Emma Corrigan's life is bound by secrets - she only went into marketing because photography didn't work out, she doesn't really like her boyfriend that much, her g-string is killing her, and her life hasn't been the same since her older cousin moved in when Emma was ten. It's this aspect, most of all, that's coloured her life - when fourteen year old Kerry arrived, all blonde hair and bossomy maturity, she set a pace than Emma was supposed to match but always fell short. Striving to make her parents proud of her like they are of Kerry, Emma has never stood up for herself.
Coming up to her one year performance review, Emma's determined to cinch a sale, earn a promotion she can rub in Kerry's face, and finally feel as though she's accomplished something. But it all goes wrong - the sure thing falls flat, she ends up spraying an executive with sticky soft drink, and once again her life is in ruins. A stiff drink before the flight home turns into several, and though she's upgraded to business class by a lovely and sympathetic flight attendant, the plane runs into serious turbulence. Terrified of flying (another secret), certain of near death, and quite drunk, Emma tells the guy in the seat next to her that she's going to die without having achieved anything and before she knows it hysterically confesses every secret she has. The experience is quite cathartic and safe, until the complete stranger, who has perfect recall, turns out to be Jack Harper, the American head of her company, visiting London for a week. And just like that, Emma's secrets are no longer her own.
I really enjoyed this novel from Shopaholics creator Kinsella - Emma is relatable, rounded and quite human. The secondary characters - Kerry, Kerry's boyfriend, Emma's parents and boyfriend, her housemates and her office mates - are believable and well drawn, and the cipher that is Jack is attractive, mysterious and thoughtful.
I was a little disappointed in the romantic hurdles, which primarily consisted of miscommunications and misunderstandings that could have been easily resolved with a little straight talking but are instead allowed to blow into huge obstacles. I also had the feeling, throughout the second half of the book, that I'd read it before, which is possible given it was published three years before Lynn and I began blogging.
These quibbles aside there was plenty to enjoy in Can You Keep a Secret? These include the aforementioned characterisations (I particularly liked aspects of the woebegone Connor), the romantic bus ride home after a miserably unsuccessful date, and the very satisfying comeuppance of Kerry. Kinsella conveys a nice sense of place, and I think I prefer her standalone novels to her series. - Alex