“Who do I have to sleep with to get a drink on this plane?”
Skinnygirl lifestyle mogul (and soon-to-be TV host) Bethenny Frankel knows how to make an entrance, and she doesn’t disappoint with the opening to her fiction debut: the barely fictionalized biography of her life, Skinnydipping.
The book follows recent college graduate Faith Brightstone, eager to trade her New York life for the palm trees and perma-tans of Los Angeles. She has plans to make it big as an actress, find a rich, successful husband and live the California dream, which seem destined to happen as she lands a television producer as a seatmate on the flight out.
The only detail she didn’t factor into her equation was reality. Faith opts to live with her estranged father, a well-to-do horse trainer, until she can support herself. Weeks turn to months, however, as the job market isn’t as accommodating as she’d like, and her perfectly good looks are brutally critiqued at every turn. Her fantasies about reconnecting with her father fall by the wayside as well, as he remains cold and distant, leaving his young, perky girlfriend to keep her company.
On the romantic front, her luck isn’t much better. Playboys, producers and married actors all try to pick her up, but Faith keeps hoping for Mr. Right to show up in a town populated with Mr. Right Nows. Her lack of a love life prompts her to forge another unhealthy relationship—with food.
Instead of working behind the cameras, she finds herself increasingly behind the scenes, taking jobs as a production assistant, restaurant hostess and personal assistant to a high-powered Hollywood couple. When her big movie break turns out to be a borderline soft-core porn film, Faith decides she’s had enough and flees back to the Big Apple.
Flash-forward five years, and Faith is still hustling to pay her bills. She feels she’s on the cusp of greatness with her new line of vegan muffins, but, instead, she finds herself cast on a reality TV show hosted by her idol—the domestic goddess herself, Sybil Hunter. To make matters more complicated, what seems like moments after swearing off men entirely, she may have just met her real-life Prince Charming.
Will Faith find happiness with Harris, or will her career come first? Is her muffin empire the key to the success she’s been striving for, or will she land her own TV show? Will her winning ways ever be able to thaw the ice queen that is Sybil Hunter? These questions and more propel the reader through to the very last sentence, eager to know more even after the story has ended.
Of course, readers of Frankel’s previous books (especially last year’s A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life) know most of the broad details of her past, and reality show fans have followed her recent life from “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” to “The Real Housewives of New York City” to the current season of “Bethenny Ever After,” so it isn’t a great stretch to figure out what happens next.
Although many events of Frankel’s life are directly chronicled here, others are condensed or given a new spin. Even so, it’s still easy to tell who’s been given the fictional treatment (could Shari Jacobs be any more Jill Zarin?).
What’s most odd is that the author herself is being very coy about the genesis of this story, stating that, “Everything I do is largely inspired by my experiences. I definitely know Faith Brightstone through and through. We have many parallels and many differences.”
So many parallels, fans may find it hard to concentrate on the story for trying to puzzle out what real-life inspirations are behind characters like Vince Beck or Carol Kameron. But, if readers do eventually settle into the story and leave the detective work behind, it’s a very satisfying read, well-paced and written in Frankel’s signature funny-snide-sarcastic style.
Bottom line, if anyone else had written this ‘fiction,’ Frankel could have immediately sued for copyright infringement, plagiarism or maybe even slander. But for whatever reason she continues to keep uncharacteristically mum about the details, Skinnydipping is still a great beach read—even if you’re not reading between the lines.
Bethenny Frankel will be signing her book, Skinnydipping, at the Barnes & Noble in The Grove at 7 p.m. tonight (May 23), and at Vroman's Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd.) in Pasadena on May 30 at 6 p.m.
“Bethenny” premieres on June 11 at 2 p.m. only on Fox.