I am a fan of World War II historical fiction. Learning about the private side of a celebrated figure is very enticing especially when a bit of romance is thrown in. Let me be clear, I am not a serious student of warfare so I accept much of what I read as truth based on the assumption that the author has done his or her research. Having been born under the Truman Administration I have vague recollections of Dwight Eisenhower as president. That said, I dove into this book with an open mind. I was not disappointed.
The story centers on a young woman Transport Driver by the name of Kay Summersby. After driving an ambulance during the Blitz in London she is assigned to be the driver for an up-and-coming 2-star general by the name of Dwight Eisenhower, whom she refers to as ‘the boss’. Through her skills as a driver and her knowledge of London she soon becomes an indispensable part of Eisenhower’s “war family” – a small team who work closely with ‘the boss’. Over several months Ike comes to depend on Kay almost to the point of seeing her as a surrogate wife as well as a team member. It is she who senses when he needs a break; it is she who pours him his nightly whiskey; and it is she who listens as he talks out his frustrations over war strategy and dealing with other Allies. During the working hours she is his faithful companion, driving, waiting, always at the general’s beck and call. Being a public figure of the time, Ike is photographed profusely by British and American journalists alike; and it seems that in each picture there is Kay – doing nothing more than her job. The Brits think nothing of her presence and assume that Kay and Ike are having an affair; the consensus is that most generals have a mistress so why not Ike? Back in America it soon comes to Mamie Eisenhower’s attention that her husband may be involved with his driver. Speculation is rampant among Washington’s inner circle.
While Ike and Kay grow ever closer as the warfare increases, they do indeed find comfort in being alone together. Do they carry on a full blown affair? The answer to that is questionable. While Kay falls in love with her charming boss, Ike doesn’t quite see it the same way. He is smitten with the woman who looks after him, that’s for sure. He watches out for her in as many ways as possible, i.e., having her promoted, etc. But when the war comes to its end and Ike is called back to Washington he severs ties with the woman who thought she had captured his heart. Even though he has arranged for her to come to America and work as a WAC, she is assigned to California – as far away as possible from the man she loves. Nursing a broken heart, she resigns from the service and moves back to New York City. It takes her a long time to get over Ike even as she eventually accepts another man’s proposal.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. And let’s not forget that this is a fictional account based on historical facts. The question remains unanswered – did Ike have a wartime affair with Kay Summersby? There are two camps – both pro and con – that are still at odds to this day. I say let the reader make their own decision. This story is one author’s interpretation of such events.
I found Ike and Kay to be well written and steady paced. Even after putting down my Kindle, the story called to me to turn another page. When this happens I know I’ve found a good book. There will be many who argue about the discrepancy of historical dates and facts but I wasn’t there so I must rely on the interpretation found in the story. Swirling controversy will only serve the author well in this case.
Note: I received a complimentary copy from the author’s publicist.
Rating: 5 Stars