By PEOPLE.COM/Sam Gillette
Updated Oct 21, 2018 @ 2:30 pm
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The theory that some women end up marrying men like their fathers holds true for Melania Trump and Donald Trump according to a new book about the women in the president’s life.

In Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women, out Tuesday, author Nina Burleigh writes that Mrs. Trump, 48, chose her husband, who is 24 years her senior at age 72, because she desired a “father figure” who could protect her.

“It’s about all that power and protection,” an “old friend” of Mrs. Trump’s from her home country of Slovenia allegedly said, according to Golden Handcuffs. “I think she needed a strong man, a father figure.”

The White House was quick to shut down all such claims.

“As usual, the claims made by anonymous sources in the book are not true,” Stephanie Grisham, director of communications for the first lady, tells People via email. “I’d also add that the author didn’t bother to reach out to fact check anything that she wrote.”

Golden Handcuffs explores the important women in President Donald Trump’s life, from his paternal grandmother and mother, to his wives and daughters. Burleigh, who covers politics for Newsweek, details how Trump’s third wife, born to a factory worker mother and a “tough,” chauffeur father, pursued fashion and modeling before meeting and marrying the older American billionaire.

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One “family friend” told a Slovenian television channel that Mrs. Trump “married her father” in Trump, according to the book.

“The two men are only a few years apart in age, and look alike, both rotund, given to bellicosity, and otherwise all business,” writes Burleigh.

The first lady herself has also drawn comparisons between the two men.

“They’re both hardworking,” Melania Trump said about her father and husband, according to a April 2016 GQ interview that’s also cited in the book. “They’re both very smart and very capable. They grew up in totally different environments, but they have the same values, they have the same tradition. I myself am similar to my husband. Do you understand what I mean? So is my dad; he is a family man, he has tradition, he was hardworking. So is my husband.”

Burleigh writes that, beyond the similarities to her father, Donald Trump also provided Melania what she desired most — security. Not only did the new man in her life help propel her modeling career into the stratosphere, he also gave her all the creature comforts she could want. But they came at a price, Burleigh says.

“The rewards of submission to Donald’s ‘vitality’ and whims were great. Ensconced in the gold-plated triplex with servants above, and Tiffany and Gucci down below, and a chauffeured car to move her around Manhattan, plus the summer home in Bedminster and the winter mansion in Palm Beach, Melania soon forgot what it was like to shop at Crate & Barrel — which she had done to fill the Union Square pad,” the author writes. “Of course, there was a small price to pay to keep the wolf of financial mediocrity at bay. There was a role to play… Melania would play sex kitten Slovenian.”

Burleigh analyzes the early days of the first couple’s relationship like she’s breaking down the benefits of business merger.

By marrying her husband, Mrs. Trump secured for herself “a lifetime sinecure [for] her and her little family inside the safety of a gilded cage,” the author writes, “if she could maintain her chill posture in the face of untold humiliations to come.”

Burleigh goes on to explain the ways in which Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States — and the scandals that ensued regarding his alleged affairs and treatment of women (not to mention the Russia investigation) — put a strain on their marriage. (Trump has denied the affairs and Mrs. Trump has said she believes him.)

Speculation about the state of their marriage has increased because of apparent tension between the two in public. Multiple times during public appearances, she has awkwardly appeared to avoid holding hands with her husband.

In March, a source close to the first lady told People that she was “furious” over the “24/7 tornado” her life had become in the months since Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“What’s happening is exactly what she didn’t want to happen,” the source said at the time. “They’ve literally become like the Kardashians: scandals, divorces, headlines.”

Amid all the chaos, the source said Mrs. Trump was yearning for the peace and simplicity of her pre-White House life.

“The truth about Melania is that, as Stane Jerko [the Slovenian photographer who discovered her] noticed, she was never really comfortable being exposed,” Burleigh writes. “She could balance on four-inch heels and maintain posture, without even looking down; she could take off her clothes or pose nearly nude on a facsimile of Trump’s jet, if that’s what it took.”

Burleigh adds later, “The posture and the posing for the camera and in public always masked wariness. But now, with eyes on her all the time, it leaks out as unsmiling tension.”

“Her world is very, very small,” Burleigh quotes a “New York friend” of Mrs. Trump’s as saying. “Melania only wanted red-soled shoes and a roof over her head. And she got this.”

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This Story Originally Appeared On People