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As the title suggests, this is largely a work of fiction loosely based on historical facts that jibe with a fanciful tale of imagined conversation by the author. I highly doubt Kick Kennedy was a virgin when she married Billy Hartington. She had those Kennedy genes after all and so this part of the book remains highly suspect to me. anyone can write a book like this looking at historical facts and weaving an imaginary tale. Sorry I wasted my time reading it to the end!
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.
A fascinating read about one of the lesser known Kennedy children – Kathleen (Kick) Kennedy. Much focus is placed on the stringent Catholic upbringing of the Kennedy children and the plight it created in the life of Kathleen who strove to be faithful to her religion and her family while attempting to forge her own independent identity. Religion became another character in these pages as it did in the life of Kathleen. Never mind that this is a fictionalized account of Kathleen Kick Kennedy it just felt real and authentic to me. I devoured every page with heartfelt compassion for Kick.
Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy was the sister of John F Kennedy, and part of the illustrious Kennedy clan. Everyone has heard of JFK, and his brother Ted Kennedy, but little is known of Kick.
When her father was made the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1938, the family moved to London & 18 yr old Kick quickly fell in love with London, and with England (people & country). She was presented at Court alongside young women who remained friends for life, including Deborah Mitford (later Duchess of Devonshire, but also Kathleen’s sister-in-law & lifelong friend).
In the summer of 1938, Kick met Billy Cavendish & they soon became inseparable. Kick was attracted by Billy’s handsome looks, his caring, compassionate nature & very “English” mannerisms. Billy was attracted to Kick’s energy & independence – she was one of the few women who weren’t attracted to his wealth/status (he was considered the most eligible man in England!). She came from a wealthy family & neither understood or desired to become a member of the English aristocracy. Unfortunately both families were unhappy with the relationship as Kick was steadfastly Catholic & Billy was not only Protestant but from one of the most anti-Catholic families in England! Kick moved back to America during the early days of WW2 and threw herself into journalism as she tried to forget Billy, but soon realised that her heart was not only with him but firmly in England. She then focussed her attention on how she could return to England, which was unfortunately being ravaged by the war. She eventually managed to return as a Red Cross volunteer, and renewed both her friendships and the relationship with Billy.
It’s hard for the modern reader to understand the proprieties of the day, and the difficulties that a Catholic-Protestant relationship would have caused at the time. Neither felt able to compromise and Kick’s parents made it clear that they would not support the marriage. Billy’s mother was much more supportive and tried to help, but ultimately Kick defied her Catholic parents to marry Billy - the compromise was that they married in a civil ceremony at a Register Office, rather than a grand society church wedding.
Kick & Billy had only been married for 4 months, and had spent just 5 weeks together as husband & wife when Billy was killed in action in WW2. How different things could have been if they had been able to marry in 1941 when Kick’s friend Deborah Mitford married Billy’s brother Andrew. There is no doubt that Chatsworth thrived under the control of Deborah (she became Duchess of Devonshire – her husband became the heir to the dukedom after his elder brother’s death) but I can’t help wondering how Kick, or any children they may have had, might have changed Chatsworth.
I enjoyed this book, and was pleased to find an easy read that was built on solid historical research/fact. It got a bit drawn out in the middle, but this mirrored Kick & Billy’s relationship that also was drawn out for many years as they battled “the religion problem”. The author notes at the end just add to the authenticity for me.
Kick Kennedy, whose short life is a mere footnote in the many books I have read about the family, finally has her story told in this immensely readable debut novel by Kerri Maher. I was transported back in time to the days of high society England, beginning with Kick’s presentation to Queen Elizabeth and ending in tragedy that seems to follow the Kennedys.
Evenings at the 400 with young women named Debo and Sissy, with Kick and their aristocratic young men, are so vividly described that I could almost feel the tickle of Champagne bubbles. Is it any wonder that she falls head over heels in love with Billy Hartington, one of England’s most eligible bachelors, after spending so much time with him at nightclubs and house parties? As World War II begins, the men enlist, but the parties continue. Despite the Blitz and hardships, Kick adopts England as her home and the Hartingtons as her family.
Barely an adult, Kick Kennedy faces the biggest decision in her life. The Kennedys are famously devout Roman Catholics; the Hartingtons are equally devoted members of the Church of England. Until relatively recently, the Pope decreed that Catholics will be excommunicated if they did not marry in the Church; there were no exceptions, even for the powerful Kennedys. Will Kick risk losing her family to marry the love of her life?
It is difficult to imagine in this day that an interfaith marriage could have such disastrous consequences, but until the Catholic Church relaxed its rules, marrying outside the faith was an all-or-nothing proposition. In some accounts of Kick’s life, Rose Kennedy disowned her own daughter after she married Billy. At best, Rose is frosty. Kerri Maher accurately describes the internal dilemma Kick faces, and I could almost feel her pain as she struggled.
What a well researched, beautifully written story of the forgotten Kennedy girl and the time of her life. As an Anglophile, I love a peek into that period of English history. Kerri Maher, you gave me a gem!
The Kennedy family has been in the news for years, we have witnessed their tragedies, we have watched as the sons, daughters and grandchildren met with fates that were undeniably hard to endure. This story about Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy is no different, except it is about someone we do not know as well.
The story starts in 1938 with Joe Kennedy, Sr. is the American Ambassador to England...at a time when Europe was teetering on the brink of war. There they were on Prince Street, 11 of them, 9 children. Joe, Jr. and JFK at that time were not always around, but that was home base. Kick was 18 years old, just out of convent school and had her whole life in front of her. She had a great personality, outgoing and fun, but there was a serious side of her, too. Steeped in Catholicism she was always concerned about doing the right thing, of not committing sins and praying for guidance as she went about her daily living.
Joining the social lives of the rich and elite, she meets and falls in love with Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. But he was Protestant and as a Catholic, Kick knew the match would never be approved. When the war breaks out, the Kennedys leave England to return to the U.S. However, Kick having no choice but to go, yearns to go back to England (which she loves) and back into the arms of Billy.
As you read this novel, you learn a bit more about the family. Their efforts to keep up appearances, to avoid scandal at all costs and just how competitive they were. It was difficult to read how both Rose and Joe, Sr. handled the unfortunate situation with Rosemary Kennedy. It was obvious that the parents thought more about their sons than their daughters, especially the fact that Joe,Jr. was the bright and shining star with hopes of him becoming President.
The book was well written, albeit a bit too long. Yet, I would highly recommend it.
Overall: An engaging novel focused on the exploits of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy starting from her summer as a debutante and covering most of WWII. An interesting story that covers a large portion of Kick's short life, but fell short on expectations overall. 5.5/9
The good: I knew very little about Kathleen Kennedy prior to reading this novel. You cannot help but like her spicy personality and root for her throughout the story. I really enjoyed learning more about the Kennedy family as a whole and particularly their involvement with WWII. The characters are strong throughout and help to make the story interesting, I really liked the love story between Billy and Kick. Religion plays a big role in this book in the author did a good job weaving it in and incorporating it throughout.
The bad: This story had all the factors to make a great novel (strong heroine, history, glitz and glamour, romance, etc) but it seemed it just fall slightly short on most all levels to me and felt superficial. Religion was a very big theme throughout (as it needed to be) but there was so much discussion of it and praying that it almost took away from the importance of it for me. There were many other themes that I wish the author went into more detail, especially what happened with Rosemary Kennedy and Kick's involvement with WWII. In the case of Rosemary, the author touched briefly on her and the lobotomy that was performed, but it was as superficial as possible. And with Kick's involvement with the war, I feel this really could have been expanded on, but the way it is presented it almost comes across that she only did it to get back and be close to Billy (which I am sure was the major factor but there had to have been a lot more that went into it than just the boy). Lastly, I felt the ending was extremely abrupt and the novel could have benefited from a bit more detail and explanation to help close the story.
Recommend to fans of historical fiction and if you see this as more of a light and fun book, I feel you will enjoy it more than I did.
Although we all know how the story ends, and although we know this is historical fiction, the story woven together from correspondence rings true and it was such an easy and delightful read, I found myself anxious to get back to it. It was very well crated with no excessive verbiage. We all think growing up in these families that appear to be blessed. often come with very few bumps in the road. But this family had more than its' fair share. You can understand the love Kathleen had and how it was so significant that she was willing to cross her family. In all my man readings, I thought Joe. Kennedy Sr. was much more of a parent than Rose. He had the empathy and sense of responsibility of provoking his children to be the best they could be but had many a soft spot in his heart for his children. Too bad he was so wrong about global issues like the threat of Hitler and that his own moral compass was askew. But I believe he genuinely loved his children as best he could. This story furthers that impression. He understood human nature.