Pippa Middleton, Kate's younger sister, is behind a splashy new book: "Celebrate — A Year Of Festivities For Family And Friends." Due out today in the States, the 416-page guide offers an English perspective on party planning.
Middleton's book debuted to a range of reviews in the UK last week ("it's perfect for anyone who needs a recipe for making ice," snarked Jan Moir in The Daily Mail) as she took to the bookstore circuit with Halloween-themed kids' parties. Some of her tips may be painfully obvious — garnish Halloween drinks with plastic spiders! Serve pumpkin soup in a hollowed-out pumpkin! — but Miss Middleton is blossoming into the stylista of the shires. Rumor has it that she received about $640,000 for "Celebrate" and already is contemplating two more books.
She faces competition stiffer than the proverbial English upper lip, however. The UK may have refused Martha Stewart entry, due to her insider-trading conviction, but it doesn't need her: The country has a bumper crop of homegrown lifestyle gurus.
Leading the charge, glue gun in hand, is the posh presenter Kirstie Allsopp (who could be styled as "Honorable," thanks to her father, the sixth Baron Hindlip). After her real-estate TV show burst along with the property bubble, this blueblood reinvented herself as the countess of all things crafty, a theme she really hammers in with titles like "Kirstie's Homemade Home." She bakes fruitcake, hand-stencils wallpaper and transforms honey jars into snow globes. So if these tips don't win her fans blue ribbons at county fairs, at least they'll have the chops to sew their own.
Four years ago, this hard-charging mum landed on FHM magazine's list of the world's 100 sexiest women, beating Kate Moss and Jennifer Lopez, despite — or perhaps because of — her penchant for Stepford-Wifey dirndl skirts.
Britain heats up its home advice further with three other very distinct beauties. Former cover girl Sophie Dahl maintains her delicate English Rose features and a figure worthy of a "dangerous curves ahead" sign. The BBC Two presenter has also written "Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights" and "Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes." She confesses a love of prose and chocolate, tastes she shared with her grandfather, the beloved children's author Roald Dahl.
Lorraine Pascale also has roots in the fashion world, and was the first black Brit to grace the cover of Elle magazine in America. She retrained as a chef, then proceeded to launch book and TV show pairings that emphasize elegant, stress-free cooking. Her pragmatism comes across wonderfully in her Bramley apple pies. The recipe admits — gasp! — that "shop-bought apple sauce is fine. In fact, it is a great time-saver when in a hurry, ditto for the pastry." Talk about a role model!
Despite the flour power of Dahl and Pascale, the UK's "queen of food porn" remains sultry, raven-haired Nigella Lawson. The Oxford University alumna mixed journalism and an enthusiastic appetite into a cookbook empire including the deliciously titled "How to Be a Domestic Goddess," which won a British Book Award. Now she's even whipped up a cookware line, estimated to be worth $11 million, called Living Kitchen.
Be it ever so humble, there's no business like home, apparently.
"Forget the Olympics and the Jubilee," says London writer Anna Melville-James, "lifestyle gurus give the real temperature of things here in 2012.
"At the moment, we snaggle-toothed, recession-hit Brits apparently want to recycle cardigans as boleros, bake Victoria sponges shaped like the Parthenon and make sausages, having explained in very reasonable terms to our pigs that they have to die sometime, so it might as well be now.
"Oh yes. We are a country with an interesting life behind our net curtains."
by Amanda Castleman
Top: Pippa Middleton launched her new book "Celebrate: A Year Of Festivities For Family and Friends" last week at a London bookstore's Halloween party. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Right: Kitchen guru Nigella Lawson signed copies of her latest book, "Nigellissima," in London last week. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)