In brief: Flick, Emma and Neve are great friends, but all of them have a secret that threatens to destroy their lives. On a trip to New York, the secrets come unravelled – will their friendship help them through?
The good: A fun book that celebrates the power of friendship – a book you will race through.
The not-so-good: Whoa, Flick!
Why I chose it: I will read anything Rachael Johns writes. Thank you Harlequin for the eARC.
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Perth, Western Australia and New York City
My rating: 10 out of 10
I think I say this at the start of every Rachael Johns review I write, but I love her books. They are fun, friendly, accessible and just the kind of read you want to snuggle up with after work, before bed or on a lazy weekend. Her writing just works for me. So course, her new ‘life lit’ book The Art of Keeping Secrets is no exception. It really celebrates the power of friendship, just what good friends will do to help each other in need. The three women in this story – Felicity (Flick), Emma and Genevieve (Neve) all have secrets that will have severe ramifications once they are revealed. They turn to each other when their lives are changing hugely.
The women all became friends when their boys entered the same exclusive high school – not like the other mums, they bonded. None of them has a life of leisure. Flick is a taxidermist (yes, really) who hides a secret concerning her perfect husband. But she mistakenly finds out he wants to take things further, Flick flips out as the ideal illusion of the happy family is thwarted. Emma is always tired – who wouldn’t be, trying to keep up with three teenagers as a single mum? Plus there’s the trophy new wife and wealthy ex she has to compete with, not to mention the utter disappointment of her gorgeous and gay boss. Neve’s son has just dropped a bombshell – he wants to meet his father. The problem is, Neve has been feeding him lies for the last 17 years. Can she fix them without losing his love?
Although all the main characters carry weighty secrets, the narrative never feels despairing. There is always an element of hope, even in the darkest of moments (and Flick, you do have a pretty out there moment at the end). There is a lot of joy reflecting the power of love and family. But in order to reveal the secrets that are weighing each of the women down, they need to sacrifice something. Unfortunately, it’s someone close to them. Flick has to reveal her true feelings to her husband. Emma has to tell her children what’s really happening. Poor old Neve has to hurt both her son and the man she once loved. But is the power of love enough for them to forgive?
In The Art of Keeping Secrets, Rachael Johns pushes her characters to the utmost limits but for the reader, this is a bonus. We get to see how the characters all react to extreme stressors (not just one, but multiple times – just as you think she couldn’t throw another spanner in the works, it happens) and I felt this created a deep respect between Flick, Emma, Neve and myself. Through their issues, they really come to life. We cheer with them when they’re having a fun almost-holiday with them, we shed a tear with them when things go wrong. Plus the way the characters speak…it’s just like how women speak in the real world. The dialogue is so natural and the actions of the friends is like how you or I would react. Overall, the novel is just so easy to relate to.
Despite the sadness and anxiety that comes with revealing their secrets, I could not stop reading about these three women. I wanted to be part of their lives and share the ups and downs. The only thing that threw me was Flick’s reaction towards the end – had she still been hiding something, even from herself until she eventually cracked? I’d love to see this explored in more depth through a sequel, or novella…maybe the children of the three friends could get their own story?
I adored this book. This is one story I’ll be trying to make everyone read this spring!