Jackie & Me (Hardcover)
July 2022 Indie Next List
“Lem Billings befriends Jackie Bouvier as she is sized up by the Kennedy family to become the wife of the up-and-coming politician. Told by an older Lem, it’s an insightful story of friendship, love, and sacrifice. Book clubs will love it!”
— Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
In this intriguing and entertaining novel, Bayard tells a fresh and witty tale about historical figures we thought we knew: the Kennedy and Bouvier families, especially Jack and Jackie. Our narrator Lem Billings–JFK’s best friend–however, is someone whose influence and importance we’ve just recently learned about. Thus unfolds an unusual romantic and platonic love triangle of the Gatsby model: Jack, Jackie, and Lem; Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick.
The Kennedy family had chosen Jackie because Jack needed to be married to run for President. But did Jack himself ever truly choose her? Joe Kennedy, Sr., approved and seems to have propositioned her upon their first meeting, and Ethel and Jean stopped tackling her every chance they got (literally and figuratively). Because Jack could have had his pick of numerous women, Jackie must have felt she had been elected in a sense. But her mother Janet Auchincloss wasn’t in the least impressed with the Kennedy family. She considered them social climbers in spite of their immense fortune and fame. And Jack’s similarities to her first husband–and Jackie’s father–Black Jack Bouvier were uncanny and unsettling. Nevertheless, Jackie was young, beautiful, Catholic, and willing, so Jack agreed to the union although he instructed Lem to let her know he planned to continue with his “bachelor” ways. Lem narrates a captivating yet bittersweet story of their relationship and his involvement in their courtship and early marriage.
No matter how extensive their research, historical fiction requires authors to start with a central truth then invent details to correspond. Bayard has done his homework which makes the fictional parts truly believable and as charmingly irresistible as the subjects themselves continue to be. Highly recommended!— Shirley Wells
In 1951, former debutante Jacqueline Bouvier is hard at work as the Inquiring Camera Girl for a Washington newspaper. Her mission in life is “not to be a housewife,” but when she meets the charismatic congressman Jack Kennedy at a Georgetown party, her resolution begins to falter. Soon the two are flirting over secret phone calls, cocktails, and dinner dates, and as Jackie is drawn deeper into the Kennedy orbit, and as Jack himself grows increasingly elusive and absent, she begins to question what life at his side would mean. For answers, she turns to his best friend and confidant, Lem Billings, a closeted gay man who has made the Kennedy family his own, and who has been instructed by them to seal the deal with Jack’s new girl. But as he gets to know her, a deep and touching friendship emerges, leaving him with painfully divided alliances and a troubling dilemma: Is this the marriage she deserves?
Narrated by an older Lem as he looks back at his own role in a complicated alliance, this is a courtship story full of longing and of suspense, of what-ifs and possible wrong turns. It is a surprising look at Jackie before she was that Jackie. And in best-selling author Louis Bayard’s witty and deeply empathetic telling, Jackie & Me is a page-turning story of friendship, love, sacrifice, and betrayal— and a fresh take on two iconic American figures.
—Kim Hubbard, People (Best Books of Summer 2022)
"What a pleasure . . . Bayard is such an exuberant storyteller . . . This stylish, sexy, nostalgic story will linger like Jackie’s signature scent of Pall Malls and Chateau Krigler 12. It’s a complicated bouquet of bitter and sweet."
—Elisabeth Egan, The New York Times Book Review
“A delight…a poignant, late-summer-afternoon kind of novel. ...a story perfectly tuned to our ongoing fascination with the Kennedy marriage — and a novel, like Jackie herself, with charm to spare.”
—The Washington Post
“Lem Billings was John F. Kennedy’s prep school roommate and a close friend. He was also gay. This captivating work of historical fiction offers an intimate look into Lem’s relationships with the charismatic young senator and the budding journalist Jacqueline Bouvier, whom JFK enlists Lem to vet.”
—People (Book of the Week)
“The charms of Bayard’s delightful new novel about Jackie Kennedy aren’t only found in its historical context but also in its intelligent, witty tone and poignant dissection of friendship, class and betrayal. The outcome is surprisingly affecting, and Bayard’s gamble of embarking on a well-known path from an unusual perspective pays off handsomely.”
—Connie Ogle, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Narrator Lem is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway … Jackie, she’s pure delight … Romance with bite: the perfect escapism for today’s anxious times.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Here he brings a poignant empathy, persuasive intimacy, and nuanced imagination to his interpretation of a relatively unexamined chapter in Kennedy lore.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Bayard (Courting Mr. Lincoln) offers an enchanting narrative of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Jacqueline Bouvier…delightfully dishy… Bayard suffuses the spritzy story with wit, charm, and depth. The result is tailor-made for fans of Camelot drama.”
"All of Louis Bayard’s incredible gifts as a teller of stories we think we already know are on brilliant display here: a captivating setting, unforgettable characters, and an entirely surprising take on a familiar tale. Jackie Me is riveting, funny, charming, and haunting. He makes it look so easy! I will happily follow Bayard wherever he leads."
—Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest and Good Company
"A loving and romantic look at an unlikely friendship told with a playful command of language that feels as effortless as it is exciting. Bayard possesses a singular wit and deftly uses it to give fresh insight into even his best known characters. I never wanted it to end."
—Steven Rowley, author of The Editor and The Guncle
"I absolutely adore this novel! It’s a testament to Louis Bayard’s remarkable gifts as storyteller how suspenseful it is given that we already know this story… or do we? Full of Bayard’s trademark charm and wit, with prose that sings and a perfect voice, Jackie Me delighted me from beginning to end."
—Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek
"We all dream of novels as good as this one: Fascinating, funny, gorgeous, heartbreaking. In my next life I want to be Louis Bayard."
—Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank With Me and Better Luck Next Time
“A startling rendering of Jackie Kennedy’s life written with panache and daring.”
—Laurence Leamer, bestselling author of The Kennedy Women and Capote's Women
"It's hard to combine wit and tender-heartedness in a single book, but Louis Bayard has produced a lovely amalgam in Jackie and Me. This latest subtly crafted addition to his oeuvre boasts a top-notch structure and the best-ever depiction of 'Papa Joe' Kennedy, as well as a portrait of Janet Auchincloss, Jackie’s mother, that is poisonous perfection."
—Thomas Mallon, author of Henry and Clara and Watergate
Praise for Courting Mr. Lincoln:
“An exquisite historical reimagining of a love acknowledged—and a longing denied.”
“Bayard has written eight other novels, and he’s extraordinarily gifted at blending provocative fiction with history. The details of [Mary Todd and Lincoln’s] courtship are lovely to read, but Lincoln’s time with Speed is much more riveting. At book’s end, who’s courting Lincoln remains an enticing mystery.”
—The Washington Post
“Bayard's masterful command of language enchants and thrills; his meticulous, almost otherworldly, understanding of his historical subject awes and inspires . . . Courting Mr. Lincoln is Bayard at his absolute best. He offers more reasons to love one of the most admired presidents in U.S. history and proves yet again why he himself is one of the nation's greatest literary gems.”
“Thoroughly researched and thrillingly plotted . . . Filled with rich historical detail and compulsively readable, Courting Mr. Lincoln is a story of a best friend, a future wife, and the political legend that they came together to create, each leaving an indelible mark on the man that would one day become president. Fans of historical fiction will be up late into the night to uncover the next chapter of this fascinating time in history.”
—New York Journal of Books
Praise for Louis Bayard’s Previous Work:
“A tour de force.”
“Brilliantly plotted and completely absorbing.”
—Sunday Times (London)
“Shimmering, knock-your-socks-off language.”
“Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the past as if he’d witnessed it firsthand.”
—The New York Times