“But there’s a part of me that wants a huge, amazing romance.”
If ever there was a book that kept me laughing from start to finish, it was this book. Told in the first person present tense of Emma Corrigan, this book has voice. By voice, I mean… personality. The way this story is told by this author far exceeds the stereotypical chick lit genre. When I first downloaded “Can You Keep a Secret?” into my ereader, I hadn’t meant it to be for this column. But then I started it and finished it, and I had to talk about it. So here I am, telling you, dear reader, that if you love chick lit books, this is it, and if you’ve never read a chick lit novel, try this one now. It is so much more than the office girl fumbling in front of her multimillionaire boss.
The author tackles commonplace issues in a spectacular way— from roommates to best friends, from office colleagues to family relationships, and yes, there is romance. There are many reasons why someone happens to love a specific book, and I think one of the reasons this author succeeded in capturing my attention is because of her characters. I know these characters. I have known these characters in real life. These people in this story have crossed my path many times or maybe just once during my lifetime.
Emma and her roommates, Lissy and Jemima, make for an interesting trio living in London. Lissy is a lawyer and Emma’s best friend. She’s the one with the rational advice and the one who stays by Emma’s side during their escapade into Jemima’s room to find something wonderful to wear when Emma has a date. Jemima, with the best closet filled with the best clothes, is like that friend I wish I had in college but without the traps she sets around her room to stop her roommates from borrowing her awesome designer clothes.
Then there’s Emma’s parents and her cousin, Kerry, and the author does such a magnificent job creating real, believable family dynamics that I’m sucked into another chapter without even realizing my ereader night mode has automatically switched on. At one point in the novel Emma thinks that being promoted is the only thing she wants in the whole world, and her motivation stems from an earlier thought: “It would just show Dad I’m not a complete loser.”
But more than wanting to prove herself to her family, including her older cousin Kerry who seems to always take the attention away from Emma, Emma is more than “an ordinary, nothing-special girl.” She is the girl I wish I knew in my real life when I was a quarter of a century. She’s had a couple of failed career attempts, but she wants to be independent, and I think her best quality is that she’s hopeful.
“She believes in love and romance. She believes her life is one day going to be transformed into something wonderful and exciting… Sometimes she feels she will never gain approval from those people who are most important to her.”
And it isn’t until I get to Jack that I realize I’ve seen this coming from the start, and the pacing of the novel, the agonizing wait for Emma to get to where I already hope this is going, is worth it. But the romance is only a tiny piece of the story. This book, this genre, is something that is unique in that it focuses on the issues of contemporary women and how they overcome the obstacles in their life. Their decisions are based on complex, multi-layered matters that develop them into accomplished women. Like all strong fiction, Emma’s journey from the first chapter to the last shows her character development and her lessons learned in the most brilliant way. This is definitely a genre I will explore more in depth.
And now it’s your turn! What subgenres of fiction have you read recently? Which ones have you never tried? Someone recently recommended a horror novel to me, and to be honest, I’m a bit hesitant to willing read something that might give me night terrors, so that is probably one I’ll skip. But please keep those recommendations coming! I love hearing from readers, and I’m excited to say that I’ve been invited to attend a book club meeting on Marco Island in January, and I can’t wait to report on that discussion!
As always, thanks for your time!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: www.marisacleveland.com or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.