A Handsome Lie

John F. Kennedy is the man whose picturesque presidency launched a thousand coffee-table books. When the late conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. was asked to explain Kennedy’s enduring appeal, he said, “His sheer beauty.”

Mimi Alford’s account of life at the White House as a 19-year-old intern who caught the president’s eye is a vividly personal portrayal of the ugliness behind the alluring images. Alford’s belated tell-all, Once Upon a Secret, should be assigned in women’s-studies classes as an illustration of the power imbalances in employer-employee sexual liaisons, especially those involving commanders-in-chief and their interns.

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