GENRE: Chick Lit
PUBLISHED: Dell Books, 2008 (2004)
The back blurb:
Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets:
Secrets from her boyfriend:
I’ve always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.
Secrets from her mother:
I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur
Secrets she wouldn’t share with anyone in the world:
I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is.
Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger… Until Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company’s elusive CEO, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her…”
Can You Keep a Secret? is a dream-come-true story for a nice and ordinary girl-next-door who feels unappreciated and slighted all around (family, boyfriend, work) and who is prone of getting into embarrassing situations, and then Prince Charming comes and sees through all that and sees HER. It might be a fairy tale but it is a good written, fun fairy tale with enough serious undertones to make it more than just writing dream-fulfillments and with a likable main character who has an engaging voice (it’s told in first person).
I really liked that “secrets” featured prominently in the story. It’s not just in the beginning with the “cute meet,” secrets and the question/decision when to keep them and when not, come up again and again. Most especially of course for Emma, who has so many little secrets – nice secrets, not bad secrets because she doesn’t want to hurt people the same way she feels hurt by people – she’s not really herself. Like what she tells her boyfriend Conner:
“… he kept saying, What was it like, what was it like ? So I just made some stuff up, I said it was absolutely amazing, and it felt as though my whole body were opening up like a flower, and he said what sort of flower, so I said a begonia…”
Enter Jack who is her boss and who knows this and more secrets thanks to Emma spilling them all on the plane, and Emma has to face some things about herself.
Can You Keep a Secret? is often laugh-out-loud-funny and zips along at a nice pace. Especially in the beginning when Emma repeatedly comes face to face with Jack and situations Jack knows are linked to one of Emma’s secrets – like when a friend asks Emma to “go over some numbers” at work which is their code to skip out for a coffee break – there is one hilarious and awkward situation after the next (hilarious for the reader, awkward for Emma). It’s really fun to see Emma come face-to-face with the small social lies – tempting and familiar little lies – she tells to smooth things over.
Later, the focus shifts to Emma dealing with the ramifications of keeping these secrets in relation to her identity which slowed the pacing some in that there were less (= not every scene) of the LOL scenes but I liked the more serious look at keeping secrets and identity as well. Emma kept the secrets/told the lies for a reason and now she has to figure out which secrets are better kept secret (if any at all) and which not.
While Jack is definitely yummy and he really gets Emma, he also was a bit of a mystery and I would have liked to see more of his feelings (as far as that’s possible with first person). I guess I was waiting for a big talk where Jack tells his side of the story, declaring he was smitten the first moment he set eyes on Emma (or something like that) and how utterly desperate he was that he would not to see her again when they left the plane. Which is actually there, kind of, but not enough for me, I guess (LOL). I also asked myself why he was attracted to Emma besides being charmed by her “ordinariness.”
Verdict: Can You Keep a Secret? is a fun, fluffy, feel-good novel. It’s also a modern fairy tale – the klutzy woman snatches the über-successful businessman – that nearly always leaves me a bit uncomfortable and I would have liked more character development. But I thought it a decent novel (3,5/5) and a very enjoyable read. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ll read it again because it’s the kind of novel that makes for a good re-read in my experience.