|This book is pure silly fun, but that just makes it a perfect summer read. In the author profile, former category romance novelist Kathleen O’Reilly states that the idea for her debut single title originated after she found to her disappointment that the bestselling novel The Devil Wears Prada was about the fashion industry, with Satan nowhere in sight. Wouldn’t it be interesting, she wondered, if the Devil actually was a New York fashionista? And thus was born a darkly comic tale that is equal parts Faust and Fendi.
Some women claim they would sell their souls for the right handbag. Our heroine, known only as V., has actually taken the plunge. She’s a devoted member of the Life Enrichment Program, run by the Devil herself, who masquerades as a bitchy New York Post gossip columnist named Lucy. Once upon a time V. was a dumpy, unhappy divorceè with fat thighs and a nowhere job. Now she owns the hottest handbag store on Fifth Avenue, dresses to kill, dates rich playboys and can whip up spells without even twitching her nose (although she does so sometimes just for effect). What has it cost her? Only her soul and her conscience, which is on permanent hiatus. Or is it?
V. is on the verge of increasing her powers by recruiting other New Yorkers who are eager to exchange their humanity for a set of Tiffany Feathers earrings, when she starts acting strangely decent. First she saves a little girl and her dog from drowning in Central Park Lake, and then she finds herself attracted to a perfectly nice but decidedly unhip guy who is neither a celebrity nor wealthy. Threatened with the loss of her powers by the very unamused Lucy, V. promises to be as bad as she can be. But it appears that her conscience may not be dead after all, especially when she starts feeling something like compassion for one of her targets. Unfortunately her deal with the devil is binding and irreversible so there’s no way to reclaim her soul. V. would have to be out of her mind to try to outwit a mind-reading all-powerful devil, wouldn’t she?
The Diva’s Guide is by no means a polished or perfect effort. The writing is lively but occasionally awkward (not to mention obscenity-laden), and I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’m recommending a book whose narrator uses the word “anywhoo” on a regular basis. But despite its broad humor, there is something very likable about the novel. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that the Devil is making herself at home in New York or that people are materialistic enough to sell their souls for thin thighs and a great little handbag. While V.’s spells are pretty lame, the nine different power levels are a hoot, as is the tongue-in-cheek self help approach of the Life Enrichment Program. The characters are wafer-thin, but V.’s inner struggle does inspire some empathy, and the resolution is satisfying and surprisingly charming. Best of all, V. may eventually see the error of her ways, but she never loses the spirit that makes her so appealing.
The book concludes with one of the more entertaining “up close and personal with the author” interviews that I’ve encountered in this imprint, leading me to believe that there are more deliciously wicked tales to come from Ms. O’Reilly. I can’t say that there are any handbags that could tempt me to part with my own soul, but the ability to eat unlimited chocolate without gaining weight might be the right incentive. Don’t tell Lucy!