Book Review for “The Girl in White Gloves” by Kerri Maher.
Grace Kelly was a young woman on the rise in Hollywood, already with an Oscar award, when she met Rainier, the Prince of Monaco, which led her on a path she never would have scripted for herself. It is a Cinderella, fairy-tale story with more than a few veritable ugly step-sisters along the way, some of which end up inside her castle after the glorious wedding. No, Her Serene Highness’ story isn’t fully the happily-ever-after romance that a producer like Disney would have us believe. But even in adversity, there is… well… I guess you can’t avoid the pun… Grace!
My regular readers will recall that Kerri Maher’s debut novel, “The Kennedy Debutante” got such high marks from me in 2018, that it even appeared on my “best of” list for that year. So, when I saw this available on Edelweiss, I grabbed at the chance to read it before publication, and I’m not in the least bit sorry that I did. Of course, my interest here wasn’t just because I’m old enough to have seen most of the movies she made (mind you, not so old that I saw them in movie theaters), but also because she was always somewhat of a mysterious personality, if not an enigma. The American who ends up leaving fame and fortune behind to become a princess must have been happy, and yet, her having been out of the spotlight for most of her adult life always made me feel sad for her. And I recall her tragic death, which affected me deeply, and much more than hearing of Princess Diana’s death.
What I was hoping to get with this book was a fictional way to humanize this woman that was so stunningly beautiful, and so poised, that many referred to her as an “ice princess” long before she married a real-life prince. In fact, this is precisely what Maher has given us here, and I couldn’t be happier. Maher draws Grace as a highly conflicted woman, one who had to struggle to make it in the world of stage and screen. Her struggles weren’t so much regarding her talent, which she had in spades, but rather with her family, society in general, the artistic world, and her own heart. Maher’s portrait includes both obvious and subtle inner struggles, and speculates on how she was able to cope when things didn’t go well, while allowing her to bask in the glory of her successes. This makes Grace into a real human being, with all her flaws and blemishes that almost never showed up on camera. It makes me wonder how this woman survived without becoming addicted to alcohol or anti-depressants, because some of the trials Maher describes could have easily pushed her down one of those rabbit holes. That certainly makes me admire her even more than I already did.
I should mention, however, that I did feel that perhaps Maher added a bit too much detail of Kelly’s earlier life. In particular, her romances prior to meeting Rainier could have been shorted a tad, to push things forward faster. I say this because as we got to the part of the story where she goes to Monaco to meet him for the first time, the pace of this book seemed to go up a notch. Not that it was slow before then, but there were a couple of times when I really wanted Maher to move into that part of her life a little quicker. It did help that Maher inserted later sections of the Princess’s life strategically into the earlier parts, but these just made me want to hear more about her life with her prince even more.
Mind you, as I noted above, some of the dilemmas of the Princess’s later life felt very depressing, but Maher did an excellent job of guiding her through these difficult periods, and the descriptions of the incredibly beautiful scenery helped lighten some of the darker passages. In fact, it was almost exciting to read these heavier, fictional passages that explored what was obviously such a sheltered and privileged life. On the other hand, as I got closer to the end of this book, I wanted the pace to slow down, hoping not to get to the inevitable close to this very special woman’s life, but alas… all good things must come to an end. And here I have to say that if Maher hadn’t written the perfect ending (which was a stroke of genius, if you ask me), and then made me cry from there as well as while reading the author’s notes (of all things), I might have rated this book half a star lower. As it was, the slower pacing in the early part of the book, and the one mistake I found (Grace “high fived” her daughters several years before that became a thing), were eclipsed by the ending of this novel. So, once again, I’m giving Maher a full five out of five stars and I warmly recommend this book to lovers of biographical, historical, women’s fiction.
Berkley (Penguin Random House) released “The Girl in White Gloves” by Kerri Maher on February 25, 2020. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.