An Invitation to the Kennedys by Emily Hourican

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction
An Invitation to the Kennedys by Emily Hourican

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

An Invitation to the Kennedys by Emily Hourican

An Invitation to the Kennedys by Emily Hourican is published with Hachette Ireland and is described as ‘a captivating story of high society, forbidden love and a world on the cusp of change’. I love this series which you can see from my reviews of The Glorious Guinness GirlsThe Guinness Girls: A Hint of Scandal and The Other Guinness Girl: A Question of Honor.

The previous three books immersed me in the lavish and plush world of the Guinness family as they faced the challenges of life over the years. Now with the world on the cusp of war, Emily Hourican has widened her scope to America, introducing us to Joseph and Rose Kennedy, and their daughter Katherine ‘Kick’ Kennedy. Joe Kennedy was sent to London in 1938 to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Kick travelled with her father three weeks in advance of her mother on the Queen Mary and on arrival ‘she found the English to be so friendly, their press so interested in everything she had to say. Kick had felt instantly among friends – indeed, had spoken to the newsmen and photographers as if they were friends’.

Kick was a very outgoing young woman who excelled at sporting activities which was very unusual among English society’s young women of the time. She was refreshingly open and the press loved her for it. Her mother, Rose, was a very strict and upstanding woman who very much believed in doing the right thing always by her husband. A mother of nine, she had little time for frivolity and her aim always was to be a good wife and a mother of well-rounded and polite children. At times her attitude was stifling and Kick felt smothered but she did get the opportunity to cross paths with some fascinating characters. The Mitford sisters and Oswald Mosley were part of an extended circle and Kick was quite taken by their behaviour and antics. Kick had great respect for her father, but during her time in London she discovered that the views of her father, which aligned with Chamberlain’s appeasement policy, were very much in opposition with those that feared the forward march of the Nazi regime.

Chips Channon, husband of Honor Guinness, was an American and a social climber who viewed everyone through a glaze of money and status. Chip had ambition for his young sister-in-law, Brigid Guinness, with the intention of playing matchmaker and setting her up with a German prince. Chip believed the German Empire could be strong again and forever looking ahead, he had a plan for a convenient union. Honor was exhausted with Chip’s behaviour and his constant craving for popularity. Honor was happier with a more peaceful existence but now felt like a stranger in her own home. Honor missed her friend Doris who was in Berlin. Doris was her school friend and the one person she could speak in confidence with. But Doris was part of something bigger and had a life in Berlin that was fraught with danger and suspicion.

Chip excitedly sends out invitations to an elite few to come gather at his newly restored Kelvedon Hall in Essex. Among his guests are the Kennedys, Prince Friedrich, Maureen & Duff (Basil Duff Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava) and of course his niece Brigid Guinness. Chip is always on the look out for an opportunity to improve his social standing and relishes nothing more than being surrounded by society’s finest but he soon realises that he may have been over-confident in his expectations as tempers begin to fray amongst his invited guests.

Emily Hourican takes the reader on an extraordinary journey, mixing fact and fiction, bringing the quirks and personalities of all her characters very much to life.

‘The story is mostly invented, but drawing together bits and pieces of real life in a way that I believe fits plausibly with the rest of these characters’ real lives’. – Emily Hourican

I knew nothing about the life of Kick Kennedy and of course, on turning the final page, I immediately went in search of more information. The Kennedys were staunch Catholics and this was a fact that was not easily accepted among some in the social circles in the United Kingdom at the time. Kick was different and her attitude and exuberance perplexed many, oftentimes even her own mother.

An Invitation to the Kennedys is another compelling and elegant addition to this wonderfully researched series. Historical fiction is at its best when it is an immersive experience and Emily Hourican succeeds in this every single time. In reading this novel, you are swept up in the drama, the fashion, the politics and the romance of it all. Tying in the Kennedys is a wondrous stroke and I for one would be thrilled if Emily Hourican branched out into a series about this most intriguing of families.

An Invitation to the Kennedys by Emily HouricanCapturing the tension of the late 1930s, An Invitation to the Kennedys is a very glamorous read but there is also an underlying and palpable dread as society teeters on the verge of chaos, adding a very authentic layer to the storytelling.

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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