One of the two covers of Nicole Richie's book "The Truth About Diamonds" features a garish picture of Miss Richie, her hair teased and lightened.

There's an almost angelic halo of light above her head — coming from the heavens, perhaps, or simply a blinding glare from the diamond tiara she's wearing.

She's clad in purple satin and looking like she just held up a Harry Winston store at gunpoint and elected to wear all the sparkling loot at once.

Below the title are the words "A NOVEL * A NOVEL * A NOVEL," just in case anyone gets it in their head they'll be reading some juicy autobiographical tidbits.

The story line involves Chloe Parker, the adopted daughter of rock legend Julius Parker, and her fake blond friend, Simone Westlake, a girl who is "famous for being famous" and whose favorite accessory "aside from a Fendi spy bag" is "a fatty."

Huh? That doesn't sound familiar at all.

The narrative awkwardly switches off and on between Chloe Parker and the first-person narrator, "Nicole," Chloe's best friend — so, as we see, it's really not about Richie at all, it's about Chloe, a Hollywood princess with a room filled with designer clothes and plastic bags of recreational drugs.

"When you grow up in Bel Air and shop only in expensive boutiques on Rodeo and Robertson, you develop a kind of allergy to anything unpretty," she writes. "Clothes, cars, even people ... It's awful, I now know, and I do hate to admit it, but you start thinking that if you hang around unattractive people, their homeliness can be contagious."

The book chronicles the club-kid world of rock royalty, celebrity journalists and the ordinary people that lurk by the club's velvet ropes, hoping to hustle their way inside.

"By ordinary people," she writes, "I mean nonfamous, which includes big-talking producers and cheesy hustlers droning on about connections and waving cash and business cards at the hard-bodied TV stars who may take them to the next level on the business side — or who may just put out in a moment of poor judgment."

It describes Chloe and Nicole's inner circle, a group of people who don't really like each other. "I guess we were less like friends and more like a dysfunctional support group, bonded in equal parts romantic misery and social momentum."

There are the requisite hangers-on (a drug-addled character named Chip "wasn't going to be worth the Crisco he seemed to use as styling gel") and club sluts. ("'Did I ever do him?' Mikela wondered aloud.")

But things really get going when Chloe and Simone (not to be confused with Paris Hilton) are paired up to do a series of commercials that depict "real life" scenes.

The commercial series, which is Chloe's first shot at fame, calls for two "best friends" to star in it, despite the fact that Chloe and Simone are anything but close.

Simone is "always busy with other friends," she writes. "Don't feel like I'm killing your buzz, but what reality is there to show?'"

The book is filled with anecdotes and musings on rehab and the fickle nature of fame, but the surprising thing about it is how self-deprecatingly funny and enjoyable it is.

And it ends on a note that — treacly sentiment aside — is touching, and goes a long way toward explaining Richie's gem overload on the book cover.

"There's nothing like a perfect diamond to remind you that you'll never be perfect — the truth is, all you can do is try."