To my surprise this book is a love story. Not a salacious inappropriate smut filled account, but rather one with stories of growth, fun times, laughter, dedication, respect! A story of sorrow and sadness that is uplifting because of caring and friendship. This book is a warm modern portrait the Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and their children from someone who was close to them with no axe to grind. Even the sad events are presented with compassion. There's a lot of love in this book.
Secret Service Agent Clint Hill begins his association in late 1960 with the Kennedy administration in a fearful place. Fearful that after a couple of years of what he believed was success on President Eisenhower's detail, he's suddenly removed from the "main action" of protecting the president. Is this a demotion he bemoans? Like any macho Secret Service dude seeking to advance, Mr. Hill naturally dreads moving to the First Ladies detail with its potential daily doses of "fashion shows and the ballet." Yet, both loving his job and having a young family to support, Mr. Hill accepts his fate and reports to 3307 N Street, Georgetown, to meet (be approved by??!!) the young First Lady-elect (she's already rejected one perspective agent!!).
Disappoint quickly turns to beguilement, as Clint Hill is thoroughly charmed and enchanted by this beautiful, fun, witty, intelligent, adventurous, sporty, irreverent and yeah, a bit of a spoiled rich girl (who knows how to get her way). Heck, he even learns to not mind the occasional fashion show (so long as it features the First Lady!), ballet in New York and even personally shopping for ladies apparel in Ravello, Itally!!!! Who woulda thunk it.
No, I've not overdone it on the adjectives and yeah, this isn't your typical "Kennedy" bio. Mr. Hill doesn't criticize or attack, but showers his subject with affection. He and all the agents, because of the nature of their jobs, seemingly abandon their own lives and families in their service to the first family and all who they protect. One can see how the close private contact and the enormous amount of time spent away from the agent's loved ones can lead to feelings that are deeper and more personal towards the subject of their protection.
Mr. Hill (and she's "Mrs. Kennedy - she adheres to proper address at all times) not only loves the First Lady, but he also very much cares for her husband and their children too. He just plain loves the Kennedy first family period - and says that despite what's been written, they were a loving and playful family. He even is amused by the extended Kennedy clan and their friends!!
Mr. Hill doesn't portend to sell more books by detailing alleged unsavory dalliances and missteps. You will find no recollections or opinions about the first couple's sex life (apart from a remembrance about some suggestive art that the First Lady picks up in India...humorous not amorous). While Mr. Hill does mention a certain controversial birthday featuring a drunken female movie star and her singing, and he does hint at a certain rat pack crooners' rather inappropriate interest in Mrs. Kennedy's personal activities (this was new to me - and I've read at least 50 bios on the K's), Mr. Hill doesn't go further than what he truly knows to be true - which is that Mrs. Kennedy never shared her feelings about either.
I felt his writing in this way showed not only respect for his subjects, but a certain truth missing in most other biographies that serve rumor as fact, and seem to relish ripping their subjects apart. Well, there's no ripping here.
If one reads between the lines, here is a portrait of a woman who undoubtedly loves her place in life with her powerful, public servant, handsome husband (whatever his warts), and yet thrives on the one thing that is the antithesis of his job (and perhaps his entire being) - privacy. A lady who is tough and yet wears her vulnerabilities in "her espresso-colored eyes." A lady who claims to dislike the "fish bowl" existence inherent in the White House, yet secretly enjoys reading the gossip magazines featuring herself.
Topics that Mr. Hill offers an accounting:
Why Mrs. Kennedy spent so much time away from the White House (Mr. Hill says she spent about eight percent of her time AWAY from the White House during one time period in 1961).
Mrs. Kennedy's various vacations and partying amongst the creme de la creme of the European social set without her husband (according to Mr. Hill, usually with her SISTER - and nothing out of line - except for the time she jumps in the sports car of a very, very young Greek Count who engages Mr. Hill and his fellow agents on a high speed chase...but that was about fun - not illicit romance).
Onassis! I didn't know that President Kennedy felt so strongly about Mrs. Kennedy having nothing to do with Onassis as early as her visit to Greece in 1961!!! Mr. Hill felt very uneasy about the Greek tycoon.
Despite the fun and adventures, in the end, this is a story about great pain, loss and sorrow. Also, about one man's journey to learning to forgive himself. This book is a great success for no other reason than its finally allowed Mr. Hill peace of mind.