Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

3.6 174
by Mimi Alford

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After 40 years of silence and reflection comes a deeply personal and emotionally charged memoir of a woman's 18-month relationship with President John F. Kennedy when she was a college intern at the White House.  See more details below


After 40 years of silence and reflection comes a deeply personal and emotionally charged memoir of a woman's 18-month relationship with President John F. Kennedy when she was a college intern at the White House.

Editorial Reviews

Today Mimi Beardsley Alford is a retired church administrator. In the summer of 1962, Mimi Beardsley was a teenage intern beginning an internship in the White House press office. Within weeks, this tall, beautiful, impressionable woman had begun an affair with President John F. Kennedy, a link that was severed only by his November 1963 assassination. Until six years ago, when an investigator divulged the relationship, Mimi's great secret and sadness remained concealed. Even then, she only made a general acknowledgement of the liaison; it is only now that she writes candidly about this central relationship in her life. Once Upon a Secret recounts not just her presidential romance, but also the story of how she maintained silence, sometimes at great cost, about an affair that would have riveted the nation.

Edward Ash-Milby

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“With the benefit of hindsight and good old-fashioned maturity, [Mimi Alford] writes not just about the secret, but the corrosive effect of keeping that secret. . . . You can’t help liking her, or her elegant and thoroughly good-natured book.”—The Spectator
“What [Alford] sacrificed in lucre she has more than recovered in credibility and dignity.”—The Washington Times
“Compelling . . . a polished voice telling a credible story you can take to the bank.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Explosive . . . searingly candid.”—New York Post

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Once Upon a Secret 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 174 reviews.
Kylie51 More than 1 year ago
While I found this story at times disturbing, I found it still believable. For anyone who has been swept up in a relationship (business, friendship, or love) with an individual who has immense power, they will understand this book. I've seen a few cruel reviews on other sites about Mimi and how she was naive, has no self confidence, or needs to just get over this and move on. First, she was a nineteen year old in the 1960's, a completely different era. Second, anyone who thinks they could just easily "get over" or move on from a affair with such a powerful figure is full of it. For those who know the complexities of the human mind and heart, it's completely understandable how something like this would change someone's life, especially years later as you mature and realize some of the things that happened in the past. Looking back in our youth, there are a lot of moments we just didn't understand or had to learn from. I truly believe Mimi when she says this is just a book she had to write to fully reveal the true story she kept a secret for so long. As an older, more mature woman, she reveals a number of her feelings in the book, to fully admitting how she was naive and had a lack of understanding in her youth. But she also began to grow from the experience, until she did gain confidence and the belief in herself to be the woman she is today.
ElliottW More than 1 year ago
When I first heard about this book my first thought was why now.. But as I heard a bit more of the story it was quite intringuing and needed to be "owned" by Mrs. Alford. The 60's were a very different time and if we want to be real, it isn't hard to imagine in that time a naive (sexually and otherways) girl being swept up in the romance of Camelot. A powerful handsome charasmatic man, a naive young woman, not a stretch.. I found many aspects of the relationship abusive, the sexual dares in particular. However, I'd like to believe that Kennedy did actually care for her, that she was more than a presidential sex toy. I also found Dave Powers role to be more than a little distasteful, but I guess that is the "fixer's" job.. All-in-all I would say this book is less about Kennedy and more about empowerment and self-discover of Mrs. Alford, how you can overcome the decisions of your past and own your future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What starts out as an adventure of a lifetime for a innocent girl quickly turns into an ugly abusive show of political power by the President of the United States. How could young Mimi stop the sexual advances of the most powerful man in the world; the answer, she could not and he knew it. Sending his friend to lure her into the abusive web of the Kennedy lair, Mimi felt she was doing no wrong. She cannot be held responsible for her acts because she was a mere child and the President knew it. Facinating reading into the background of the abuse of political power.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book on a whim. I don't gravitate towards biographies, and while I am intrigued with history, I cannot claim I am a fanatic. That said, this is a beautiful book that I could not put down. I read it in a matter of hours. It is insightful and provocative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Before reading this book I heard all the interviews cutting down the author for writing this book, and why now. I found this read less about the Kennedys and more about the development of a person. Yes, there are a few paragraphs of detailed information, but it is part of her story and why she is who she is today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick and easy read. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you Mimi for your honesty and openess.
JamesTorriani More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. While the media has focused on the sexual aspects of the story, I found the effects on Ms. Alford's life the most moving. She entered her first marriage while still grieving. Her first marriage was destroyed. The effect of this secret on her life. From an historical point of view how this could have gone on in view of the press, and customs before the era of sex harresment law suits(Though this clearly is a love story) I agree with other comments about Barbara Walters behavior. What journalist kills a story because it is seen as critical of her friend's father.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book and interesting story. I was not disappointed.
Vintagefranchesca More than 1 year ago
My Mother had adored the Kennedy's all her life as she was Irish and proud that they became so prominent & powerful in an era that Irish-Catholics were scorned as drunkards, deadbeats, and n'er-do-wells. I just don't think she fully realized that like many rich and powerful families, they didn't get to the top honestly. We now know patriarch JP Kennedy was not really a great businessman, he was an opportunist, who made his money on the backs of the unfortunate and taught his family to do the same. His ancestors still believe themselves to be above all reproach when they bear the Kennedy name, just read the internet news today about one of the newest escapades of a grandson. As I now have a bad image of the Kennedy's in general, I'm not sure why I bought this Nook Book. Curiosity? History? Who knows. I can tell you though, when I finished it, I felt very empty and a bit depressed. I'm not sure why Mimi Alford really wrote this book. Supposedly to set the story straight? Well, I hope she somehow got some closure or at least plenty of money as it's really not much of a story and I don't honestly know why she would want to tell it... A young girl loses her virginity to an older man kind of as a 'sexual waitress' no affection, no kisses, no love, no sugar with that. And she continues the relationship as if she were a call girl, with Dave powers playing the role of a pimp. I feel bad for her that she was so used and allowed herself to be. And Kennedy? He was taught people, especially women, were disposable, and I guess never managed to develop any non-narcissistic thoughts on the subject. When I began the book I think I was hoping for a somehow "good" reason this affair occurred. Possibly it had a purpose, an emotion. Frankly, I saw none.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
young mimi alford was very excited at the prospect of working as an intern in the white house and got to meet president kennedy who later took a more thean work intrest in her he begain a 18 year long affair with this 17 year old by first seducing her in jackies bedroom . this is very hard to put down the young intern also gives some details about the asasination great gift idea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. It was a real page turner for me, from start to end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intersting, not surprising at all. I think if JFK had been President today, he wouldn't have gotten away with all his affairs. I really like JFK, I think he was a great leader but not so much a great person.
cd1947 More than 1 year ago
At first, I thought it difficult to believe that someone could or would wait decades before they wrote about an experience that was very personal to them. In reading this book I began to understand her personal relationship with President Kennedy. We can all judge that this affair was based on power, charisma or youth; however, Ms Alford is truly the only person that could write her feelings and emotions as to how it happened. She did a great job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very believeable. Very insightful. If you lived during this time you will like this.
RIRN56 More than 1 year ago
Easy, enjoyable read! Kennedy took advantage of a young woman, and used her sexually. I truly believe she was a victim. Fascinating read! Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mimi's candid portrayal of her affair with J.F.K. is at times very unflattering to both of them. That is why this book is so good, its honesty. That Kennedy selfishly exploited women is indisputable. But it is also evident that he cared for Mimi in his own narcicistic way. The story of a nineteen year old's affair with the leader of the free world is a vicarious thrill. The story of her struggle to come to terms with its emotional impact is heart wrenching and ultimately deeply enriching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His martydom may have changed the light in which he is viewed. From the bay of pigs, the removal of the jupiter missles from Turkey following the Cuban missles crisis, to the debatable escalation in Vietnam. That tragic November day in Dallas has caused many to either over look or ignore a less than stellar foreign policy. Perhaps JFKs affliction of Graves disease, his back condition and the medications used to treat both, lead to his sexual impulsivity as well as his political judgement. As an American og Irish Catholic lineage, JFK was a saint in our household. When in reality he was flawed, perhaps more than most of us.
MJFitz More than 1 year ago
I didn't want to like this book but I found her side of the story compelling for any woman who has found herself wrapped up in the wrong relationship at a young age. I couldn't help feel sorry for her. Regardless of your thoughts or opinions, she offers a unprecendented view into the White House and mystique of JFK.
Gabrielle87 More than 1 year ago
This story stood out to me because I, like many, am enamored with the Kennedy Presidency. It was delightful to read her story because it's helped me deal with mine. I wish I could sit down with her and pick her brain because I also know what it's like to be somewhat involved with a man in power in DC (not THAT much power though, good Lord), and it's extremely hard to say no when you're young and in need of that kind of affirmation. I understand her and feel that perhaps its taken her this long to write the story because she adored him. It was almost like it was her chance to be with him again without being too embarrassed that anyone from that time would be around to take that from her. Even her critics now can't take that from her. Sounds to me like she's "loved" him her whole life and even in his death couldn't get the closure that she needed, hence the book. I would've liked to have known a lot more about the affair. Like what kinds of things did he say? More insight into the man himself that only those closest to him could tell us. Like him or not, JFK is fascinating, scandal and all. The book was a great read into a small portion of that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My thoughts go out to the author. I understand it may have been the time and setting of that decade, but I am overwhelmed and taken back that a man (especially the president) would treat a woman that way. My opinion of JFK is forever changed. I appreciate the book for its clarity and the author for her honesty. Obviously I will continue to see JFK as a great president. His contributions to this country are forever appreciated, but his flaws as a man are noteable A great read that I will recommend again and again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Undoubtedbly true and a very mixed consequence for this girl. Lots of courage here on her part. well written with classy lack of salaciousness. it would have been interesting to be part of those intoxicating times although the dark side is disturbing .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very moving, sensitive, and candid memoir.
Nook-Grandmother3 More than 1 year ago
Glad to know that someone is brave enough to tell- about Kennedy what has always just been a rumor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had trouble putting this down; I was drawn in. Her incredible story gives a glimpse into the 1960s White House. If you love autobiographies and historical subjects, I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tis book gives a clear veiw on how clueless we can be in our youth. Also how this goes on right under our noses and know one has a clue till later.