Volume 15, Issue 75  |  September 19, 2023SubscribeAdvertise

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Laguna resident Kaira Rouda launches new novel The Widow at LAM during Art Walk, December 1


Few people garner the attention – and fascination – of the public more than politicians. Their professional and personal lives are often scrutinized and frequently turned into fodder for the tabloids. Visceral and alluring, award-winning USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author Kaira Rouda’s ninth book, The Widow (Thomas & Mercer) is a riveting novel of marriage, privilege and lies in the cutthroat world of international politics. 

“Whatever the opposite of family values is, Rouda seems intent on perfecting a genre that enshrines it,” said Kirkus Reviews of The Widow.

Rouda will launch her new novel on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 5-6 p.m. at the Laguna Art Museum. (The event is free, but please register here.)

The event will consist of a brief talk with Rouda about the novel, Washington, D.C., the tradition of the widow’s mandate and suspense. Attendees will also have the opportunity to purchase the novel and have it signed. Then guests can grab a signature “Widow” cocktail and enjoy the rest of the evening at the museum.

How the characters came to life

Married to Harley Rouda – U.S. Representative for California’s 48th congressional district, who served from 2019-2021 – there’s no doubt she knows what she’s taking about.

Set in Washington, D.C., The Widow focuses on the lives of Congressman Martin Asher and his wife Jody and brings into play the interesting concept of the “Widow’s Mandate.”

However, contrary to what one might think, Rouda didn’t get the idea to write the novel when she first arrived in Washington, D.C.

laguna resident closeup

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Courtesy of Kaira Rouda

Kaira Rouda launches her ninth novel, “The Widow” on December 1

“I was settling into the surroundings, learning the city and where to live,” she said. “The other spouses were very welcoming and supportive. One of them even hosted a book launch for my novel, The Favorite Wife.”

Before the pandemic hit, Rouda was adjusting nicely and becoming involved in the workings of Washington, D.C.

“I was training to be a docent at the Library of Congress and spearheaded the inclusion of the 48th District in the Artistic Discovery Contest. It’s a nationwide art competition for high school students in every district, but our district wasn’t represented. The winner has his/her artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol for one year.”

Rouda describes her time in D.C. as wonderful. “It was great, so much history – and amazing museums. In addition to many unforgettable experiences, I got to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis in March of 2020.”

Then the pandemic hit and the Roudas returned to Laguna, with the congressman traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C.

Although Rouda is known for her gripping plots, her first few novels were on the lighter side. Beginning with Best Day Ever, a suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal, she took a darker tone. “I was drawn to thrillers,” she said. “My agent was reluctant until she read it.”

Widow’s Mandate

During her time in Washington, D.C., Rouda was intrigued by the “Widow’s Mandate.” First, there was Mae Ella Nolan from California who became a U.S. Representative after her husband died in 1922. Then throughout the next century, 47 additional American women followed in her footsteps. Their husbands’ deaths made them widows. The “Widow’s Mandate” made them politicians.

 As described in her press release, “In The Widow, Rouda explores how this idea can lead to the ultimate perilous power struggle and drive to salvage reputations in this very House of Cards meets Big Little Lies thriller.”

“During the pandemic, I sat down and started writing and Jody (Asher) just popped into my head,” Rouda said. “I knew her pretty well. She’s my favorite character in the book.”

In The Widow, there are three points of view, allowing the reader insights into the characters that would be otherwise unknown. In addition, the cleverly crafted “notes” at the beginning of each chapter lead us even further into the narrator’s head.

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“I write a first draft pretty quickly. In the middle of the night, ideas pop into my head,” Rouda said. “I wrote a lot of drafts of The Widow.”

laguna resident book cover

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Courtesy of Kaira Rouda

“The Widow” will debut on December 1 at Laguna Art Museum

A widow’s plan 

Jody Asher had a plan. Her charismatic husband, Martin, would be a political icon. She, the charming wife, would fuel his success. For 15 congressional terms, they were the golden couple on the Hill. Life was good. Until he wasn’t. Martin’s secret affair with a young staffer doesn’t bother Jody personally. But professionally? It’s a legacy killer. Soon a reporter gets word of this scandal in the making, and Martin’s indiscretions threaten to ruin everything Jody has accomplished. When Martin suddenly dies, it’s a chance to change the narrative – but the reporter won’t let go of his lead. As the balance of power shifts in the Asher house and on the Hill, it’s time for Jody to take control. And there’s nothing the ruthless widow won’t do to secure the future she’s entitled to. Even if she has a secret of her own.

However, since The Widow is a suspense-thriller, this is all that can be said without giving anything away – everyone has a secret.

Even though it’s fiction, one would imagine staff and friends in Washington, D.C. would be apprehensive about the publication of The Widow. After Rouda met with those involved, the novel was approved by all – and mostly importantly, supported by her husband.

Book dedicated to wives and families 

“The wives and families of the politicians are the unsung heroes,” Rouda said. “Our family received death threats. I wanted to shine a light on the spouses and children, because they serve as much as the politician and don’t get enough credit. In creating these characters, I wanted readers to have fun reading and get a little bit of appreciation for them.

“I worried about the pace and pressure that would come with Harley serving in office and came to understand how limited our time together would be. Spouses on the hill learn to plan their family’s schedules as far in advance as possible, to carve out anniversaries and birthdays on the calendar, because if you don’t, the time is taken by either the district office or the official side.” 

A normal life

The Roudas have four children: three sons – musician Dylan, a songwriter and producer for Sony who lives in North Hollywood; Shea, who lives in Mar Vista and is in real estate; Chase who is with CBRE real estate and lives in Irvine and daughter Avery, a screenwriter who went to Chapman College.

Avery and her mother worked on a screenplay for Favorite Daughter, and it’s being considered as a feature. “We worked on it jointly and she said I go too fast. Each word is so important in a screenplay,” Rouda said. 

Avery wrote the screenplay and produced an animated feature Dream Catcher about helping kids to process dreams.

Rouda serves on the board of the Laguna Art Museum and volunteers at Food Pantry. She is also on the Board of Commissioners of California Volunteers, a 25-member board appointed by the governor which supports California volunteers.

There’s a new book on the horizon, Beneath the Surface, which comes out in September 2023. Rouda describes it as, “OC meets Succession on a mega yacht.” No doubt, it will have a dark side.

Book Carnival in Orange will host a book signing for Rouda on December 4 at 2 p.m. For more information, go to www.annesbookcarnival.com.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

For more information on Kaira Rouda, visit www.kairarouda.com.

To register for the book launch event on December 1, click here.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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