BKMT READING GUIDES

Jackie's Greece: A Novel (The Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Collection)
by Mercedes King

Published: 2022-10-20T00:0
Paperback : 306 pages
0 members reading this now
0 club reading this now
0 members have read this book
She longed for her fallen husband and security...but never could have imagined the course of her dramatic rescue.

Jack's assassination left her devastated and heartbroken. In the aftermath, she plunges into depression with alcohol as her primary companion. Through months of missteps ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

She longed for her fallen husband and security...but never could have imagined the course of her dramatic rescue.

Jack's assassination left her devastated and heartbroken. In the aftermath, she plunges into depression with alcohol as her primary companion. Through months of missteps and mistakes, Jackie begins to rediscover her will to go on. To focus on raising her children well and becoming the caretaker of Jack's legacy. She finds respite from her grief in the arms of her brother-in-law, Bobby, knowing from the start their affair can't last. Even so, the sexual connection sparks hope within that she might be able to love again. Or at least to remarry.

Jackie’s finances, limited and controlled, make her need for a new husband more paramount than she wanted. However, when she considers that marrying again means escaping the political burdens and demands from the Kennedys, the appeal of a fresh start grows. Several men contend for her heart, but the one she is most drawn to is the man her sister has been having an affair with the last few years, Aristotle Onassis. His staggering wealth and piratical reputation excite her. As their acquaintance deepens, Jackie is bombarded with conflict. Can she truly fall for a man her sister has loved? Is she able to overcome the vitriol of disapproval sparked by her potential union with Ari? And if she becomes Ari's wife, will it mean sacrificing her relationship with Lee?

Editorial Review

No Editorial Review Currently Available

Excerpt

Jackie’s Greece

CHAPTER ONE

December 1963

Jackie sat among the moving boxes in the West Wing residence of the White House, a smoldering cigarette between her fingers and exhaustion saturating her to the bone. Much like the black crepe that had draped the grand mansion interiors when Jack’s casket had lain in state. President and Ladybird Johnson had assured her there was no rush, that she and the children could take their time moving out. But it was too painful for Jackie to linger in the last place she and Jack called home.

“Mummy might be angry with me.” She didn’t look at Bobby as she said it. Instead she slid her fingers across the beige carpet of her bedroom floor and recalled the afternoons when Jack lay there, desperate for relief from his back pain. Jackie had nuzzled against him, used his outstretched arm for a pillow. Those nap hours, enforced daily to help counter the stress of presidential duties, became her favorite part of the day. Whether they made love, dozed, or chatted quietly didn’t matter.

But life with Jack was gone. Dead and buried. In the days following the funeral, she’d become accustomed to the numbness. To feeling empty and void, which served her well during the day, when items needed her attention and she had to function around others.

Bobby, standing near a window, set aside the newspaper he was reading. Jackie glimpsed Vietnam in the headline. President Diem had been deposed and killed in early November, ignoring the advice Jack had given him months before to address the country’s need for change since the Buddhist crisis. Now, the fallout and chaos unfolding had become Bobby’s constant preoccupation. Next to his grief of losing his brother.

He sighed and ran a hand over his face, as if to refocus on Jackie. “What’s this about your mother?”

“I called her last night. I think it was late, but I don’t quite remember. Things get so muddled these days. It’s like the world is trapped in a fog. Or perhaps it’s only me.” She pulled a drag from her cigarette, fearing he might agree. “I asked her to get Arabella and bring her to Washington.” When he said nothing, she looked up at him.

He held her gaze a beat, then shifted his hands to his hips. “Yes. We’re…taking care of Patrick too.”

Jackie stood and perched her cigarette in a nearby ashtray. Concern suddenly shot through her, and she went to Bobby.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”

A weak smile ticked the corner of his mouth. “How could you be…after everything?”

“What I meant is that I haven’t forgotten. You were there for us—for me and the baby. Took care of us, the way you always do, and I know it must be hard for you too. The loss. Seeing her gone and having to be so brave for everyone, especially for me.”

He took her hand into his. “I wish they were here now. Arabella and Patrick. They would give you such comfort.”

The thought of catching four children into her arms was almost overwhelming. Jackie covered her mouth with her other hand, as if to dam the fresh swell of emotion that threatened to crumble her to her knees.

If she thought about it—which she tried hard not to—she wasn’t proud of the way Caroline and John had been told about their father. Jackie knew she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t look into their eyes and force the words that their father was gone. Selfishly, she didn’t want to be there to watch part of their innocence die. John was too young to fully understand, but Caroline had a ravenous adoration for her father, and Jackie didn’t want to be the one to break her daughter’s heart. Maud Shaw, the children’s nanny, had done her best. Tucking Caroline into bed, she tearfully explained that her daddy had been called to Heaven, because Patrick was lonely.

“I’m sorry.” Bobby pulled her into him and draped his arms around her back. “I’ve said the wrong thing.”

“No, it’s my fault—”

“Don’t do that, Jackie.” His cheek pressed against hers as his breath trickled along her ear.

Her arms around his waist, she squeezed him, convinced she could absorb his strength.

Once they’d savored the reprieve, they released each other and their pent-up breath.

“You loved him longer than I did.” Jackie held the lapels of his jacket loosely and rubbed the navy-colored cotton between her fingers. “And I know what you meant to each other.”

“I don’t want you to worry about anything, Jackie, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you and the children never feel alone.” Bobby ran his hands from her shoulders down her back. “And I’m going to see to it that we get you through this move.” He scanned the room, as if making a mental note of the carboard boxes yawning open, awaiting to be filled.

“A drink might help.” Jackie moved from his embrace to the side table where bottles of whiskey and bourbon sat. She arranged two glasses, then reached for the vodka. Bobby, now next to her, placed his hand over hers.

“Are you taking the sedatives?”

Confidence left Jackie’s shoulders. “Only sometimes. I don’t think they help, because even when I do fall asleep the nightmares are waiting.” So sharp, vivid and cruel.

He nodded. “Maybe a drink isn’t all that inappropriate.”

Jackie splashed the bottom of two glasses with vodka, then held one out for him. They held each other with their stare and sipped.

Bobby winced at the liquor’s burn. “How are the children?”

“I hate the sorrow Caroline carries in her eyes. She’s quiet and doesn’t skip like she used to. I hardly see her smile.” Jackie eased onto her bed, which had been stripped down to the mattress. It struck her then that the walls were also bare. Gone were the sky-blue accents—from the bedding to the chaise lounge to her changing screen. Her warm, personal touches erased. She wondered, fleetingly, what changes the Johnsons would make to her former bedroom. What they would undo or remove, especially from her efforts of the White House Restoration project. She slid her drink onto the nightstand and refused to think about it, a knot forming in her stomach. “John doesn’t understand. He keeps asking when Daddy will come back. I can’t speak when he asks me, and Maud has told him over and over that he’s with Patrick. The only thing I can imagine being worse will be the day when he stops asking about his father, because it will mean he’s forgotten him.”

Bobby sat next to her and put his arm around her. “We won’t let that happen.”

Anger flared in Jackie. Of course it will! He’ll never remember his father on his own…But she didn’t have the strength to protest. Instead, she leaned into Bobby and rested her head against his chest. Like Jack, Bobby smelled of shaving cream and a hint of the sea.

Jack…

Her body relaxed, perhaps in a way it hadn’t since Dallas. She and Bobby, still entwined, lay back onto the bed. He pulled her in closer. His chin touching her forehead. He whispered to her. Sweet assurances. Words of comfort and strength. Jackie welcomed the sentiments as she closed her eyes and let the ache for her husband take her away. She drifted to the memories of Jack, their ten years together. Barefoot on the shores of Cape Cod and West Palm Beach, with the children running and playing. The twinkle of pride in Jack’s eyes every time she descended the stairs for a White House dinner. His reaching for her hand when they shared a platform or as they left church services.

And now he was gone.

The finality once again squeezed her heart and pushed tears to the surface. And once again she wished the bullet from the “silly communist,” the only words she’d mustered to describe the assassin, had found the back of her head instead of Jack’s.

~

Dear Bishop Hannan,

How can I ever offer enough exquisite thanks for your tenderness toward me and my family? When I called and asked you to preside a brief graveside service for Jack and our infants, you didn’t let me down. I appreciate the discretion you exercised in helping us keep the interment private, which was of upmost importance to us. Although the sorrow of recent days has been almost unbearable—and was compounded with the difficult sight of my children’s tiny caskets—having the three of them placed together has brought a measure of peace. Thank you for giving me the ritual book and stole. Perhaps those are unusual items to cherish, but they will forever hold great meaning to my heart. Along with those, I cannot discount the patience you treated me with as my questions and agony and lack of understanding in all of this overwhelmed me. My mother later indicated my behavior may have been unsettling, and if that were so and I troubled you, I also send my apologies. I know you are gracious and experienced when it comes to dealing with matters of grief. Thank you for trying to help me. Your prayers have truly given me strength.

In Humble Gratitude,

Jacqueline Kennedy

~

Jackie lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply to calm her nerves. She’d done it—she’d left the White House behind.

With her Secret Service agents assisting, she passed by the Rose Garden, dormant in its winter sleep and a sorrowful reminder of things she wouldn’t get to finish. She held the children’s hands until John, playing and waving his American flag got carried away and ran ahead to the waiting car. Sunlight blazed and emphasized the children’s powder-blue coats and Caroline’s red stockings, the same outfits they’d worn for the funeral. A pack of reporters documented the moment and trailed her to her new, though temporary, home in Georgetown.

Once they were inside, she could rest her fixed grin. Maud had taken the children upstairs to unpack, change, and settle in. Minutes later, Bobby and Ethel arrived.

A sense of peace did not flood Jackie the way she’d hoped. Standing in her new living room, with boxes strewn about, discomfort twisted through her. She had to receive guests in a home foreign to her and assure them she was fine.

“I wonder when they’ll get tired of you.” Ethel stole a peak through the drapes at the gaggle of reporters and onlookers gathered outside on the sidewalk.

“Not soon enough.” Jackie made no move to massage the knot forming at the base of her neck.

“It’s not as though you can give them anything of interest anymore.” Ethel let the drape fall back in place as she turned to Jackie. “After all, you’re wearing the same dress from Jack’s funeral.”

Jackie stiffened but let the tension go just as quickly. By now, she knew better. Ethel’s knack for stinging remarks deserved no reaction. Over the years, she had given up trying to find common ground with Ethel, who preferred Jack’s sisters and Teddy’s wife Joan over Jackie. To her it seemed as if Ethel was intent on always making Jackie feel awkward or treating her like an outsider. Jackie brushed her off and never let it taint her adoration for Bobby.

“What would you have her wear, Ethel? It’s not exactly a day of celebration.”

Ethel’s posture shrank as she went to her husband. “You’re right, dear.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed into his chest. “Forgive me for seeming callous.” She batted her eyelids slowly as she glanced at Jackie.

Jackie stamped out her cigarette in an ashtray.

Bobby patted Ethel on the shoulder before easing from the embrace.

“What’s this?” Ethel’s eyes went wide as she hoofed it toward the parlor, just off the living room. Curious, Jackie and Bobby followed.

An array of white floral arrangements, from roses to chrysanthemums, lilies to daisies, to varieties Jackie didn’t recognize but guessed were exotic.

Ethel whipped her head in Bobby’s direction. “Did you do this?”

“No.”

“There must be a card.” Jackie savored each of the bouquets and welcomed the delicate brush of the petals on her skin as she searched in vain for evidence of the sender.

The telephone jingled from its cubby in the hallway. Provi, who’d been Jackie’s personal caretaker for years, answered.

“It is for you, Mrs. Kennedy.”

Jackie plucked a long-stemmed gladioli from its vase before she took the phone and greeted her caller.

“Mrs. Kennedy, this is Aristotle Onassis. I’m calling from the yacht. We are cutting through the waters of the Aegean Sea. Can you hear me?”

Through the crackle of static, Jackie could make out the heavy accent. A smile dawned on her face.

“Ari?” Her cheeks reddened from the lack of formality on her end, though she had spent time with the Greek shipping tycoon on various occasions. Late in the summer of 1958, Aristotle Onassis had hosted Jack, his father Joe, and Jackie, along with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, aboard Ari’s luxurious yacht, the Christina O. The men had discussed strategies at length for advancing Jack’s career while Jackie enjoyed the boat and scenery. Ari kept his presence scarce but stole a few private moments with Jackie.

Last October, her sister Lee invited her on a getaway aboard the yacht, knowing Jackie desperately needed a chance to begin healing from the loss of Patrick. Franklin Roosevelt Jr., his wife Suzanne, and others had joined them for the two-week cruise.

And most recently, Ari had visited her at the White House after Jack’s death. He had made a point not to be seen by members of the press, knowing his presence would create upheaval and chaos Jackie didn’t need.

“I was calling to see if you received the flowers.” Ari’s voice loud and distinct.

“Why, yes, Ari, the house is almost filled with them.”

“Ah, good, good. I wanted you to feel at ease in your new home.”

Questions swirled through Jackie’s mind. How did you get this number, Ari? Why such a grand gesture? How did you know I would be moving today? But she let them all go.

“It’s wonderful, Ari. It’s just like the day I boarded the Christina. You had roses and gladioli everywhere.” She stroked the tall, hearty stalk of the gladioli as the memory replayed through her mind. “It was so thoughtful and welcoming of you.”

“I am pleased that you remembered. I remember your visit fondly.”

A pause of silence, and Jackie wondered if Ari was recalling the afternoon they’d spent walking through the streets of Izmir, Ari’s hometown along the coast of Turkey. He’d grown personal with her then, sharing stories about his childhood and how a difficult relationship with his father had shaped his ambitions.

“The children are well, yes?” Ari asked.

“Yes, we’re all fine.”

“Good, good. I will not keep you, but I have also sent you a book. I know how much you devour books. Perhaps, when you have finished reading it, we could discuss it sometime.”

“I’d like that.”

“Until that time, then. I hope the flowers and the book might distract you from your sorrows.”

“Thank you, Ari.”

“Farewell, Mrs. Kennedy.”

When she replaced the receiver, Jackie turned to find Bobby and Ethel staring expectantly at her.

“Aristotle Onassis?” Bobby confirmed, his hands planted on his hips.

“He sent all these flowers?” Ethel piped.

Jackie nodded.

“Now, Jackie, we’ve discussed this man at some length. I know I don’t need to remind you.”

“Of course not.” Jackie’s words held more bristle than she intended. “He’s a thoughtful, generous man.”

“Isn’t he having an affair with your sister?” Ethel asked.

Jackie’s cheeks blazed. She wasn’t sure when it had started, but Lee had been involved with Ari for quite a while. Though it was a tender subject Jackie didn’t often broach, Lee claimed the affair had been intense yet brief, back in early 1962. However, when Lee volunteered Ari’s yacht for a recuperating getaway, Jackie suspected Lee and Ari were still intimate but said nothing.

“I don’t read the gossip magazines.” A lame response but the best Jackie could manage under the circumstances.

“But you do talk to your sister, don’t you?”

“Enough, Ethel.” Bobby stepped closer to Jackie and blocked Ethel from her view. “Trust me, you don’t want to be associated with that man. His shady business dealings alone are reason enough to avoid him.”

“I think he’s disgusting,” Ethel said over Bobby’s shoulder. “If you ask me, I don’t know how your sister can jeopardize her marriage, fooling around with that man. He looks like a toad with glasses.”

Bobby closed his eyes and pressed his lips together, as if wishing Ethel away. “Promise me one thing, Jackie. Promise me you won’t encourage him.”

Jackie grinned. Enough to soothe Bobby’s agitation but not enough to seal a promise. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. Jackie solidified her role in history with the planning and execution of JFK’s funeral. In the immediate, confusing aftermath of a national tragedy, she is credited with helping the country heal, thanks in large part to the poise and courage she displayed during those four days after the assassination. Discuss any memories or impressions you have of that time period, either personal or related by family and others.

2. Privately, she struggled desperately with depression, drinking too much alcohol, and being around the children. In your opinion, is it possible her relationship with Bobby helped her mend and recover? Or do you believe other factors played a part and she was never intimate with Bobby?

3. Do you think Jackie and Ari made an odd couple or were they suited for each other?

4. For most women, Jackie broke ‘girl code’. Is there a scenario where you could imagine dating and marrying a man your sister or best friend was with?

5. By all accounts, Jackie’s marriage to Ari deteriorated and they began living separate lives. Even so, Jackie did not file for divorce. How do you account for her decision to remain in a difficult relationship?

6. Disapproval reigned when it came to Jackie marrying Ari. What compromises would you make, if any, to marry the world’s richest man?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
There are no user reviews at this time.
Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search




FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...