London, 1938. The effervescent "It girl" of London society since her father was named the ambassador, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy moves in rarefied circles, rubbing satin-covered elbows with some of the twentieth century's most powerful figures. Eager to escape the watchful eye of her strict mother, Rose; the antics of her older brothers, Jack and Joe; and the erratic behavior of her sister Rosemary, Kick is ready to strike out on her own and is soon swept off her feet by Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire.
But their love is forbidden, as Kick's devout Catholic family and Billy's staunchly Protestant one would never approve their match. And when war breaks like a tidal wave across her world, Billy is ripped from her arms as the Kennedys are forced to return to the States. Kick finds work as a journalist and joins the Red Cross to get back to England, where she will have to decide where her true loyalties lie--with family or with love. . . .
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)|
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Presentation day. Finally, Kick thought as soon as she opened her eyes that morning. This is it, she kept thinking, her heart pounding. This is it.
Rising out of damp sheets, Kick stole into the bathroom down the hall and ran steaming water into the tub, then spiked it with a strong dose of lavender oil to cleanse away the sour sweat that had drenched her the night before. Fear had plagued her dreams for weeks, encouraging one of her most embarrassing and least ladylike bodily functions-perspiration-and made daily baths an absolute necessity. Her new friend and fellow debutante Jane Kenyon-Slaney claimed to bathe only a few times a week, and yet she was as groomed and aromatic as the gardens of Hampton Court. Kick blamed her father's insistence on sports for all his children, including the girls. Perhaps if she hadn't exerted herself so often on tennis courts or the harbors of the Cape, she would be as dainty as Jane and the other girls who'd line up with her that day. But then, she thought ruefully to herself almost in her father's voice, she wouldn't have won so many trophies.
Still. Surely even Jane would be nervous in her place. Every photographed move Kick had made since her family's arrival in London two months before had been leading up to the moment when she would lower herself in a meticulously refined curtsy before King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, then drink champagne with the most essential people in England. Kick had always been expected to perform better than anyone else, but here in England she wasn't just Rose and Joe Kennedy's fashionable daughter, eighteen years old and fresh from school, who could keep up with her older brothers when she set her mind to it. She was the daughter of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic ever to be appointed to the coveted post in this most Protestant of countries. This time, she had to succeed. There was more than a trophy on the line.
She'd been waiting for a moment like this forever, through every long mass and from inside every scratchy wool uniform at Sacred Heart. A new life. And now she had a chance at it-in one of her favorite places, thank the good Lord. She'd savored a delicious taste of English society two years before when, on a too-brief break from her year in the convent at Neuilly, she'd attended the Cambridge May Balls in a swirl of music and laughter. Now that she was free of nuns and school, she was ready to embrace it all-but as Kick, not just Kathleen Kennedy.
Add to all that the problem of Rosemary, her beautiful older sister who'd be presented with her that morning, whose erratic behavior could make everything impossible, and Kick judged that her fear was well-founded. A long hot soak in a fragrant tub would do her a world of good. Arms suspended in the water, Kick said a solemn Hail Mary and an Our Father before moving on to a short prayer asking God to guide her footsteps that day.
A knock on the door interrupted her. Typical.
"I'm bathing!" she shouted back, assuming it was Bobby, Teddy, or maybe Jean or Pat, one of her littlest siblings, who didn't give a toss about the few moments of privacy she savored in a day. This day especially. As soon as she got out of the tub, she was in for relentless hours of beauty treatments, photo shoots, and then the presentation itself, followed by the most important party of her life.
"It's your mother," said Rose as she opened the door, letting in a gust of cold air.
She was wearing a tweed suit and black pumps, her dark hair sleekly coiffed and her red lipstick recently applied, looking ready for a ladies' luncheon or a visit to one of the children's schools. No one would know that in a few hours, Rose Kennedy would be stepping into a white Molyneux gown designed just for her and the night's grand occasion. "A work of art," she'd said to her favorite designer on the phone.
Now Rose perched on the rim of the white porcelain tub and looked down at her naked daughter. In an effort to look as slender as possible to her petite mother, who'd been monitoring every mouthful of food she ingested on one of her infernal index cards, Kick pulled up her knees, which she thought made her legs look thinner and her belly concave, then she stretched her arms around her knees in an effort to cover some of the rest.
"I know you'll make us proud today, Kathleen," said Rose, her voice sounding higher and tinnier than usual as it pinged off the tile walls and floors. "This presentation is so important for your father. For the whole family. The English have been so accepting of the Kennedy family so far, but today will show them and the world that there is no difference between us and them."
"Of course, Mother," Kick replied, because it was easier than pointing out that more than half of the many articles written about their family had included references to their Catholicism, or Irish descent, or both. It was only with her new friends-Jane, Debo Mitford, Sissy Lloyd-Thomas, and Jean Ogilvy-all of whom would be queuing with her to curtsy before the king and queen, that Kick could sometimes forget who she was.
Rose made an effort to smile, then said, "You've done a wonderful job of keeping your figure, Kathleen. And, after some initial stumbles, of knowing who everyone is and engaging everyone important in conversation. The newspapers love you."
"Thank you, Mother," Kick replied, now shivering in the tub. Her mother had left the door ajar, and a draft was blowing in, cooling the water and giving her goose bumps. It didn't help that Rose kept referring to her "stumble" from a month ago, when Kick had mistaken Lady Smithson for Lady Winthrop at the opera, a gaffe made worse by the fact that Lady Winthrop was a rotund matron whose husband had expatriated to Paris to live with his French mistress, and Lady Smithson was a statuesque but hardly fat beauty whose husband discreetly kept a French mistress in Bath. Thankfully, Lady Nancy Astor had come to her rescue with her trademark double-edged wit and said to Lady Smithson, "Gretchen, you can hardly expect such a young American to be familiar with the hypocrisies of English society as soon as she steps off the boat. Give her another few weeks and she'll be insulting you without your even knowing it."
It was a profound show of support from Lady Astor, once a belle from Virginia who was now a member of Parliament and one of the most important hostesses in her adopted homeland. When Lady Smithson had huffed off to find her seat, Kick had gushed her thanks to this fellow American, who'd replied with a wave of her hand, "Any opportunity to put that woman in her place is a welcome one, my dear." After that, Kick had made herself a set of flash cards, so that she could study every single name and face that appeared in the papers and magazines, and in the copy of Burke's Peerage her mother had given her to study a week before they'd sailed from New York, insisting she must know who everyone was. She never got another name wrong.
"I remember how difficult it could be, playing a role like this," her mother went on. "There were times when I wanted to run away from all the duties of being a mayor's daughter. But I'm glad I never did."
"Seems like Grandfather would have made everything fun," Kick said, thinking fondly of her mother's father, Honey Fitz, infamous former Boston mayor and number one grandfather. He never tired of playing on the floor with her and her siblings as children, or taking them to races and dockyards and political meetings as they got older.
"He did," her mother agreed, looking down at her hands, "some of the time. But there is a big difference between being a parent and being a grandparent. He was different with me than he is with you and your brothers and sisters."
"Mother," Kick said, sensing her mother's little pep talk was winding down, and wanting very much to warm back up again, "the water's getting cold."
Rose stood and brought Kick one of the plush American towels she'd immediately ordered from New York when she saw the sad state of English towels, which were, as she'd put it, "little more than dishrags."
Kick stood with a waterfall sound and wrapped herself in the blessedly toasty towel that had been waiting on that most ingenious of English amenities, the warming rack. She loved that the English had found so many weapons to combat the constant chill: warming racks in the bath, hot water bottles in bed, chic scarves from Liberty, steaming tea and sweets at four in the afternoon when it seemed the gray would never dissipate.
Rose looked once more at her daughter, appraisingly, and Kick worried she might say more, but after a beat Rose informed her, "Hair and makeup is at eleven." Then, with that heavy sigh she indulged more and more often when thinking of her oldest daughter, she said, "Now to attend dear Rosie. Thank goodness I can count on you to take care of yourself, Kathleen." Rosie. Rosemary. Her mother's namesake and doted-on darling who was nearly twenty, a year and a half older than Kick herself, who so often acted more like she was ten. Which could be charming-until it wasn't.
Rose left in another puff of cold air. Despite the warm towel, Kick felt chilled down to her toes.
At Buckingham Palace, there was a last-minute kerfuffle as Kick and Rosemary were lining up with the other debutantes because KickÕs train wasnÕt properly fastened to the white lace gown that had been hand stitched for the occasion. Curses, she thought as a lady-in-waiting pinned it on, stabbing Kick in the side with a pin. How typical that Kick had been forgotten with all the attention being paid to Rosemary to ensure that she was perfectly dressed and serene as the Tintoretto Madonna she resembled that morning.
Kick tried to reason that this was correct and necessary given her sister's problems. She told herself not to be jealous, to be a good and patient sister. After all, her mother had employed a genius makeup artist who knew how to coax the bones from Kick's doughy cheeks and make her eyes appear larger and more prominent. Her often unruly auburn waves had been brushed and sprayed into glossy submission, curving smoothly off her forehead and skimming her shoulders. It was surely because of their efforts that the photographers and reporters had fawned over Kick's every move, from the ambassador's house at 14 Prince's Gate to the palace.
Hail Mary, full of grace, please make me graceful today. Just for the next five minutes, at least. And Rosemary, too!
To steady herself, she put her nose to her wrist and inhaled the Vol de Nuit, her first adult perfume, which her mother had bought for her on their last trip to Paris. After an exhausting day of fittings and painful facials, Rosemary had retired to the hotel for a nap, and Rose had strolled with Kick down the Champs-ƒlyses to the Guerlain store. "It's time you had a woman's scent," she said, handing Kick a square bottle with a propeller design molded into the glass and vol de nuit engraved in a circle at the center. "The name means 'night flight.' It's popular, but not common, bold but still refined. I think it suits you." Kick had lifted the stopper, which produced a pleasing ring as it scraped against the glass, and let a tiny golden drop fall on her wrist. It smelled surprisingly sophisticated, not at all flowery and girlie. "Wonderful, isn't it?" Rose had prompted. Kick nodded eagerly and felt tears needle her eyes. For a moment, she rehered her mother had seen her and loved what she saw. And though she didn't say it, Kick relished the idea that night, with all its forbidden pleasures and promises, should be so featured on the bottle. Throwing her arms around her mother, she exclaimed, "I love it! Thank you."
Time to fly, she told herself now.
It was almost her turn to curtsy before the king and queen, and her hands were so slick with sweat inside the white gloves, Kick thought for sure she'd lose her grip on the little bouquet she was holding. Meanwhile, Rosemary's eyes were closed and Luella, the family nurse, was running her hand soothingly over Rosemary's arm because Rose herself had to stand in the audience with Joe, the only man in the room not wearing the traditional knee britches because, with characteristic obstinacy, he'd refused on account of his knock-knees. Kick thought her father should have worn the ridiculous short pants anyway, out of respect for the country with which he was supposed to be forming close ties, especially with so many uncertainties brewing in Germany. But she wouldn't have dared tell him so.
Then it was time. As the king's attendant called "Kathleen Agnes Kennedy" in his full-throated bass voice, Kick put one foot in front of the other. When she stood before the monarchs-King George, encrusted in medals, and Queen Elizabeth, encrusted in jewels-she lowered her eyes deferentially as she curtsied, then hurried on. Just as Kick completed her relieved escape, her stiff white gown rustling as if in genteel applause, she heard a thump and a gulp and a whispered, mortified "excuse me," as stifled gasps rose up all around them.
Kick turned back to see that Rosemary had tripped. In front of the king and queen.
Her feet suddenly winged, Kick rushed to offer her arm to Rosemary, whose own white hand was on the velvet ground, her long body arched over like a giraffe in a wedding dress. Rosemary smiled gratefully at her sister and miraculously recovered her composure. Then, standing one more unplanned time before the king and queen, Kick lifted her eyes to them and nodded. King George nodded back, and Kick saw a glimmer of understanding in his eye. Well, why should that be so surprising? she asked herself. She began to relax, just a little.
Reunited in the receiving room after all the debutantes had been presented, Rose bent over carefully under the weight of Lady Bessborough's diamond-and-platinum tiara, kissed each daughter on the cheek, and simply said, "Marvelous, my darlings. I'm so proud of you both." Their father stood between them and patted each girl on the back, beaming for the flashing cameras with that confidence he always exuded in public, as if he were Laurence Olivier or Errol Flynn. Rosemary appeared unperturbed by the incident, perhaps because their parents had chosen not to mention it and-as usual-to act as if she were nothing less than perfect. In fact, the conspiratorial silence about her sister's fall was so absolute, Kick began to wonder if it had actually happened.
Excerpted from "The Kennedy Debutante"
Copyright © 2018 Kerri Maher.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1.In these days of Facebook and FaceTime, it is hard to imagine a love like Kick and Billy’s, which endures four years of their being separated by an ocean and a war, with infrequent letters and telegrams their only means of communication. Why do you think their love survives that distance of time and space?
2.Kick often struggles with the relationship between her internal desires and her external image. Where do the internal and external meet for her? Where are they most different? How does Billy deal with the same struggle?
3.Family, religion, and class are powerful forces in Kick’s life. How does she use them to her advantage? In what cases do they undermine her desire for an independent life?
4.Kick makes a number of observations about the differences between her own life and upbringing, and the expectations of her new milieu, English society. How does she use these differences to her advantage? Which ones does she try to minimize?
5.Have you ever been thrown into a new social scene and felt that you had to perform? How did it make you feel? What did you do?
6.Kick has to make a painful decision between her family and her love. Do you think you would make the same choice?
7.In what ways are Kick’s years in England before the war like a “beautiful dream,” as she described them in the letter she wrote to her father in 1939? Does the dream continue when she returns during the war?
8.Jack, Joe Jr., and Billy all fight valiantly in World War II, but how are their attitudes toward the war different from one another’s? What do they have in common? What seems to be each man’s primary objective?
9.Kick and her English friends tend to “Keep Calm and Carry On”—or maybe “Party On” is a better description. Why do you think that is possible for them? Do you think the modern sensibility about war would produce the same result today?
10.Kick often envies her older brothers for their independence and freedoms. In what ways have young women today transcended those gender roles? In what ways are they still present?
11.Many women have to reconcile personal desires with the constraints of family and society. What do you think of Kick’s strategy? Do you think she would take the same approach today?
12.How does the Kennedy family as portrayed in the book fit with your own picture of the family? What surprises you?
13.The Kennedy women invest a great deal of time, effort, and money on fashion. What role does fashion play for them?
14.Jack tells John White, “There is Saturday night, and there is Sunday morning. Never the twain shall meet.” Do you think Kick agrees?
15.How does the portrayal of Jack as a young man fit or not fit with your image of him as JFK, the man who—as Debo’s mother correctly predicted—became president of the United States?
16.“Some lives are short,” Kick writes to Father O’Flaherty from Washington, DC, “and I increasingly feel that it’s essential to live the life it’s in one’s soul to live.” In addition to the premature death of Kick’s friend George Mead, what do you think prompts this revelation? Do you think Kick lives the life it’s in her soul to live? Why is she so conflicted about her soul?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this novel about Kathleen Kennedy and her family. I hadn't heard about her before and found her to be such an interesting character. The author did a wonderful job of mixing historical fact with fiction and showing the Kennedy family in a realistic light. I loved how independent "Kick" was and how she followed her heart during such a trying time. A real inspiration. I'd recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Well done!
Being old enough to remember JFK’s assassination, the Kennedy family was a large part of my political upbringing. I remember that even after he was killed how people still discussed what might have been, had this Catholic continued to stay in office for what probably would have been two full terms. With this in mind, I very much appreciated the way Maher included Kick’s catholic upbringing and her devotion to her church, without ever making it sound preachy. Being catholic was simply part of who Kick was, nor more or less than anything physical or intellectual about her. The fact that it proved to be an obstacle to her being with the man she fell in love with, was more to her credit than her detriment. Furthermore, William “Billy” Cavendish’s being a Protestant was equally as important to him and his family, but that never diminished Kick in his eyes – or at least that’s how Maher portrayed him. If this had been a work of total fiction, you could say that it was the classic “boy meets girl” plot, but with a whole lot of the “boy loses girl” in it, despite the fact that Maher focused solidly on it being a “girl meets boy” story. Maher also impressed me with the writing style here. While I found a level of stiffness to the style, this came across mostly when Maher was talking about Kick being catholic, and with her relationship with her mother. In contrast to that, when Maher wasn’t describing those parts of Kick’s live, the style felt much livelier and more emboldened, which matched Kick’s rebellious side of her personality. When things were going well for Kick, there was a lightness to the language that contrasted with the grayer sections of sadder, more difficult times. However, even the descriptions of the dreary parts of living through war, came alive with Kick’s determined demeanor, which added to the three-dimensional portrait of Kick. From how Maher described her, it was no wonder Kick fell in love with England, the land of “stay calm, and carry on,” because Maher surely shows that this was something that Kick was unwilling to let go of, even in the face of adversity. It was also interesting to see how Maher modulated her prose to match the action of the book. The action of this book covers when Kick “came out” to society, not in the US, but in the UK while her father was the US Ambassador there. This means that Kick was presented to the King and Queen, and came of age just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Maher then goes into detail about the ensuing years of the war’s outbreak in Europe, the family’s return to the US, the involvement of America in the war, and Kick’s return to England, and Billy, of course. Throughout this, Maher never loses sight of her protagonist, and despite all the (somewhat annoying) “name dropping” of the many well- and lesser-known people in Kick’s orbit, on both sides of the ocean. In this way, we get a fully intimate look at this woman, and that made her not only loveable, but ultimately admirable, which is a testament to Maher’s talent.
Historical fiction is a favorite of mine, and this gem validates why. The Kennedy Debutante focuses on the life on Kathleen 'Kick' Kennedy, which is a sister that I knew very little about. Maher did a fantastic job of bringing her to life in this novel and creating a narrative around her time in London while Joe Sr. was ambassador. Kick is my kind of gal, strong, independent, and a tad rebellious. She knew how to make the family respectable in London, but still maintained her identity. As a result, she was highly popular, and the eye of many gentlemen. She only had eyes for one, Billy Hartington, who was a Protestant, and therefore not someone her family wanted her to marry (e.g. he was not Catholic). She struggled with this factor for many years before finding a way to make it work, and I don't know that I would have waited that long, but I think she earned respect from many people for doing so. There were other insights offered into this book, that although this was fiction, were still helpful to understand. For example, I did not realize what had happened to Rosemary Kennedy, or Joe Jr., both were horrible and sad. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. I learned so much more about the Kennedy's, and I cannot get enough about this family. Great insight was provided about Joe Sr and Rose as well. The pacing is steady, it did not lag at all for me. I loved learning about British society back then, as well as the differences between Catholics and Protestants and their views on intermarrying. And most of all, I loved Kick, she was an amazing character (and person), that should get more discussion and focus. I'm glad that appears to be happening now. Thank you to NetGalley for an electronic arc to review. All opinions above are my own.
Thank you Berkley Publishing for this free copy to review! Beautiful Chatsworth estate has been used in numerous historical dramas, but perhaps most notably, its been used as Pemberley for Pride and Prejudice more than once. So a few years ago, when PBS did a documentary called "Secrets of Chatsworth", I was drawn to it and that same show provided the author with inspiration for this novel. The documentary made brief mention of a Kennedy daughter that married the heir who would become the 10th Duke of Devonshire and that it was a tragic love affair. I'm so glad the author was inspired to write Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy's story. In 1939, Joe Kennedy Sr, (father to president JFK) was appointed as ambassador to Britain and took his large family to live in London. Kathleen, was 18 at the time and presented at court as a debutante with her elder sister Rosemary. The large Kennedy family were a curiosity for the press and soon Kick became a society darling. Moving in aristocratic circles, she and met and fell in love with Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. Billy was from a preeminent family in Britain and its been said he was considered as a potential spouse for Queen Elizabeth. He was also Protestant and Kick was Catholic, making the match impossible from the stand point of their respective families. But besides religious differences, something even more powerful stood in their way. Hitler's invasion of Europe and Britain's entry in the' war, sent the Kennedy family back to America and Billy off to fight. Years pass, and though an ocean and war separates them, they cant forget each other, and Kick eventually finds a way to return to England by joining the Red Cross. I was impressed with their love story, that it endured over a number of years, despite differences and family opposition; showing a real depth of maturity despite their youth. They did not blindly or selfishly fly into marriage thinking they could change each other, but they acknowledged that there were very real obstacles to discuss & compromises to make if their marriage was going to work. The author paints a vivid picture of the uncertainties of life for this generation in the days leading up to Britain's involvement in WW2. Also she gives a glimpse of the struggles within the Kennedy family; Joe Sr's difficult balancing act as ambassador for Roosevelt, erratic Rosemary's behavior, and Jack and Joe's playboy ways. I appreciate that this was a clean novel, easily recommendable to anyone. Kathleen is often the forgotten Kennedy, so I'm glad someone has finally given us her story in such an enjoyable read.
THE KENNEDY DEBUTANTE is such a beautiful novel with a fascinating insight into one of the least known members of one of the most famous American families. As soon as I started this novel, I realized that I knew very little about the Kennedys. I knew that they were supposedly cursed and death followed them. What I didn’t know what pretty much everything else, least of all of the existence of Kick or even Rosemary. I loved the vivid picture this novel painted of London (especially after just being there myself) and the social scene there in the 1930s/40s. And although frustrating to me personally, I really appreciated the nuanced and difficult discussions of religion and how it served as a barrier. I didn’t realize how strict Catholicism was about interfaith marriage and how much stigma there was from one faith to another. As someone raised Catholic but who no longer identifies as such, I needed I keep reminding myself that the freedom to abstain from religion is relatively new and that, though I don’t feel it, others feel their region intimately. I also enjoyed the slow burn love story here as well as the relationships between the Kennedys. However, because what I DID know about the Kennedys was that things never ended well, I spent the whole novel waiting for certain deaths to occur. I was only sure of one because I accidentally Googled, but had a feeling about the other. (Speaking of google, thank you Kerri Maher for the authors note and saving me more googling.) This was a wonderful piece of historical fiction that I’ll keep on my shelf for a while to come, if not just to stare at the gorgeous cover.
I would not say I am a Kennedy aficionado but I thought this book sounded interesting. It combines history, a forbidden romance due to differences in religion, and WWII. While I understand that this is fiction, it is based on some facts and truth. I learned more about this iconic family and the struggles they faced in life. Kick is a strong woman but because of the era does fall prey to following her parent's edicts. She is not happy about most of them and tries to become more independent, they are just not having any of it especially being in Europe and the tensions between the countries and the brewing war. I did feel like this book was a bit long and there were many times where I skimmed a lot of the material. The book moved slowly in the beginning, picked up the pace, slowed down again, and picked up the pace. The book really grabbed my attention about the last third of the book. I think the pace of the story and what Kick was dealing with moved along smoothly. I would have liked to have seen a more consistent pace with the events and dialogue. I did learn about Kick and the author's notes at the end were interesting as she described her research. Apparently it wasn't easy finding information about Kick's life. I like how she started the acknowledgements and said she was going to save us time and we wouldn't have to Google Kick, here is what happened to her once the story ended. I didn't realize she had died so young. We give this 4 paws and felt it was a different look into a member of the iconic Kennedy family but one that is not as well known.
Fantastic, spellbinding, historical book, Kerri Maher brought to life the story of Kathleen Kennedy. Her trials and tribulations of love and life from pre WWII through WWII, as a young debutante, a daughter, a sister, a n American, a Catholic, and a Kennedy. My feelings throughout the book were very powerful. When I was done I explained the book to my husband and why I couldn't put it down, He now wants to read it and he isn't an avid reader. This book is well worth your time.
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy is the second oldest daughter of Joseph Kennedy Sr. and Rose Kennedy. When her father gets appointed to be ambassador in England, she becomes the toast of British society. Anxious to escape the iron-fist of her mother, Rose, Kick finds freedom in the arms of Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. When her family discovers her affair, they forbid her to pursue him. War breaks out and Kick is ripped from her beloved’s side and forced to return to America. Does that stop her? She rebels against her family, faith and all she’s known to make it back to England on her own. Will she be reunited with her lover or will she choose to give up her own happiness to appease her family? I’ve been fascinated by the Kennedys for as long as I can remember. The tragedies they’ve gone through is heartbreaking, but the story of Kathleen Kennedy is long-forgotten. This brave woman lived a short life, yet she managed to accomplish so much. I couldn’t wait to read it! The Kennedy Debutante is an absorbing tale of one woman’s determination to be her own woman, even if it means leaving her family behind. The Kennedys come alive and practically fly off the page. Descriptive narration and emotive scenes make this one of the best historical fiction I’ve ever read. A must read, especially if you are fascinated with America’s Camelot. Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Berkley via Netgalley in the hopes I’d review it. My Rating: 5 stars
The Kennedy Debutante is the story of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy who is the sister of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. I am sad to say that I didn’t even realize that these two amazing men had a sister named Kathleen. Now that I am in the know, I realize that without her these two men may not have ended up as famous as they were, she is powerful, she is smart, and she pushed her brothers, supported her brothers, and love her brothers with her entire heart. Do not get confused, this is not a story of the Kennedy men. This is the story of Kick Kennedy and the way she shaped the world around her. I really wanted to Google Kathleen Kennedy, I needed to know more about her but I held out. I waited and read every word Kerri Maher wrote and learned so much not only about Kick but about the world she lived in, the war that affected her, and the family that she loved so much. I was amazed at how much she wanted to change the world. She wasn’t going to be happy to just be a woman in the world. She wanted to make it better, to be a force to be recognized and to blaze her own path. I loved how supportive her dad was. Joe Sr. never gave his entire permission, as that would have been going against her mother, but he encourages and even showed her the way to get what she wanted a few times. Rose, Kick’s mother, supported her but she wanted to keep her close and have her follow in her footsteps being a good Catholic, a good mother, and a good wife. The Kennedy Debutante is on my best historical fiction of 2018. I will recommend it over and over again.
Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy is the vivid debutante of this novel, a story that captures the essence of the Kennedy clan’s powerful presence, but which presents this famous woman as complex, fearless, socially adept, and devout. She’s a woman of her own character, living out her blend of service and compassion for and within the formidable issues of her time. The novel begins with Kick’s “coming out” party. Like any normal debutante, Kick loves to party and is only held in check by her mother Rose, a formidable woman who monitors “everything” about every one of her children. Kick’s father, Joe, is obsessed with his effect and that of his children and we later see how he comes to respect Kick’s presence and then her ideas which might enhance his position as America’s Ambassador to England. But Kick is definitely her own woman! Two challenging issues face Kick within this account. One is falling in love with a member of British aristocracy, Billy Harrington. He and his family are staunchly Protestant and Kick’s equally strong practice of Catholicism seem initially like an unbreachable impasse and a painful one at that! Their love will evolve with some wise counsel of friends, family and mentors. In the midst of this constant partying and pleasurable activities, WWII is looming. Hitler’s aggressive behavior is threatening the world and that includes England. Kick’s family is deeply affected. Kick chooses her own way of donating her time to help in the war effort. Billy signs up for Royal service, realizing how patriotic he really is and wanting to make a difference, with a later painful cost. Kick’s father returns to America, his doubt about Hitler making many consider him a failure. Kick’s brothers, Joe Jr. and Jack, join the Air Force and Navy respectively. Kick’s mentally and emotionally challenged sister, Rose, undergoes a change that is tragic for her and the entire family. Other difficult results of the war loom large, making it almost unbearable but which the Kennedys address with amazing strength. Almost everyone has heard of the Kennedy family. But Kennedy Debutante… plunges the reader into the everyday, real life of Kick Kennedy and her family in a way that doesn’t hide flaws but acknowledges “service” and “duty” to the world as the sound principles that made a difference to so many – yes, politically, but also personally. Memorable, engaging biography and history reading!!!
3.5 stars I was so excited to get my hands on an advance copy of this because Kathleen Kennedy led an interesting life not just because she was the second oldest daughter of Joe Sr. and Rose, but because she had to make some tough decisions in life. So I'll admit my expectations were high because I thought the author would have a lot of material to work with when writing this historical fiction novel. While story got better towards the end, I really struggled for a big portion of the book. The Kennedy family has moved to London in the late 1930s because Joe Sr. has accepted the position of ambassador. Kathleen, aka Kick, and her older sister Rosemary are introduced to London society and soon Kick meets Billy Hartington who is in line to be the next Duke of Devonshire. While Kick and Billy fall in love they know their families will disapprove as the Kennedy family is Catholic and the Hartingtons are Protestant. Kick is sent back to the United States because of the war but Billy is never far from her mind. But will her family and religion get in the way of her happiness? I think the biggest problem I had with the book was for a very long time I just had this empty feeling while reading. Yes, the author did a good job with injecting historical facts into the story but it felt like it came at the expense of good storytelling. I just wish it hadn't taken so long before I felt an emotional connection to Kick. For me the real heart of the story is in the last 100 pages or so as it felt like the focus was more on what the characters were feeling rather than boring society stuff that was so present for most of the book. I would recommend this book if you have an interest in the Kennedy family but if you are just looking for any historical fiction read, I think there are more compelling ones out there. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
A Kennedy Debutante in London before WWII The Kennedys are a fascinating family. Before WWII they were treated almost as royalty. This comes through clearly when Kick, the oldest Kennedy daughter, embraces pre-war London. Her father, Joe Kennedy, was named ambassador to the Court Of St. James. This opens the highest society doors to Kick, who takes full advantage of it. The descriptions of pre-WWII parties at great country houses and jazz clubs in London is worth the price of the book. I loved the atmosphere. Kick makes friends easily and becomes a leader in the younger set. Several young men are interested in courting her, but she loses her heart to Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. The path for the lovers is not easy. Rose, her mother, is adamant that she marry a Catholic. Billy is Anglican. Joe gets crosswise with the regime in Washington over his support of Hitler. As WWII begins, the Kennedys return to the US and Billy goes off to war. The question is whether the lovers will be able to overcome the obstacles and reunite. This is a poignant story of romance, family duty, and religion. The author had the details but she did an excellent job of bringing the conflict and heartache of the young people to life. I so wanted the lovers to get together that I had a hard time resisting reading the end of the book first. I highly recommend this book if your interest is the Kennedys, pre-war London, or a gripping romance. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
Lindas Book Obsession Review of "The Kennedy Debutante" by @Kerri Maher Berkley Publishing Group October, 2018 Kerri Maher, Author of "The Kennedy Debutante has vividly described the "Golden World" of the Kennedys in this enchanting, dramatic, romantic, endearing, captivating, intense and riveting novel. The Genres for this novel are Historical Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction, with a touch of Romance. The timeline for this novel starts in London in 1938, and is also in the United States, Spain and other European countries during the pre-war and war. The story goes to the past only when it pertains to the characters or events. Kerri Maher describes her colorful cast of characters as complicated and complex. Kathleen "KICK" Kennedy makes her debut in England the year that her father is the Ambassador to London. Kick is the absolute darling , extremely sought after among the popular set. She also has the responsibilities of watching out for her older sister, Rosemary, who has some problems. Some of my favorite parts in this novel are the interaction among the Kennedy clan. It is fun watching the interaction with Joe and John, her brothers. Kick's mother is a stern and dominant force in her life. The Kennedys are Roman Catholic, and that causes conflict for Kick when she falls in love with Billy Harrington, the future Duke of Devonshire, who comes from a Protestant family. Kick is regarded as the rebellious sister but she questions her loyalty to her family or the man she loves.I would highly recommend this entertaining and enjoyable Historical novel for those readers that enjoy reading about the Kennedys, and the start of World War Two. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.