Long-time readers of Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews know that I have a thing about the Kennedy family. I find them fascinating, faults and all. So when Triumph Productions contacted me about getting an advanced reader’s copy of a book about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s life before she met her husband, I jumped at the chance. The book, Jackie’s Paris (Amazon), was released today. I was given a copy of the book in advance in exchange for an honest review.
From Amazon: “She longed for freedom and adventure…but was she truly ready?
Twenty-year old Jacqueline Bouvier is anxious to leave her overbearing family for the chance to study in Paris. Aching for freedom from difficult family relationships–and the constant pressure to find a husband–she wants to submerge herself in academics, the arts, and all Paris has to offer. As she sets sail, she has no interest in falling in love. However, her striking beauty catches the eyes of Paris’ most elite bachelors–and a mysterious rogue. Before long, Jackie is swept into a whirlwind romance, as unexpected as it is extravagant. But doubts creep in. Is she ready for love, and would she truly consider building a life so far from her family? Confusing her even more is the attraction she’s fighting to a man wrapped in mystique and questionable intentions. Jackie’s time in Paris will leave her with a wealth of memories, life-long friendships, unconventional adventures, and intense scars from heartaches. Heartaches and lessons that will unknowingly prove more useful for her future than she could ever have imagined.”
It would be right to call this a love triangle, a quadrangle actually. When Jackie arrives in France, she meets three men: Paul, a handsome man who is cousin to someone she knows from home, Philip, a very dashing and rich young man, and Marceau, a man of mystery that sweeps Jacqueline off her feet. We know she won’t end up with any of the men long-term, but who will hold her attention the most? That is the question.
As Jacq-kleen (how she preferred her name pronounced after hearing it said that way in France) attends her classes and socializes with the men, we are treated to a Jackie that isn’t that much different than the one the public thought they knew. She was raised to be a proper lady, which means wearing gloves and not speaking out of turn and proper introductions and no behavior that would reflect poorly on her family.
For the most part, Jackie behaves. Soon, it is apparent that Paul will have to be happy to have her just as a friend, because she thinks of him more like a brother. Philip is handsome and charming and is always one to have grand sweeping gestures, like private tours of museums and grand dinner parties. Jackie likes Phillip, but there’s no real spark for her. She’s got her heart set on Marceau, a man she barely knows (I can’t remember if his last name is ever given), who leaves just as mysteriously as he appears.
There are several times in the text where we’re reminded that Jacqueline will one day be married to the most powerful man in the world. In chapter 8, she admits “…she was thrilled that Philip was trying too hard–especially with a private tour of Versailles. Such a stark contrast to Marceau’s actions, and Jackie believed she deserved to be treated like royalty. Though she couldn’t ensure that her feelings toward Philip would change because of this.” Here we see the sense of entitlement that she was raised with, in the upper echelon of society.
During Jackie’s time in France, she matured from the one who pulled pranks at school, to the level-headed beauty who spoke carefully and although she admitted to hating politics, had a natural affinity for it. In chapter 11 it is revealed that “she’d changed in only a few short months. She’d mastered the art of telling white lies and had become proficient at both sneaking around Paris at night and at guarding secrets.” Jacqueline worried she would become unrecognizable to her friends and family when she returned to the U.S. in the spring.
As many young people learn, Jackie gets burned at sharing her innermost thoughts and dreams and secrets. It was at this tender age that she decided she could never trust another person with her deepest darkest thoughts and internalize her emotions for private consumption.
There was a great nod to the real Jackie in Chapter 13, when she visits the Mona Lisa. She had seen the famous painting several times and was always awed by it. She wondered if some day the painting would make it’s way to the United States so more people could see it because not everyone could make a trip to Paris. This is in fact something Jacqueline did during her time as First Lady; she arranged for the Mona Lisa to be loaned to the U.S. for a short time.
Jackie realizes she can’t stay with Philip. He’s simply too needy, and in constant need of praise. Although she realizes she will miss the sort of lifestyle she’d grown accustomed to whenever she was with him. She always had the best service, the best food, and in the grandest places. Her heart really does belong to Marceau, but he’s got secrets of his own that are revealed and make the match impossible.
There was a line late in the book that stuck out to me. After the climactic events unfold, Jackie realizes that “Maintaining my dignity is the best tribute I can give.” And isn’t that the way we always remember Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis? A woman of great dignity at all times, in times of tragedy and times of joy.
You don’t have to be a big fan of the Kennedys to like this book. If you can enjoy France in the late 1940’s, and like a light romance, this book is for you. I can’t wait for the next volume in this new series!
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