"It's who you know" never rang truer than when a New York Daily News entertainment and society columnist, a.k.a. Uncle Will, cleverly arranges for his recently unemployed niece, Bette Robinson, to sit beside Kelly & Company's reigning public relations queen at a private party. Before you know it, Bette is working for Kelly, who has "an office of people whose job it is to know everyone worth knowing," where "going out is part of your job" and hiring "gorgeous guys as bartenders or security or waitstaff at private parties and events" is complete with DJs, champagne cocktails and very VIP guests chosen by the List Girls in Kelly's office. Philip Weston --- a British playboy crowned "Nightlife Adonis" and regular on the international party scene --- plunges Kelly into the world of nasty and untrue stories in the gossip columns fed by the unscrupulous and anonymous "Ellie Insider."
Weisberger's main character, Bette Robinson, is an avid fan of mass market romance novels depicting "agony, ecstasy, and a happy ending --- who could ask for more?" Ooohhh yes, the "ideal" man. Bette's monthly meetings with her romance readers book club lends a thread of female bonding to Bette's whirlwind fantasy world of public relations girls and guys, described by Weisberger as "possessing unnervingly good looks," converging daily to purge the gossip columns for publicity hits for their high-paying clients who want their names associated with the A-list celebrities, events and products.
While EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING has all the elements of a second New York Times bestseller for Weisberger, the repetitive A-List, elite party scenes attended by P. Diddy, Candace Bushnell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kid Rock, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, and other assorted celebrities become a blur and less impressive among the coke snorting, centerfold-seeking females being fawned over by the VIP entourages who inhabit the dark corners of Manhattan's trendiest nightclubs. Unlike THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, there is no female boss from hell, but Bette's boss, Kelly, is very happy to take advantage of Bette's regular mention in the gossip columns and the free publicity it brings Kelly & Company, despite the embarrassment it brings to Bette and her family.
Weisberger brilliantly weaves Bette's romantic fantasies garnered from reading "over four hundred" romance novels, starting with HOT AND HEAVY in her teens, into her character and the romantic relationship she has with Sammy, the handsome bouncer who unhooks the red velvet rope outside the world famous Manhattan nightclub Bungalow 8. Weisberger misses an opportunity to write a more detailed hot and heavy bedroom scene between Bette and Sammy. While Weisberger writes Bette's thought, "It was, I had to admit, a sex scene straight out of a Harlequin," the scene lacked sufficient build-up and passion and consisted of one paragraph, contrary to Bette's addiction to romantic fantasies.
Weisberger's Harlequin romance mass market paperback humor is a welcome respite from the Playboy party, the Blackberry event and Hitch premiere details. When Bette says, "Obviously she could use a few hours with The Very Bad Boy" (the title of her romance book club's monthly selection) after a "very petite woman who resembled a school librarian" swears at her for accidentally bumping into her, I identified this as the type of comment I too would have shared with a fellow romance reader and best friend.
In addition to Bette's bizarre lifestyle of planning parties for In Style in Manhattan and the Association of Istanbul Nightclub owners in Turkey --- which of course requires her to accompany a carefully selected group of people from Kelly & Company's 35,000-member VIP lists on a private jet --- Bette tries to help her best friend Penelope see that the man who gave her two engagement rings, one flawless 6-carat family heirloom and one 3-carat "wearable" ring, is a very bad boy.
For Bette, everyone worth knowing, amidst the nightly crowds of celebrities and VIP guests, is Sammy, who measures up to the "ideal" man. Sammy makes his share of relationship mistakes, but what makes him "ideal" is when Bette vows to quit reading "those goddamn Harlequins" because "they just made it too easy to maintain totally unreasonable expectations." Sammy surprises her with a scene right out of a romance novel. It's hard to give up the "ideal" when we find men who really do fulfill our romantic fantasies.
Call it fate, call it destiny, call it chemistry, call it romance, call it a happy ending --- by the time this novel is over, "the stars are gonna shine on two lovers in love." The next time you wonder if the "ideal" man in romance novels exists, know that Bette found one with "looks utterly begging to be on a dust jacket" and one who left her "breathless with anticipation."
Reviewed by Hillary Wagy on January 21, 2011
Everyone Worth Knowing