Jackie's Paris
by Mercedes King

Published: 2021-07-28T00:0
Paperback : 270 pages
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She longed for freedom and the chance to immerse herself in Paris, but was she truly ready for the adventures ahead?

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 ...

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She longed for freedom and the chance to immerse herself in Paris, but was she truly ready for the adventures ahead?

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.

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April 1949

Poised and postured like the twenty-year-old debutante she was, Jacqueline Bouvier strolled into Schrafft’s on the arm of her father. The scent of Sunday brunch—freshly griddled waffles and bacon—greeted them, along with curious stares from several female patrons. Jackie loved it, the charisma he exuded that effortlessly captured women’s attention. There at his side, with sunlight streaming in behind them, she basked in the envy of every woman in the establishment.

As they followed the hostess to their table, her father’s flirtatious glance seemingly waltzed through the restaurant, at least when he wasn’t focused on the hostess’s salacious saunter in her snug crème-colored skirt. Jackie took the seat her father held for her. The hostess promised that a waitress would be with them shortly, then departed with a tilt of her head and a subtle wink meant only for Jack Bouvier.

Was it any wonder? Jackie mused. Crowned with jet-black hair and sporting a thin moustache, he was often mistaken for Clark Gable. Dapper in every wool or tweed suit he wore, he never lacked for female companionship but showed no interest in settling down. His reputation as a womanizer, combined with his nutmeg skin tone, had earned him the nickname Black Jack.

“Pity that Lee couldn’t join us.” He draped the linen napkin across his lap.

Jackie grinned at him, attuned to his sarcasm. Friction often sparked between her sister and their father, which Jackie blamed on their parents’ divorce. Lee’s outbursts and penchant for drama tested and drained their father’s patience. He never voiced his frustrations, but Jackie suspected he resented having to soothe and subdue her sister’s cantankerous moods.

“She sends her love and regards,” Jackie fibbed. Her request—insistence, really—on lunching alone with their father today had resulted with a bedroom door slammed in her face.

“Does she now? How thoughtful.” Jack opened the menu and pretended to scan the selections he knew so well. For a man who had a varied and insatiable appetite for women, he remained faithful to the corned beef sandwich on pumpernickel, topped off with a shot of sour scotch. “And how is the rest of that brood, dare I ask?”

Brood was the best insult her father could hurl about the blended family of nine Jackie was part of. Quite comfortable in the lifestyle her stepfather’s fortune afforded, she could tolerate her father’s petty criticism and unveiled jealousy. An heir to the Standard Oil fortune, her stepfather practiced law, served in the government, and heralded a brokerage firm he’d established, while Jack Bouvier, a stockbroker himself, still hadn’t recovered financially from the crash of 1929. When he wasn’t gambling or bedding the mothers of Jackie’s classmates, his alcoholism got the best of him. Nevertheless, nothing could diminish Jackie’s adoration for her father.

“We manage.” Jackie gave a feeble smile, careful not to injure her father’s feelings. Her homelife held no interest for him, and she didn’t want to risk putting him in a foul temperament. Not when she had such an important item to discuss.

The itch to change the subject took over. Jackie reached into her handbag and removed a folded pamphlet. Smoothing her gloved hands over the paper’s crease, she did her best to flatten it before handing it to her father.

“What do we have here?”

“A fabulous opportunity.” She sipped her water while he read the announcement, but her patience failed. “Smith College is offering a year-long student exchange program at the University of Paris, which would include classes at the Sorbonne. Vassar doesn’t offer such a program, but I can still apply through Smith.” Jackie pressed her lips together to stop her zeal from running away.

He skimmed the pamphlet, then shifted his gaze up to her.


Jackie nodded.

“Are you certain this is a good idea, my love? I know you’ve had a taste of Europe, and Paris can be intoxicating. But living there—for a year—well, I’m afraid it would be frightfully expensive.”

Jackie would be the first to admit that her seven-week holiday with family friends the previous summer had whetted her appetite for more of Europe. She dreamed of living there and being more than a passerby, but two things kept her from a life abroad—her parents and money.

“I realize that, Daddy, but I could board on campus instead of renting an apartment. That would save money, and I could find a job.” Her enthusiasm waned with the last suggestion, though she hoped her father didn’t notice.

Working held no appeal for her, not if it meant being shackled to a schedule and stuffed inside a dank building. She wanted to immerse herself in Paris, savor its art and architecture; but mostly, she relished the thought of exercising total freedom over her life—and escaping the tangible strife between her parents. If a job was required to secure her fantasy, then so be it.

Jack glanced over the paper again and set it aside. “Shouldn’t you be enjoying everything Vassar has to offer a young woman of your age and standing?”

His real question wasn’t lost on Jackie: Shouldn’t you be finding a husband? Many women her age attended university as a glorified dating ritual and abandoned their studies once a proposal came along. Education and obtaining a degree were not secondary for Jackie. Though she was social, attending football games and weekend outings at Yale, her dating life had been fruitless. She often sensed her parents’ growing impatience, but it wasn’t her fault that she found most men dull.

“I have, Daddy, and that’s the problem. Poughkeepsie is like a frumpy old spinster, who sips her gin and falls asleep in her housecoat.” Jackie paused while her father enjoyed a chuckle. “There’s nothing stimulating there, which is why I end up at your apartment.”

Jack grinned, no doubt appreciating that his oldest daughter preferred retreating to his Manhattan apartment on weekends rather than romping on her stepfather’s grand estate in Newport, Rhode Island.

“But now is your time, my dear. Why, you were Debutant of the Year. I would think that troves of worthless beaux would be salivating at your feet.”

“All men are rats. Isn’t that what you’ve been telling me for ages now?”

“No argument there.” Jack withdrew his pack of Chesterfields from his pocket and lit into one.

“You see, this is the perfect time for me to go to Paris. I have no attachments, no one I’m particularly fond of, and just think, my French will become perfect while living there.”

Their waitress appeared, and Jackie sensed a sigh of relief from her father, indicating he wasn’t prepared to give his consent yet. He took advantage of the moment and exercised his charms with the young woman. In turn, she smiled and played coy.

As usual, Jackie mentally absorbed the exchange and envied the way he captivated women. She needed a dose of such magic since gentle persuasion was failing her.

The hesitance was because of the money, she knew. Her father wouldn’t relent easily, even if his funds were abundant. Controlling the purse strings, as it were, of Jackie and Lee’s lives was the only power—or influence—he still held over them. Although that was only in his mind. No trust fund would be forthcoming from their father. As it was, he barely kept up with their monthly allowance of fifty dollars each—a sum that paid for their cosmetics and little else.

But Jackie wouldn’t let that pinch of resentment derail her determination. She deserved this trip, having fed her father’s pride with her stellar academics and award-winning horsemanship. She gave him no grief, and her love for him never waned, even when rumors of his gambling debts circled or when he required another drying-out spell. Now, would be her father’s turn to show his love and loyalty.

“I know it’s a lot to ask, Daddy,” she said once they were alone again. Employing new tactics, she rested her hands in her lap and tilted her head slightly, feigning resignation. “Perhaps I’ve acted too hastily. Maybe going away to study isn’t ideal, but I’m aiming to make changes regardless.”

Jack’s gaze locked on hers. “Do tell.”

“Like you said, living in Paris would be expensive, but that’s true of life most anywhere. I was thinking of easing the burden on you and Mummy. I’m perfectly capable of reading and acquiring knowledge on my own, which is primarily what university life entails. I don’t need Vassar, or the Sorbonne, for that.”

“What are you getting at?” Jack squinted and tucked his cigarette into the corner of his mouth.

“Perhaps it’s time I ventured out and started making my own money. I’ve been thinking about becoming a fashion model, here in New York. I could get an apartment—”

“Now, now, I’ll not tolerate foolish conversation.” He waved a hand in the air, as if to shoo away the suggestion. “You’re a rare bird, my dear, and one of the things that makes you so extraordinary is your mind, that hunger you have for history, literature. You shouldn’t abandon university just so you can make money. I won’t hear of it.”

“Then you’ll let me go to Paris?” Hopefulness swelled in her chest. “It’s only for a year, Daddy.”

He reared back in his chair, his expression pensive.

“What does your mother say about this idea of yours?”

“I haven’t told her yet.” Jackie smiled. “I came to you first.”

Jack beamed. The way he always did whenever Jackie demonstrated her devotion to him or gave him an advantage over Janet.

“Tell me, then, when you do mention this to your mother, what do you think she’ll say?”

“I imagine she’ll want to talk me out of it.” Elation pulsed through her. Why hadn’t she thought of using her mother’s disapproval earlier?

He exhaled a puff of smoke slowly, and a Cheshire grin appeared from behind the cloud.

“In that case, my pet, we’d better make sure that all the arrangements are in place before you tell her.” view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. Like most young women coming of age and stepping into their own, Jackie struggles with who she wants to be against who she’s been raised to be. The pressure to marry well is paramount. Philip, Paul, and Marceau each embody elements she finds attractive, but which man do you think would suite Jackie best?
2. Unlike many women of her time, Jackie craved and valued the opportunity to deepen her education. Why would men, during this time, find that unappealing in a potential wife? What factors do you think helped change this over time?
3. Had it been completely up to Jackie and her personal talents and passions, how do you think her life would’ve turned out differently? 4. Interestingly, Paul de Ganay, in real life, never married. He and Jackie remained life-long friends, though they didn’t correspond or visit regularly. (However, Jackie did return to France less than a year before her passing and spent time with Paul.) Do you think he carried a torch for Jackie that whole time? Are there any pitfalls for a man who doesn’t marry?
5. Overall, what were the valuable life-lessons Jackie learned in Paris that may have prepared her for her future?

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