*This review originally appeared in the Historical Novels Review and can be found online here.
Alicia Darr arrives in America, a displaced person hoping to find a new life after the war. Her cultured, privileged childhood in Poland is but a distant memory, and she finds part-time jobs to make ends meet. When a roommate asks her to fill in as a maid, Alicia finds herself thrust into the midst of the boisterous Kennedy household in Hyannisport. There she meets Jack, Bobby and Ethel, Teddy, Joe and Rose, and the Kennedy girls. Their raucous behavior, Joe’s blatant adultery, and Rose’s frigid ways bemuse her. But it’s Jack’s charisma and full-court-press approach that sweeps her off her feet. Despite significant reservations, Alicia accepts his proposal of marriage, yet when Joe Kennedy learns more of Alicia’s background, Jack and Alicia’s relationship comes to an abrupt halt. Alicia heads to Hollywood, where she mixes with politicians, screen stars, and the super-rich, never able to fully leave the Kennedys behind her.
This book has all the salacious elements of a juicy page-turner: illicit romance, wealth, greed, power, adultery, gossip, blackmail, and intrigue. Readers will also notice a take on the Kennedy clan that is not often portrayed but does feel authentic. The one stumbling block is Alicia herself. As a main character, she’s difficult to like or to root for: opportunistic, flighty, and a glutton for punishment by Jack and his family. The reader observes Alicia’s foolish, often callous, behavior and begins to wonder if she deserves anything better. There is space for greater emotional depth here, but those opportunities fall by the wayside as Alicia pursues her next meaningless relationship, moneymaking scheme, or wealthy friend on her quest to climb the ladder of fame and fortune. A more nuanced heroine would have made this story irresistible.