The Princess-In-Training Manual
The Princess-in-Training Manual is very hard to synopsize. Why? For the simple reason that it’s hard to write a synopsis when there is no plot. Our protagonist is Princess Jacqueline de Soignee. Princess of what, you ask? Well, the book never says for sure, but she appears to be the Princess of Manhattan. Princess Jacquie has a privileged life, going shopping (at a laundry list of famous stores, like Tiffany and Gucci), visiting spas, and occasionally dropping in for work at her family’s foundation. While Jacquie does all these things, she explains how we, too, can tap into our Inner Princess. But Jacquie is so dull it’s hard to know why one would want to be a princess.
Jacquie flies (in a private jet, naturellement) to Tuscany when she’s bored, goes to Elizabeth Arden for spa treatments, and, in general, does princess-y things. She says, “Many of my evenings are occupied by charity fetes, galas, and things of that sort. I go to film premieres, and to restaurant, gallery, and show openings.” It all sounds very glamorous – too bad it’s boring.
This book is painfully full of references to designer names and rather dull descriptions of clothes and jewelry. For example, here’s a typical description:
“When Mamma Mia! opened, I wore the most fabulous pair of multicolor floral-print Thierry Mugler bell-bottoms and a lavender satin djellaba cut to fall a few inches above the knee. The paparazzi were practically falling over one another fighting for the best shot…”
“Just for fun, I wore a Jean-Paul Gaultier Apache-dancer outfit – tight black slit skirt, fishnets, a black-and-white-striped tee, T-strap spike heels, black neckerchief and blood-red beret.”
The book is also filled with French and Italian words – so much so that there’s an eight-page glossary in the back. What the book is not filled with is plot.
Very little happens during the course of this novella, and the characters never even remotely approach three-dimensions. Jacquie does have three friends, but they’re little more than stereotypes. We have Nirvana, the yoga-practicing, meditating vegan; Mariana, the hard-exercising friend who hardly eats for fear of gaining weight; and Clarice, the employee. Jacquie’s closeness with her employee is apparently intended to illustrate how unsnobbish she Is – she explains, “It doesn’t matter to me at all that I was born a princess and she wasn’t.”
There is a minor conflict in the book involving a tabloid reporter, but it’s resolved with a ridiculous coincidence. There is also a very minor romance. Jacquie isn’t a bad character – and not nearly as snobbish as you might guess from the title – but she simply isn’t interesting and she doesn’t grow or change. Ultimately, The Princess-in-Training Manual is a novella deficient in both characterization and plot. And since it isn’t especially funny, either, there simply isn’t much to recommend.