Can You Keep a Secret?
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Can You Keep a Secret?. Becky Bloomwood, the heroine of Kinsella’s previous books, the Shopaholic trilogy, struck me as an irresponsible twit, but Kinsella’s writing was enjoyable. So this time I was hoping for a better protagonist. And, lucky me, I got one.
Emma Corrigan isn’t a twit, but she does have a tendency to fall into awkward situations, mostly because her insecurities rule her personal roost. Emma is a marketing assistant – mostly a glorified secretary. She yearns for a promotion to marketing exec so that she can show her family and especially her overachiever cousin Kerry that she is so a success. When no one is available to nail down a done deal in Glasgow, Emma’s company, Panther Corporation, sends her up there as the fill-in body. But when she gets there she realizes that the deal has gone sour. Her attempts to shore things up fail miserably, and she makes her way to the airport lounge to drown her sorrows.
Midway through the rocky flight home, a tipsy and frightened Emma winds up spilling her life’s secrets to her seatmate, a young American guy who is an astonishingly good listener. Emma tells him all all about her too small g- string and where and with whom she lost her virginity. She vents about her family and Kerry and about her job and her coworkers. She talks about her unsatisfying relationship with her boyfriend Connor. By the time the plane lands, she’s sobered up and he knows everything there is to know about her. Awash with embarrassment, Emma scurries from the plane, glad beyond measure that she will never see him again. But Monday morning at work, she gets an awful shock. Jack Harper, the head of Panther Corporation drops in the London office for a look-see – and to Emma’s extreme humiliation, she realizes Jack is the guy from the plane. What is she going to do now?
Okay, this book pivots on a premise that is pretty shaky – the coincidental unknowing meeting between boss and employee – and the fairly unbelievable supposition that anyone would actually pay any attention to the drunken ramblings of their obnoxious seatmate. But if you can get beyond those two things, this is a fun story. Emma is a bit clueless, but she’s conscious of the fact that her desire to appear more together than she is can be dangerous, and when mini-disasters happen (as they frequently do), she takes it on the chin. She and Mia Thermopolis have that in common.
It is really quite amusing to watch Emma deal with all the things she told Jack on the plane. She is no longer able to use all the small social lies she would normally tell to smoothe things over or make a good impression on him, and he knows it – and rather enjoys twitting her about them. The two of them have a nice, subtle chemistry together. Another welcome touch is that Emma’s boyfriend isn’t a complete rotter like so many of boyfriends in Chick Lit. He’s just wrong for her, and she has to figure out what to do about that.
Jack, on the other hand, is more than right for her and more than willing to make her life better and more enjoyable. Many of the things that make Emma feel helpless are the same everyday things that would grind anyone down. Her coworkers shaft her. Her family underrates her. Her roommate is a witch. And rather than make a big fuss over it, Emma is a good sport. But every slight undercuts her self-esteem. Jack, knowing her secrets and being the boss, is in an excellent position to call attention to these slights, and he does. Because Emma is so likable a character, his putting things to rights for her is a big fat warm fuzzy for the reader.
Unfortunately, because this book is written in the first person, Jack remains enigmatic throughout, and so just what this super-successful multi- millionaire sees in Emma remains a bit of a mystery, as do certain other things about his character. The other secondary characters aren’t very dimensional either, but as they are there for mostly comedic purposes, they don’t detract from the story.
Can You Keep a Secret? was a fun book that lifted my spirits and made me smile repeatedly. In some very pleasant ways this book reminded me of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series. Both have heroines who want to be cooler and more sophisticated, but are more lovable the way they actually are. If you’re looking for a light, happy, feel-good read I recommended picking this one up.