Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: 'His Secret Life' by Kim Cano

Chicago author Kim Cano has published five books - FOR ANIMAL LOVERS (short stories), ON THE INSIDE, A WIDOW REDEFINED, EIGHTY AND OUT, and now HIS SECRET LIFE is her latest. She writes for children and adults alike - labeling her adult novels as Women's Fiction. After reading her books most readers will question the 'women's fiction' designation because her novels, despite falling into that very popular `chick lit' genre, demonstrate the emergence of a significant voice in contemporary writing. In this latest novel she explores the many facets of gay and straight relationships. Kim has said, ‘I read a biography of my favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham. I knew he was gay but didn't realize he had been madly in love with a woman who wouldn't marry him when he was younger. When I finished the book, I researched gay men/straight women relationships and stumbled on an online forum dedicated to the topic. There were so many stories posted. The details were different, but their struggles were similar, and when I was done reading, I knew I had to write a novel about it. I 'm a women's fiction author, so I suspect mostly women will read it.’ Correction – the novel is so fine that the audience should embrace all readers!

One of Kim’s many writing gifts s her quiet way of introducing the story she is sharing in a subtle manner as in the opening paragraphs of this book: ‘Philip sat at his desk admiring the view of Lake Michigan when he noticed a new email from his boss. He read the message and frowned. Another black tie event had been scheduled, which meant he’d have to find a date because he couldn’t bring his boyfriend, Jason. The escort he had hired for the last party didn’t work out. She was beautiful and well-dressed but didn’t fit in with the conservative crowd he worked with. Philip tidied his files before leaving to meet his sister for dinner, deciding not to worry since he still had time to figure out who to bring. He stopped by the receptionist on his way out and handed her his outgoing mail. The old woman smiled as she took the envelope. “So which lucky lady gets to be your date tonight?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye. “My little sister.” “How nice. Tell my future sister-in-law I said hello.” Philip grinned. He enjoyed their witty exchanges and found Betty to be a bright spot in what was usually a stressful day. Betty eyed him. “What are you two doing this evening?” “Going to dinner, then shopping for your engagement ring. You like diamonds, right?” “I do,” Betty beamed. “The bigger the better.”
The scene is set and the story begins.

‘Gay men don't fall in love with women. Do they? Philip is a gay man working for a conservative corporation. After his recent promotion, he needs a date for a company function and asks his sister's new roommate, Emily. Emily is an actress, waiting tables while starring in local plays and hoping for her big break. She agrees to be Philip's date for the party, and soon they are attending one event after another together. Philip and Emily click on many levels. Lines blur as the people they pretend to be start feeling like the people they are, causing a rift with Philip's boyfriend Jason. When Philip no longer works for the company, he doesn't need Emily to play the role of his girlfriend anymore, but to his surprise, he can't let her go.’

This is a very strong book, well timed in the contest of today’s exploration of gay/straight alliances and one that will most assuredly find success with women readers, but one that should be marketed to male readers who need to understand the spectrum of love. Recommended. Grady Harp, May 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.