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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mortimer vs. Frankel: Stiletto standoff

April showers bring May romans à clef— one from a Manhattan housewife turned camera-ready party queen (Tinsley Mortimer), the other from a Manhattan Housewife turned ready-made cocktail queen (Bethenny Frankel). Both reality-show swans have put their ladder-climbing lives into loosely fictionalized form. USA TODAY tackles the twin socialite tomes, sizing up theauthors' size 0 alter egos.

The authors

Tinsley Mortimer, 35, and Bethenney Frankel, 41

The books

Mortimer's Southern Charm(Simon & Schuster, 242 pp., $25) and Frankel's Skinnydipping (Touchstone, 350 pp., $25)

The premises

Southern Charm: Southern debutante moves to New York and becomes accidental It Girl, enduring pesky Page Six plants and a bad-boy blue-blood boyfriend while holding her honey-haired head high.

Skinnydipping: No-nonsense New Yorker flees NYU graduation for L.A. to pursue her Hollywood dreams, enduring a raft of audition rejections and unwanted attention from skeevy suits. When an acting career doesn't materialize, she heads back to her hometown and nurtures her troika of talent for vegan baking, cocktail shaking and sassy self-promotion, catching the eye of a reality-TV show in search of America's next domestic goddess.

The heroines

Southern Charm: inty Davenport, a Charleston native and cum laude Chapel Hill graduate whose penchant for pink pops out against New York's typically dour fashion flock, propelling her to style icon status.

Skinnydipping: Faith Brightstone, the estranged daughter of a legendary horse trainer. Faith has big ambition, a big mouth and a big trail of busted relationships. Her one constant companion? Her mutt, Muffin.

Name-dropping nuggets

Southern Charm: From places (the Standard Hotel's platinum-roped Boom Boom Room) to labels (Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta) to families (Guggenheim, du Pont), Charm traffics in the trappings of luxury.

Skinnydipping: A little Vera Wang, a little Rolex, a little Upper East Side but little else.

Dirt scooped

Southern Charm: Minty's mate, Tripp du Pont — a doppelganger of Mortimer's ex, Standard Oil heir Topper Mortimer — is portrayed as a probably philandering prig who holds Minty back from her handbag-designing dreams.

Skinnydipping: A dump truck's worth. Frankel was a finalist on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Faith competes on something called Domestic Goddess, hosted by that Machiavellian maven of mealtime, Sybil Matthews. But Frankel's infamous TV frenemy, Jill, came from her other series, The Real Housewives of New York City. And who is Faith's bestie-turned-back-stabber on Goddess? A Noo Yawk-talking, family business-hawking housewife named Shari.

The X (-rated) factor

Southern Charm: Positively PG. Minty kisses and tells about exploits that would make only the most repressed belle blush.

Skinnydipping: Resolutely R. X, coke, back-seat gropes: There's a reason it's called Skinnydipping— aside from the fact that Frankel's brand is called Skinnygirl.

Guilt quotient

Southern Charm: * * 1/2 out of four. Better than an episode of High Society (Mortimer's ill-fated CW series). Worse than 10 minutes of the classic (1956) High Society.

Skinnydipping: * * Better than an episode of Bethenny Ever After (Frankel's latest reality TV foray). Worse than an episode of The Real Housewives of New York City.

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