The Kennedy Debutante

Written by Kerri Maher
Review by Julia C. Fischer

In her debut historical novel, Kerri Maher explores a forgotten member of the Kennedy family: Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, the middle of the nine siblings and favorite sister of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The novel begins in 1938, when Kick is a young woman preparing for her debut in London; her father, Joseph Kennedy, is the American ambassador to Britain. Kick quickly becomes an Anglophile and has her coming-out season, where she falls in love with an English boy, Billy Hartington, the future Duke of Devonshire. But World War II begins in 1939 and shatters Kick’s world, forcing the Kennedys to return to the United States and leaving an ocean between Kick and Billy. Back home in the US, Kick begins working for a newspaper, desperate to find a way to return to London and Billy.

Maher offers a unique glimpse into the life of one of the forgotten members of the Kennedy clan. She vividly captures Kick’s spunk and tenacity, and readers will not soon forget Kick and her desire to be her own person, separate from her famous family, even if that means losing her family for love. While some of the book drags on, in particular the emphasis on Kick’s unwavering Catholicism and Billy’s staunch Anglicanism, the rest of the novel is a delight to read, including the parts on Kick’s time as a debutante in England, her return to the US with her goal of being independent from her famous family, and her relationships with her parents and siblings, especially the doomed Rosemary. Maher captures the chaotic love, loyalty, and devotion of the huge Kennedy clan, and hopefully she will write a sequel, exploring other women of America’s most famous family.