Book Club: The Art of Keeping Secrets

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Author: Rachael Johns
ISBN: 9781489210531
RRP: $32.99

The Art of Keeping Secrets is the latest life-lit by Rachael Johns and I can safely say it’s her best yet. Though I suppose I should add, in my opinion. She has tackled tough but topical issues and she has done so with sensitivity and still a sense of wit.

This book has been on my desk for a couple of weeks and I have been putting it off knowing that I can’t put my review up for another couple of weeks… well I just couldn’t ignore it any longer. And once I started I have been ignoring everything else… washing, eating, family.

There are so many things I want to tell you about this amazing story but I don’t want to take away the impact of reading it for yourselves so I am going to have to be careful how I approach it.

Flick, Neve and Emma are best of friends, they met when their sons started at an elite private high school and hit it off because they didn’t fit in with the rest of the mothers. They certainly weren’t ladies who lunched and though they have careers they love but they aren’t the high profile careers of the other school mums.

As is often the case it’s hard to know whose close friendship came first, the mothers or the sons, but the families all became quite close and spent lots of time together. They became more like extended family than just friends.

The three woman are quite different and their home situations are worlds apart as well but they have an empathetic bond that sees them try to understand the other situations, though it’s always quite difficult to wear another shoes in these situations. They share everything, or at least they thought they did….

It seems that there are secrets in all of their lives and when they come out the collateral damage could be very far reaching.

Secrets are a tricky business, especially if you have been keeping them for a lot of years; the way Flick and Neve have been. It gets to the point where the fear of revealing the truth is a toss up between the reaction to the truth and the anger of the fact that the secret has been between you for so many years. By their nature though, secrets have a habit of coming out in the end regardless of whether you want them to or not.

The Art of Keeping Secrets

I read an ARC of The Art of Keeping Secrets so I’m not sure if this is something that changed in the finished copy, but in the copy I read the chapters are headed by the full name of the character whose head we are in for that chapter – and all references in the story are by their nicknames. It took me a couple of chapters to get my head around it but it was no real biggie.

The story is told in alternating chapters by each of the friends as we follow them through a tumultuous stage in each of their lives as their sons are coming up to their year 12 graduations. This story is a perfect example of everything going wrong at once, and I’m going to do something I never do and put a line in here that actually made me laugh out loud.

Neve was right – their lives were a shambles. Someone could write a book about them.

This was just the perfect example, everything went so terrifically wrong all at once that it had to be immortalised…. and it was by the talented Rachael Johns.

Neve’s secret is the first to break and it sees her booking a trip to New York, just days after the three friends were talking about how much they needed to splurge on a girls getaway. In the end Flick and Emma join Neve on her trip to offer support, and soak up the shopping.

The trip offers them some wonderful girl time but it is marred by the stress all three women are under. It brings them together while at times threatening to tear apart even their strong bonds.

All three of these women are strong and independent, they are relatable and realistic and they could be any one of us. They find themselves in situations where it would be so easy to judge, and each of the women find themselves sitting in judgement at one time or another but they also recognise the derogatory effect of judgement and work hard to get past that so they can offer the support that is really needed.

The events faced by each of the women, and in effect the three of them together, show them a new perspective and offer an opportunity for reflection and for change.

The situations faced by Flick, Emma and Neve are not ones that have touched my life, though there are similar ones in my wider circle so these were very new concepts for me to actually try to wrap my head around.

An amazing tale of friendship, love, tribulation and the ability to get through anything life throws at you with the right support network.

Johns has tackled some hard-hitting topics with sensitivity and insight and she’s brought one rather high profile social issue of our times in close and made it personal, and she’s done it well.

This is definitely the best work I have read by Rachael Johns and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Art of Keeping Secrets is book #36 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

Rachael Johns can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her Website.

The Art of Keeping Secrets is available from October 2016 through Harlequin and available to pre-order now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Art of Keeping Secrets so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments, and we are ever so excited to be getting such an early look at this great book.

23 thoughts on “Book Club: The Art of Keeping Secrets

  1. Rachael Johns knows how to tell a good story. The author has written numerous romance novels and chick lit books. Her latest novel, The Art of Keeping Secrets is a well-crafted and emotional piece of fiction. It’s also a story that is a testament to the power of female friendship.

    The story is about three women who have been friends for the past five years while their sons have been studying together at high-school. The trio have a regular book club meeting but they’re also heavily involved in each other’s lives. You have the down-to-earth Felicity (known to everyone as “Flick”) who is a non-nonsense woman and a keen taxidermist. She seems to be living a textbook romance despite being married to her near-perfect husband Seb for years. But is their marriage all it’s cracked up to be?

    Emma is the divorced mother of Caleb and twin teenage girls, Laura and Louise. She is a superwoman juggling the new demands of full-time work and single motherhood. She appears to be coping but she is also harbouring a number of secrets of the head and heart. Then there’s Genevieve (known as “Neve”) who is a looks-obsessed make-up artist and a single mum who has a close relationship with her son, Will because she has always been the sole parent in his life. The only problem is she hasn’t told Will the truth about his father’s true identity.

    This novel is told in the third person and split into separate chapters focusing on each of these strong women. Their friendship is a real and inspiring one and the trio are almost like sisters. They’ve shared lots of things together and they’ve also had their share of ups and downs and lived to tell the tale afterwards. So they should be able to make it through anything that life throws at them, right?

    Rachael Johns has crafted an excellent little book in The Art of Keeping Secrets. She reveals things slowly with just enough to keep the reader hooked and interested. The reader is basically strapped into an emotional roller coaster of a journey, bumps and all! In sum, this book is a fun read about three strong, everyday women and it examines the choices they make and how their secrets, lies and betrayals have lasting impacts on the individuals living around them. Fascinating stuff.

  2. The Art Of Keeping Secrets is essentially a story about friendships and secrets that are kept, as well as the repercussions that occur when secrets are finally disclosed…
    Three best friends, Felicity (or Flick, as she is affectionately known), Emma, and Neve met when their sons began high school together.
    They are always there for each other to offer advice and support, but could the secrets they hide unravel their strong bond?
    Flick has a shocking secret relating to her marriage, and she grapples with prospect of holding on to it forever.
    Emma is divorced and struggling financially. Pressures of single-parent life make her constantly run down and moody.
    And Neve has a secret that, if disclosed, may effect the wonderful relationship she has with her beautiful teenage son William…
    The story is told in alternate chapters from each of the women’s perspectives. By doing so, the author creates a nice flow to the story, and as each chapter is told, we learn more about each character.
    I really liked all three female characters, and could relate to each of them in certain ways. They are by no means perfect, but that is what makes them so sincere.
    Rachael has done a fantastic job of portraying the significance of having friendships, and those people that are willing to support you no matter what.
    This story had me smiling, and at times, close to tears.
    The only small criticism I have is that the ending felt a little abrupt, and I still had a few unanswered questions, but it’s probably only because I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end!

  3. This novel really blew me away. I’d read and enjoyed Rachael Johns’ before, but I’d have described the books I read as light and diverting romances; they didn’t stay with me, although I enjoyed them. “The Art of Keeping Secrets” is completely different – I couldn’t put it down.

    Johns’ prose is always readable and flows well, and her characters vivid. She’s kept those strengths, but for me the characters here were also strongly relatable and the plot fascinating.

    The main characters – Neve, Flick, and Emma – are all in their mid forties. Almost regardless of what lifestyle you’ve chosen, by then life is complicated. Partners, ex-partners, kids, jobs, friends, extended family, daily life… they all make their demands, sometimes conflicting ones. Johns’ captures this well. These three women are juggling a lot, and most readers will see themselves in one or all of them.

    But each of these three also carries a longstanding secret, and their chickens are about to come home to roost, simultaneously, in one mind blowing week. This too rang true; so often you can’t take turns having a crisis, and friends find themselves dealing with their own problems and trying to support others at the same time.

    I really loved this novel. Not just the main characters but the supporting cast were drawn strongly, and seemed very real. The majority of characters were decent people trying to do their best, even though that best would sometimes earn them a failing mark from the people around them. Although their secrets are a little more explosive than the ones most of us keep, they’re still credible and realistic, and you understand how the trio got into the mess they’re in by the middle of the novel.

    I really found it hard to put this down; long after I should have been abed, I was thinking “just one more chapter…I want to know what she does…” There aren’t many books that hook me like this, but this one really got me. Strongly recommended; this will appeal to anyone who likes strong characters or a strong plot – or both.

  4. Thank you, Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read an advance copy of Rachel John’s book, “The Art of Keeping Secrets.” I loved the way the three main characters were portrayed, their friendship was indeed special. I loved the ending, beautifully handled, extremely satisfying for me and realistic. However I couldn’t come to terms with what to me was so unrealistic in the way Neve’s son’s father handled Neve’s secret.

    I’ve not had experience even indirectly with the situations faced with Flick and Neve so this could have clouded my judgement. Emma’s situation I was able to understand. I admired Neve for the way she had accepted single parenthood and raised her son. I loved the way their lives were intertwined and even though I haven’t had experience anything like that which Flick was facing, I felt that realism was evident. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that with the initial revealing of Neve’s secret.

    I found the writing to be powerful and I enjoyed the book, even with my doubts about the reality aspect of part of it. The bonds of friendship were real and it was wonderful the way Flick, Neve and Emma’s characters developed along with their families. Facing the truth has consequences but it also brings the ability to know yourself.

  5. What a beautiful story as true friendship shines throughout the pages.

    Every page entertained me with bantering and funny, witty remarks from such wonderous, memorable characters. When I am giggling as I turn the pages, I know I am in for a great read.

    The storyline is about three friends Neve, Emma and Felicity that tell each other everything except each character does have a little secret of their own which will be revealed as you read further on.

    From the first chapter you’ll be taken on a journey of happiness which will see you laughing and then further on sadness, which will definitely require a box of tissues. You will be shown family and relationships with dramatic consequences. It is not hard to love the other characters that will appear in the book.

    A novel that if you never knew the true love of friendship, then reading this book will show you what real friends are like. It is beautifully written and one that will remain in your heart for a long time. This book captures the true essence of friendships.

    This is not the first book that I have read of Rachael Johns and it certainly won’t be the last. Rachel has written a very engaging, beautiful read where the characters become so real that you actually feel like their fourth friend as you read along.

    Thank you to Harlequin MIRA for giving me the chance to read this uncorrected proof and to Beauty and Lace for showing me so many great Australian authors. I love the cover for the book also.

  6. Carol Johnson
    This book ‘The Art of Keeping Secrets’ was truly magnificent.
    It had me enthralled right from the beginning.
    It is a story of true friendship put to the test and embraces the lives of three ordinary
    women who have been very close friends for many years but who also have each kept
    a secret close to their heart.
    Felicity ( Flick ) Genevieve ( Neve ) and Emma who are all strong, likeable characters
    who have shared MOST of their innermost selves to each other until one of them
    reveals a secret that she has kept for most of her life and which could consequently damage
    her relationship with her son but is now forced to deal with.
    This revelation results in a trip from Australia to New York for the three friends and brings
    about a roller-coaster of feelings and emotions. It also results in other secrets being revealed
    by the trio.
    It proved to me that you never truly know what maybe going on inside someone’s head
    no matter how close you think you are to them but also that true friendship can conquer
    anything.
    I also think the ending says it all, that there are some secrets you can live with but there
    are some you just cannot.
    I have not read any of Rachael Johns novels before but I will looking for them now.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Mira for giving me the opportunity
    to read this novel. Truly an excellent read!!

  7. I really enjoyed this book as a lover of chick literature.

    The characters are truly believable and some of the readers will likely relate to the main characters in this charming book of friendships (especially among women),, past and present loves, young love, affairs, divorce, family, bringing up children and the dilemmas and trials of parenting.

    The writer explores many facets of motherhood through various female characters and their relationships with their friends, family and colleagues.

    I did not want to put the book down from the moment I started reading and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

    The story also travels across the world from Australia to the States in search of a past love to divulge a family secret.

    I would rate this book 7.5/10

  8. The Art of Keeping Secrets will not disappoint Rachael John’s fans.
    She has written this book with undeniable insight of three women who keep secrets from family and friends and the ultimate heartache and disruption they cause when they start to unravel.
    A true page turned that you will not want to put down.
    I highly recommend this book and it will appeal to readers of all types not just Romance Readers, and I honestly think this is her best book so far.

  9. Thank you for the chance to read The Art of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns.

    There were many secrets between school Mum friends Flick, Neve and Emma. After a trip to New York these all come to light and have to be dealt with simultaneously. I really enjoyed the characters interactions and learning how they dealt with their separate issues together. It also showed that life isn’t always smooth and doesn’t go the way you imagined, but if you have support you’ll get through okay.

    I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has a secret and/or friends, or just enjoys immersing themselves in others lives and friendships.

  10. First of all thank you to Beauty and Lace for letting my trial The Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns. At first I didn’t think I had read any books by this author, but turns out I had read one of her ‘Rural Romance’ stories years ago and I remember it being quite good. However I have not read any of the ‘Life-Lit’ books, so it was a first for me in that section.

    The story is essentially about three women (Flick, Emma and Neve) who are good friends with one another because their sons went through school together. Secrets have been kept however and not yet shared, and the story follows the impact these have on them individually, emotionally and in their friendship.

    I really don’t want to give away any “secrets” or story, so all I can say is go grab The Art Of Keeping Secrets by Rachael Johns and give it a read! It goes through good times where you are smiling or having a chuckle, to those dark boding times where you think oh no what should/will she do here? It all starts to unravel, and the pieces of the puzzle start to form about marriages, family, motherhood, strong bonds and feelings and puts them together in this wonderful story.

    I really thought the book was well paced, pieces of information were carefully revealed at the right time and it definitely kept me reading on to see what happens next (quite often late into the night!!). Having each chapter from the perspective of one character was also quite interesting, as you got a glimpse into their mind and world. I was very impressed with the book overall, I thought it was quite well written, the story kept me interested and wanting to know more, and the characters seemed relatable to me in that they would be someone you could know.

    Thanks again to Beauty and Lace, and I will definitely be looking out for other books by Rachael to read.

  11. Thank you for letting me read and review the Art of Keeping Secrets! A very realistic story about everyday women just like you and me who have problems that resurface. Sometimes it is just life getting in the way and this story showed some very good examples of that and coming back to haunt you for choices that were made when younger. Woven between 3 best friends it also showed resilience between friends and acceptance of others in different situations. A very easy book to read and follow. Thank you Rachel Johns for creating such a book to entertain and enthrall readers.

  12. I loved the book by Rachael Johns and I found she wrote of female friendships very well. The novel is about three women who have been friends for numerous years while their sons were attending high school. Felicity, Emma and Genevieve are in their forties and have longstanding secrets. They are three strong women and I found the characters relatable. I wish there were more chapters as I felt the story could have gone on for longer. I would reccomend this book for anyone who loves novels with strong female characters.

  13. Rachael Johns The Art of Keeping Secrets was a story that i found to be very interesting and at the same time had me pausing to remember back into my past. Much like in the story myself and two others were drawn into a friendship over a set of circumstances just as the woman in this story began their friendship. Three very different woman yet connected. As the years go buy you feel that you know these friends and everything about them so when one announces that there is a secret they have been keeping it sends everyone into shock and it alters the relationship. This book deals with all the emotion of keeping a secret for years and then being forced into a position where you feel you have to share and then all that comes from finally speaking those words and sharing that information.
    I took a little longer to read this book then I really should. It took me into my past and there were times I simply sat holding the book and thinking about past events so for me this book grabbed a few emotions and gave them a bit of a squeeze.
    I love Rachaels writing. This is not the first of her books that I have read and it wont be the last.
    Australia certainly has a lot of talent.
    This is not all happy happy but it is life. All the ups and downs. Its a great Winter read.

  14. You know the old saying ‘A problem shared is a problem halved?’ That kind of sums up The Art of Keeping Secrets.

    Everyone has a few little secrets in their closet right? Nothing’s different for 3 best friends who think they share everything. But Emma, Neve & Flick each have something they are holding close to their chests, eating them up inside.

    The 3 ladies have been close friends & confidantes ever since their sons went to high school together & the book opens with their kids’ final year formal send off party being held at the house of former husband to Mumsy divorcee Emma. Her taxisermist pal Flick & Flick’s husband Seb are always on hand to cushion the blows & insults from Emma’s ex. And glamourous single Mum Neve seems to have it all together, or does she?

    I found the characters in Rachael Johns’ book believable & relateable. Their seemingly everyday lives have enough twists & turns to keep you intrigued & guessing.

    Will the friends eventually realise that sharing secrets can be liberating & bring them closer? I can’t tell you, it’s a secret 😉

  15. Well! Rachel Johns has done it again but I agree I think this has to be her best write so far saying that her other books were great too.

    An excellent read which I couldn’t put down but had to once or twice just to feed the family then straight back to the book to either have a little giggle with the writer or to shed a tear in another section.

    Three strong but different characters that entertained through the book & also made me stop & remember some painful memories which I most say friends helped me through.Secrets will out in the end so they say or will they?

    I really enjoyed this book & would recommend to my friends as we all stick together no matter what.

  16. Rachael Johns enthrals her readers yet again with her second foray into the contemporary life literature genre with the release of her newest book, The Art Of Keeping Secrets. I am so glad Rachael Johns has decided to take this direction in her writing, as I really do believe that she has the knack for conveying issues close to women’s hearts.

    At the core of The Art Of Keeping Secrets are three very close knit female friends, Emma, Flick and Neve. Their friendship is rock solid, having developed when their children entered high school together. It is obvious as soon as the story opens that the three women share a special bond. It seems from the outset that these women know each other’s ins, outs and unique quirks. However, what they don’t know is each of them is harbouring a pretty big secret, that will rock the very foundations of their current lives. Neve gets the ball rolling on the secret front when she drops a big bombshell regarding the identity to the father of her child. This leads the trio on a whirlwind trip from Australia to New York, where more secrets are confessed.

    Rachael Johns never fails to wow me with her novels and The Art Of Keeping Secrets is certainly no exception. The Art Of Keeping Secrets is Johns second offering in the life literature genre and it clearly highlights Johns strength as a writer. Johns tackles some contemporary and very relatable subjects in this novel from love, marriage, affairs, separation, divorce and single parenting, to career choices. These are balanced with the overarching theme of the novel, which is based on airing out long held secrets. The secrets, when they come, are pretty explosive. One secret in particular had me drawing my breath in from complete disbelief. I even re-read the passages, as it was a shock that I definitely didn’t see coming. Johns manages to tantalise her readers this way for the majority of the novel, gradually revealing pieces to a bigger puzzle surrounding the secrets these women hold. It was a big drawcard for me, as it wiled me to turn the pages as fast as I could and also prevented me from putting the book down. Readers will find the combination of natural and relatable dialogue, along with characters that are realistically drawn, but with flaws any person can sympathise with, greatly appealing. Although The Art Of Keeping Secrets does not have a rural feel, I would have to say I enjoyed this novel just as much as the rural romances Johns is famous for. The movement in setting from Australia to the States was covered well by Johns. I loved the feel of being a sidekick on the trio’s big trip to New York, it was most enjoyable reading experience. Fans new and old will also appreciate Johns flair for romance which was a captivating feature of the novel.

    There is no doubt Johns can spin a fantastic yarn around the bonds of female friendship and the knocks life deals out for the everyday woman. The Art Of Keeping Secrets is another very successful and memorable addition to the Rachael Johns collection.

  17. Thank you Beauty and Lace for selecting me to read The Art Of Keeping Secrets,
    Well Rachel Johns has done it again with this book it is a wonderful read,
    This book is about the beautiful friendship between three women and their family’s, and the secret each woman has,
    I am not going to reveal in this review what the secrets are as I don’t want to spoil for other readers, the secrets are revealed throughout the book,
    The book flows from chapter to chapter beautifully,
    Once I started to read this book I found it very difficult to put down, just had to know what was going to happen next,
    I would recommend this book as it is excellent 10/10

  18. Reading all the reviews above there is not much more I can say about this great book. Rachael gets better and better with her writing and I believe Life-Lit is an emerging genre and I hope that Rachael produces many more books in this genre. I think we can all relate to the circumstances of the three women featured in this book, that’s what makes it such compelling reading. It did take me a little while to get my head around the main characters and the sub-characters but once I did I couldn’t put it down and read 150 pages in one hit! I did like the very subtle dark moment towards the end of the book as well 🙂

    Thanks so much to Beauty & Lace for the great opportunity to read an ARC of this book.

  19. What an amazing story this book unfolded!

    I found it to be easy to read, hard to put down, and I enjoyed the friendship between the 3 main characters, as I too have friends like them that I went to school with almost 50 years ago, and we still see each other often. So I found the story to be believable, and well told.

    I cannot really add much more than the above readers have said. I thought I had figured out the ending, but I was wrong! Although I was surprised at how it ended, it fitted in with the rest of the story,

    Thank you Beauty & Lace for the wonderful chance to read an advance issue copy of this great book.
    I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    PS I picked up an error on page 438. ” Neve and Jeremy” should have been Neve and James.

  20. Thank you SO much to Michelle for organising this book club and to all you wonderful women for reading THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS. Your feedback has been so amazing and encouraging that you’ve made me really excited for this book to hit the shelves. xx Rach!

  21. The Art of Keeping Secrets.

    Secrets,
    The ones that we hear from a friend, the ones we know about others or even our own they are all around us. Some we tell to just one, some we share with many and some we never ever tell.
    Some can bring happiness and some can bring sadness and some make no difference at

    Rachael Johns has created a wonderful story all about secrets. A charming warm, funny, sad, lonely, happy story that brings three stories into one.

    Felicity, Emma and Neve have been best friends since their sons starting high school and share everything.

    They each hold secrets, we all hold secrets but are these secrets going to create a ripple and nothing happen or are these secrets life changing.

    Rachael has written a story about friendship and the bond we share with those we love and cherish.
    Beginning on the night of the Year 12 ball we join in the lives of Flick, Emma and Neve as they share secrets one by one.
    We follow along as each chapter’s title is the woman’s name of who we are reading. I really liked the way the chapters/friends stories overlapped and complimented each other without ever needing to double up.
    Seeing the world through three sets of eyes was easier to keep track of than I first thought. Rachael has given us three strong and different woman to read about and their uniqueness and stories keep you in control of the story.

    Rachael has written another beautiful and powerful story and many things have been brought into this story that are so well portrayed with kindness and grace.

    I doubt you could read this without falling in love just a little, being heart broken just a little and being thankful for your friends just a little bit more.

    Thank you Rachael for your wonderful stories and thank you Beauty and Lace for sharing them with me. 😀

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