Believing she is about to perish in a plane wreck, Emma Corrigan babbles out her secrets, desires and idiosyncrasies to the handsome and reassuring man seated next to her. Having survived (Emma, with her own jangled mind, was doubtful of this), she shows up for work the next day only to be introduced to that seatmate. He's the CEO of the U.S.-based Panther Cola she's been marketing.
As she tries to recover her professional stature with her boss Emma finds herself enmeshed in a tangled web of her own weaving as she tries to get to know more about Jack. It should be noted that Emma has considerable help at her crazy loom from her flatmates Lissy and Jemima. At the same time Jack is trying to get to know Emma, but his thoughts are more business-based than romance-based. Emma to him is a fine marketing specimen of a young working woman in her twenties. This part of the plot wears thin.
The early chapters, in which Emma's flight from Glasgow begins a precipitous plunge and she begins her ill-considered true confessions, are quite engaging and spring out of a genuinely sympathetic perspective: so many people are prone to chatter when in shock. And the comic element of having Emma's business-class seatmate wind up being her boss is classic stuff.
But Jack's "betrayal" of Emma does not seem genuine. Perhaps it's a cultural divide, but it's difficult to believe that any television show, even one on "Business Inspirations," would allow a CEO to go on and on about the tiny details Jack reveals, from Emma's Barbie bedspread to her borrowing her roommate's shoes (not to mention the other information about her roommate --- mortification alert!) Jack uses the elements of Emma's character that have made her so believable as a business ploy --- but what ensues feels like forced farce.
Kinsella previously gave us the light, bright and laugh-out-loud funny Shopaholic books (CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC, SHOPAHOLIC TAKES MANHATTAN and SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOT). Kinsella's "shopaholic," Becky Bloomwood, is a fictional descendant of both Thackeray's Becky Sharp and Austen's Emma Woodhouse, living by her wits but also living for others (in Becky Bloomwood's case, the suave Luke). She is known as one of the quintessential Chick Lit characters along with Bridget Jones and the Nanny Diaries nanny. Those books set a really high bar. Those books were really funny; this new one is just fun. However, one has to think if the writer were not Kinsella would we be judging CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET in the same way? And there are times where just fun is just fine.
One thing we know. After reading CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? you will use an edit chip when talking to your seatmate on airplanes, trains or other mass transit and think twice about what you share.
Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick on March 1, 2005