JFK’s spirited sis ‘Kick’ Kennedy grabs the spotlight in a new historical novel

Move over, JFK, Jackie, Bobby and John F. Kennedy Jr. The charismatic Kennedy portrayed in Kerri Maher’s historical novel, “The Kennedy Debutante” (Berkley, 384 pp., ★★★ out of four), may be the most winning member of America’s royal family.

Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy – like her brothers Joe, Jack and Robert – died tragically young. But this story ends before Kick was killed in a plane crash in France at age 28.

At 18, Kick accompanied her family to London in 1938 when her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was named ambassador to Great Britain. As Adolf Hitler brutalizes his way through Europe, Ambassador Kennedy urges Britain to avoid war, a position that earns him derision and a reputation as anti-Semitic. Even Kick challenges her father’s non-interventionist stance.

World events aside, Kick is entranced by her life in London, making her debut before the king of England amid a swirl of cocktail parties with swell friends named Sissy, Boofie, Debo and Bertrand.

Kick’s dilemma, and the key drama of this debut novel, seems positively quaint today. She has fallen for aristocratic Billy Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, who is also – mother, grab your Mikimotos – a Protestant.

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