We gave it a B-
John Adams stares at you from the coffee table. And you know you should heed its sober call. And there’s The Emperor of Ocean Park sitting chastely on the bed stand, waiting to be kissed good night. But neither tome, respectable though it may be, is right for the weekend’s date with a chaise lounge and daiquiri No. 3. Every now and then a reader wants the literary equivalent of a romp in the hay.
Kelly Ripa has three possible suitors for those eager to indulge in some summer fun. The Live With Regis and Kelly cohost’s recently launched book club, Reading With Ripa, presses nitwit novels that numb the mind. She swears her first three picks — Kate White’s If Looks Could Kill, Carly Phillips’ The Bachelor, and Adele Lang’s Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber — make the perfect low-maintenance companions. Are these books as fun and diverting as she promises, or will you just hate yourself in the morning?
Kate White, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, well understands that sex sells. And her first novel, If Looks Could Kill, a mystery set in the snippy world of women’s mags, has one pedicured foot planted firmly in the gutter. Cat Jones is the heartless head of Gloss (is White confessing her past sins?). Her nanny, Heidi, a ”stunningly pretty and aloof girl from Minnesota or Indiana,” has just been murdered by poisoning. Did Cat’s strapping young husband try to squelch their unseemly affair? Or is Gloss’ deputy editor the culprit? Can Cat, a woman known for trampling over younger and blonder competition, even be trusted? Bailey Weggins, Gloss’ true-crime contributing writer, must ferret out the well-heeled villain. ”An hour ago I’d been lying in my bed about to be ravished by my wild Irish rogue,” she moans when a duty call interrupts a booty call, ”and now here I was, sitting with a dead body, crusted in vomit.”
Subtle the author isn’t. No one simply has sex — they get action, alliteration-style: While fighting crime Bailey manages to squeeze in a ”mattress mambo” and a ”carnal carnival.” But all this goofy vulgarity is delivered with a wink. And the crass make-out scenes are just icing. The mystery is surprisingly first-rate; there are so many reprehensible characters to suspect that it’s impossible to outwit White. Winningly salacious, intentionally silly, here’s an affair to remember, at least until Labor Day.
If Kill feels like a rich dessert, Carly Phillips’ The Bachelor is a sugar-tacky Sno Ball, an obscenely unabashed piece of puff that knows its place — right between Slim Jims and Soap Opera Digest. Phillips gets points for being a cheap date. Her book, whose jacket is smothered in pouty lipstick smacks, is the price of a stiff drink.
The bachelor in question is 31-year-old Roman Chandler. His overly involved mother is desperate to see him married and procreating. But, really, ”why should a man consider until death do us part when he had women willing to give it up without commitment?” Phillips may dole out amusingly stupid ladies-keep-your-legs-crossed-at-the-ankles pearls of wisdom, but trust that at heart hers is a splayed-limbs read. As Roman saunters his way toward the aisle, blouses gape, breasts heave, backs arch, and denim constricts. Here is an author who repeatedly employs the euphemism ”feminine mound.” The book is repetitive and ridiculous, but fundamentally harmless.
Whenever a reader gives in to trash, she runs the risk of feeling abused and taken advantage of. Such is the sad case with Adele Lang’s Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber. Set in London, structured as a diary, Lang’s first novel describes the sordid, sodden existence of Katya Livingston, an utterly irredeemable newspaper columnist who preens, stabs, and self- deludes. When she betrays a friend, ”I, quite rightly, point out that since he insists upon dressing out of Salvation Army shops and drinking Bulgarian wine out of a cardboard box, I don’t think he actually qualifies as one of my friends.”
March 15’s entry begins ”Wake up with rotten hangover.” March 16: ”Wake up ridiculously hung over again.” Good God, sober up and check yourself into a character-development clinic. There’s nothing like a bad book to make a girl crave a meaningful relationship with some nice, upstanding novelist.