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Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath | [Mimi Alford]

Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

In the summer of 1962, 19-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived by train in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. The Kennedy Administration had reinvigorated the capital and the country - and Mimi was eager to contribute. For a young woman from a privileged but sheltered upbringing, the job was the chance of a lifetime. Mimi made an impression on Kennedy's inner circle and, after just three days at the White House, she was presented to the President himself....
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Publisher's Summary

In the summer of 1962, 19-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived by train in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. The Kennedy Administration had reinvigorated the capital and the country - and Mimi was eager to contribute. For a young woman from a privileged but sheltered upbringing, the job was the chance of a lifetime. Although she started as a lowly intern, Mimi made an impression on Kennedy's inner circle and, after just three days at the White House, she was presented to the President himself.

Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next 18 months.

In an era when women in the workplace were still considered "girls", Mimi was literally a girl herself - naive, innocent, emotionally unprepared for the thrill that came when the President's charisma and power were turned on her full-force. She was also unprepared for the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world.

Then, after the President's tragic death in Dallas, she grieved in private, locked her secret away, and tried to start her life anew, only to find that her past would cast a long shadow and ultimately destroy her relationship with the man she married.

In 2003, a Kennedy biographer mentioned "a tall, slender, beautiful 19-year-old college sophomore and White House intern, who worked in the press office" in reference to one of the President's affairs. The disclosure set off a tabloid frenzy and soon exposed Mimi and the secret that she had kept for 41 years. Because her past had been revealed in such a shocking, public way, she was forced, for the first time, to examine the choices she'd made. She came to understand that shutting down one part of her life so completely had closed her off from so much more.

No longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford has finally unburdened herself with this searingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. Once Upon a Secret offers a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.

©2012 Mimi Alford (P)2012 Random House

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (127 )
5 star
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3.9 (108 )
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  •  
    Ted Menifee, CA, United States 08-20-15
    Ted Menifee, CA, United States 08-20-15 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    84
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    "About half of this is interesting history"

    The book is more or less divided into three parts. The first concerns one of President Kennedy's dalliances. You learn how a woman less than half the president's age caught his eye and was steered into a situation where he could take advantage of her. The system for doing so was apparently put in place by the president and used many times. For those of us who thought well of President Kennedy this might be disappointing, but it is definitely an interesting bit of history. Ms. Alford makes it clear that she was not a victim, apart from having been cornered in the first encounter.

    The second part of the book begins with the president's assassination and switches the focus to the author rather than the president. This was not really what I signed up for but I continued to listen for its references to historic events.

    In a final section Ms. Alford's marriage falls apart and she finally discovers true love. I am glad her new relationship is happy, but I would not have bought a book about that.

    I think anyone with an interest in American history will enjoy the part of this book about important national events. The rest of the book concerns a different topic, and history readers may not finish the book. The reader did an excellent job and I would certainly look forward to hearing her work again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Reaux 07-02-15
    Sam Reaux 07-02-15
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    2
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    "Such a compelling read!"

    This book was so great! It was so interesting and kept me listening. I read it once before and was happy to hear it as an audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Santa Rosa, California, United States 01-10-15
    Margaret Santa Rosa, California, United States 01-10-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Flat"

    For a book which, I presume, is meant to take advantage of the so-called salacious and gratuitous interest in celebropolitical figures, this book was so dull I couldn't imagine how it had found a publisher. Nor could I imagine what attracted JFK to this dullard apart from the most basic and crudely obvious. Don't bother with this because there is no high-minded insight and no low-minded juicy gossip either. Not even the supposedly professional narrator can stay awake through this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone 12-24-14
    Simone 12-24-14 Member Since 2015

    Member Since 2006!!

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    "Interesting Memoir"

    Interesting memoir about our Favourite Philandering President.

    I had a hard time buying her recall of her first encounter with him – I find it difficult to believe her naivete. It was as if all the events were happening to her and she was just a cog in the wheel. A helpless deer in the headlights powerless to say no. Perhaps 19 year olds really were like that in the 60s as opposed to when I was that age in the 90s, but I find it hard to believe.

    Later in the book as she talks more about her motivations, she explains how she felt seduced and enamoured and flattered and special… THAT I do believe! I just think she felt that way from the word GO but perhaps does not want to remember it that way because she feels too ashamed or judged?

    I also found her “sudden” after-the-fact-realization that she stopped being intimate with him right around the time she got engaged a little too convenient.

    Ultimately, we must take her word for it. It’s her story after all so I give her the benefit of the doubt.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine groton, MA, United States 09-18-12
    Christine groton, MA, United States 09-18-12 Member Since 2012
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    "fascinating"
    Any additional comments?

    I thought that I would dislike her but instead I really empathized with her naivete. She gives insight into relationships. Kennedy overstepped his boundaries but in a very primitive live-for-the-moment way. The death of his infant son made me empathize more.A very compelling read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara 07-18-12
    Barbara 07-18-12
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    "Excellent Story - Excellent Narrator"
    Where does Once Upon a Secret rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Mimi Alford's account of her affair with JFK was very interesting and told with heart-felt honesty. No stone was left unturned as she unveiled her story. Being the same age as Mimi in 1962, I can relate to a 19 yr. old girl's excitement caused by her experiences in Washington, DC. Young and innocent, Mimi, gave no excuses for her actions, other than she was star-struck and overwhelmed by the affection shown her by the President of the United States. The narrator, Susan Denaker, did a superb job of telling the story, and I felt as though Mimi, herself, was speaking.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    No one particular part. All chapters were thoroughly interesting.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    There were no funny parts. I almost felt just like I was there, as the descriptions were so vivid.


    Any additional comments?

    Recommend the audiobook above other versions due to the excellent narration. Enjoyed this book and appreciated Mimi's honesty. Also, I have a much lower opinion of JFK than before I read the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jennifer north arlington, NJ, United States 05-21-12
    jennifer north arlington, NJ, United States 05-21-12
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    "very interesting"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Once Upon a Secret to be better than the print version?

    yes... i love sitting outside listening to the book


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Once Upon a Secret?

    the ending


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    she made me cry when the president died and she told her boyfriend about what had been going on.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth DURHAM, NC, United States 04-19-12
    Elizabeth DURHAM, NC, United States 04-19-12
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    "Intriguing but loses steam after affair"
    Would you listen to Once Upon a Secret again? Why?

    No, b/c I heard what I wanted and it is definitely not something I would listen to over and over again.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Lame, but understandable.


    What aspect of Susan Denaker’s performance would you have changed?

    I would have shortened the synopsis of life after the affair while still getting her message across.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Made me sad for her, and the fact that she even in later years thinks love can solve life's emptiness....it can but not from an earthly man.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 04-18-12
    Richard 04-18-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One person's story. Very personal!"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Don't think that could happen. Just a very sad story. Especially when someone is talking about their own shortcomings.


    Would you recommend Once Upon a Secret to your friends? Why or why not?

    Probably not. I do not think it was a memroble book..


    What didn’t you like about Susan Denaker’s performance?

    Don't recall


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Weldon 04-17-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kept my interest"
    Any additional comments?

    This book gave insight into a very interesting time in our nation's history. It made me feel for Jackie, and all she went through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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