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Two presidential campaigns and 40 years of marriage and child-rearing behind her, Ann Romney finds herself in a surprising place: atop the best-seller lists with her own agenda in first position.

Romney’s new cookbook, “The Romney Family Table,” started as an effort to stitch together family recipes.

But at a time when husband Mitt’s loss in the 2012 campaign was still raw, she began writing, and “it just flowed out.” Critics have mocked the book as a study in domestic perfection served on Oscar de la Renta tableware, but Romney said she wanted to show that their life “wasn’t always perfect” and that raising five boys could be more than a little frustrating.

Demand for the book – with its homespun recipes for Mitt’s Meat Loaf Cakes and Banana Trash Pudding – may be partly fueled by curiosity: The book offers a far more intimate portrait of the family’s life than Mitt Romney’s consultants allowed last year. There are dozens of pictures showing Romney’s buttoned-down husband with his perfect coif a mess.

Mitt Romney’s strategists were uncomfortable during both of his presidential runs with stories touching on the family’s Mormon faith, including his work as a bishop of his congregation. Ann Romney plunges into the family’s faith traditions, including their Bible lessons on Christmas Eve and their efforts to “keep the frivolous separated from the sacred” during Easter.

“At this point, nobody is telling me what to say, or not to say, so I’m going to say whatever I feel like saying,” Romney said of her decision to write about their faith.

The stories about raising their sons, she noted, would have been incomplete without delving into their religion: “For me, the faith piece is how we taught our children to be responsible and respectful of others.”

Romney’s family portrait is not entirely without political consideration. Son Josh, who encouraged his mother to write the cookbook, is being pressed by his father’s one-time campaign financiers to run for governor of Utah. Son Matt was courted this summer by some of his father’s donors, who wanted him to jump into the race for mayor of San Diego (he quickly declined). When Massachusetts Republicans were shopping for a candidate in the special election for U.S. Senate this year, they tried to recruit a third son, Tagg.

The sting of campaign criticism seems to be still with her. One of the upsides of writing, she said, was that it “was another unfiltered way for people to see who we really are. I think a lot of people never really did.”