prestigious guests. As you can see from the floor plan, the Lincoln Bedroom is adjacent the Treaty Room, so called because in 1898 William McKinley presided over the signing of a peace treaty in this room which ended the Spanish-American War. Today it’s used as the president’s personal study.
Next to the Treaty Room is the Yellow Oval Room (I don’t know why the White House architect had such a thing for ovals)—a name which is both a mouthful and pedantically descriptive. This is the room that adjoins the Truman Balcony—where presidential families have often waved to crowds. Down the hall is the master bedroom. That floor also has three other bedrooms, a living room and east and west sitting rooms (apparently the president’s family does a lot of sitting).
The Residence’s second floor houses more bedrooms and quite a bit of storage as well as a work out room, a game room, and a solarium. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to think of a good reason for my characters to visit the solarium—which is a shame; it would have been a fun setting. Maybe the next time I write a book set in the White House… 😊
Read an Excerpt
Here is a scene from President Darcy set in the White House Residence. Jane injures her back while having dinner with Bingley at the White House, Elizabeth brings her sister’s medicine to the Residence (where Jane is resting). Then Elizabeth falls asleep on a sofa in the Yellow Oval Room, where Darcy discovers her.
Darcy had no idea how much time passed as he watched Elizabeth’s chest softly rise and fall. Every minute he promised himself that he would leave before she woke, but he always found reasons for delay. Then, inevitably, it happened. Her head lifted, her eyes opened, and she noticed him.
She shot to a standing position with the alacrity of a security guard found sleeping on his watch. Her face flushed a deep red. “M-Mr. P-President! I—Bing said—Jane’s back—medicine—not sleeping—sorry!” With one hand she tried to smooth her hair into place, although it looked delightfully tousled. With the other she wiped her mouth. Had she drooled a little? Good Lord, Darcy even found that endearing.
Which he should not. It was unwise to find it—or anything having to do with Elizabeth Bennet—endearing. He needed to grow a spine and hurry her out of the Residence before someone discovered her and made assumptions about her presence.
In the face of his silence, she continued, albeit rather more coherently, “The S-Secret Service knows I-I’m here. B-Bing let me in.” Her eyes blinked blearily.
“You came to see Jane?” She nodded with wary exhaustion. Darcy cleared his throat. “Can I call you a car to take you home?” Wait, did that sound like I want her to leave?“N-no thank you,” she stammered. “I-I brought my own car.”
“Then why are you still here?” Damn, that came out wrong.She drew herself up to her full height, her lips pressed tightly together. “I’ll stay out of your way. I’m not snooping for state secrets or anything.”
He’d offended her. Somehow he always managed to say the wrong thing in her presence. “No, no…I mean…it’s no inconvenience. I just—I didn’t want you to stay because you felt you were trapped.” Good Lord, I’m babbling now.Avoiding his gaze, Elizabeth rubbed her face as if trying to wake herself up. “I promised Jane I wouldn’t leave her alone.” Her voice was sharp.Surely he could say something to her without messing up. She’s a guest. Maybe I could try for a reset. “I beg your pardon. I’m being a terrible host. Would you like a bed?”
Her hands fell away from her face. “I’m sorry?”
“To sleep in,” Darcy added quickly. “While Jane is here.”
“Sleep, yes! But no.” She shook her head. “I’d rather stay close to her room.”
“Your devotion to your sister is quite commendable.”
He must seem like an insensitive lout. Or more of an insensitive lout than he already appeared. Why hadn’t he asked about her sister first? “How is your sister—now? Is she any better?”Elizabeth’s eyes darted toward Jane’s room. “I brought some of her pain medication. I think she’s sleeping now. Bing is in with her.”
He nodded, trying to let concern show on his face. No insensitive lout here. No sir. This seemed like a good, neutral topic of conversation. “Jane said she had a similar back injury before,” he said casually.Elizabeth regarded him warily as if his concern was somehow suspicious. “Yeah, two or three years ago. She was laid up for a while and in a lot of pain. It hurt to stand or walk. She missed close to a month of work. This doesn’t seem quite as severe, but it’s hard to tell.”
“I can call for a doctor,” Darcy said, trying to look solemn and presidential despite the fact that his inner teenager was cheering and high-fiving himself at the prospect of having Elizabeth in his house all night. Calm the fuck down, he told teenage Darcy. Nothing will happen, and I need to ensure the press doesn’t find out. The admonishment did little to quiet his inner glee.Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I don’t think that’s necessary at this point. Hopefully she’ll be well enough in a few hours to sit in the car, and I can take her to see her doctor tomorrow.” She paused and then added, “But thank you, Mr. President.”
“Call me—” The words were out of his mouth before he thought them through. He barely knew her. If other people heard her using his first name, what would they think? “Er, Mr. President is fine,” he finished lamely.Her mouth twisted in a bitter smile, and no wonder. It probably sounded like a demand that she recognize his title. “Um…well, thank you for letting us stay, Mr. President,” she said stiffly.“Of course.” Would she look askance at an offer to keep her company? She rubbed her eyes and stifled a yawn. No. Forced sleep deprivation was not the way to anyone’s heart. Not that I want to win her heart. It would be progress if she thought of him more positively than as “the man who called me stupid and ugly.” He briefly allowed his eyes to linger on her, indulging his desire to admire her vivid green eyes. Unfortunately, they were narrowed and viewed him with suspicion. The situation was a bit…irregular…maybe even creepy… Damn. He would have gladly enjoyed her company all night, but there was no legitimate reason to remain.
“I’ll be next door in the Treaty Room”—he pointed to the left—“if you need anything.” Despite the heaviness in his body, Darcy knew sleep was an impossibility with Elizabeth in the Residence; he might as well work.
“You don’t need to stay up on my account,” she said.
“I’m not.” I totally am.
About the Book
A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
President William Darcy has it all: wealth, intelligence, and the most powerful job in the country. Despite what his friends say, he is not lonely in the White House. He’s not. And he has vowed not to date while he’s in office. Nor is he interested in Elizabeth Bennet. She might be pretty and funny and smart, but her family is nouveau riche and unbearable. Unfortunately, he encounters her everywhere in Washington, D.C.—making her harder and harder to ignore. Why can’t he get her out of his mind?
Elizabeth Bennet enjoys her job with the Red Cross and loves her family, despite their tendency to embarrass her. At a White House state dinner, they cause her to make an unfavorable impression on the president, who labels her unattractive and uninteresting. Those words are immediately broadcast on Twitter, so the whole world now knows the president insulted her. Elizabeth just wants to avoid the man—who, let’s admit it, is proud and difficult. For some reason he acts all friendly when they keep running into each other, but she knows he’s judging her.
Eventually, circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to confront their true feelings for each other, with explosive results. But even if they can find common ground, Mr. Darcy is still the president—with limited privacy and unlimited responsibilities—and his enemies won’t hesitate to use his feelings for Elizabeth against him.
Can President Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet find their way to happily ever after?