Like many pop culture enthusiasts, Laurie Devore loves reality TV.

She first watched “The Bachelor,” for example, with her friends when she lived in Chicago, and it started out as a laugh. However, she quickly found herself getting invested — but why?

Now, the South Carolina native realizes she watches from a “train wreck perspective,” rather than from notions of romance.

“I kind of think it’s psychological torture for people who are on reality TV,” she tells TODAY.com. “And of course, to a certain extent, they sign up for that.”

That circumstance is at the heart of Devore’s latest book, her adult debut, “The Villain Edit.”

“The Villain Edit” focuses on Jacqueline Matthis, a 32-year-old romance author struggling to salvage her career after her high-profile book deal crashes and burns. In a ploy for increased exposure for her and her books, she decides to go on “The 1,” a “Bachelor”-inspired dating show.

For the book, Devore dived into existing material about what life is like behind-the-scenes of the shows, citing Courtney Robertson’s memoir, “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain” and Los Angeles Times writer Amy Kaufman’s book “Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure.”

The result is a story chronicling Jac’s experience filming the show, interspersed with asides about how her interactions with Marcus, “The 1’s” lead, and her fellow contestants play out on camera. Jac gets the titular “villain edit,” shorthand for the portrayal of a person as the central antagonist in the drama of a reality show.

The blending of past and present came from Devore’s interest in “how the things that happened can be manipulated and shown in a certain way on TV that maybe isn’t the reality of what happened at all,” she says.

After every chapter, Devore also gives a glimpse at how audiences are reacting to Jac through blog posts, podcast transcripts and even Jac’s social media inbox.

“I feel like the nature of reality dating shows has changed so much,” she says. “So much of it is feedback. You see the reunion shows, and they bring up things that they found out on like Twitter from exes and things like that.”

The goal is to create a depiction of reality TV that feels “current.”

“It’s almost like a conversation now between the people watching and the people making the show,” she says.

More romance and summer reading

Meanwhile, Jac is actually finding love in an unlikely place: with the show’s producer, Henry.

The result is messy. So much so that one piece of early feedback of “The Villain Edit” is, “For people who support women’s wrongs.”

“I tend to be more interested in female characters that have these sharp edges and make mistakes,” Devore says. “I never want someone to finish the book and think, ‘Jac didn’t do anything wrong. None of this is on her,’ which is not the case at all. I think it’s just, she goes into this thing where her worst qualities get exacerbated.”

So is it a romance? It’s a question Devore says she wrestled with herself.

“I do think that that rom-com label can create certain expectations that I don’t think this book is fully going to meet, because I almost think of it more as like a black comedy with a strong romance element,” she says.

She says it falls “right on the line” between romance and contemporary fiction.

But for fans of a traditional romance, “I think it can scratch that itch — if you’re OK with the messiness of what you’re getting,” she says.

“The Villain Edit” is out July 2. For now, read an exclusive excerpt below.

Read an excerpt of ‘The Villain Edit,’ by Laurie Devore

Back at the mansion, I allow Charlotte to lead me away from the bathroom door, out the glass double doors in the back and onto the patio, where the crew is abuzz.

“What have you been doing all this time?” Charlotte asks me, the chiding whisper of a girlfriend who you’d made plans with and subsequently ditched.

“Rescuing sad girls from the bathroom.”

Charlotte shakes her head. “Wrong choice,” she says. “You’re one of my contenders, girl. You need to go talk to Marcus.”

“Oh,” I say. “I get it. This is when you need me to interrupt whoever he’s currently talking with and cause some drama.”

Charlotte smiles sardonically. “That’s what we brought you on for. Now, go,” she says, giving me a little push toward the tidy pagoda where Aliana is curled up with Marcus on a couch. I step forward, tilting my head to one side. Aliana is, predictably, tearing up.

“Oh,” I say. “Hey, y’all.”

Marcus looks up at me, relieved. I can tell I’m his life raft in this moment.

“You wanna get out of here?” I ask him, thinking I’m being funny. Aliana stares at me like she wishes I were dead.

But Marcus says, “Definitely,” shoots up from where he’s sitting with Aliana, and grabs my hand. I pull him in the direction of the pool in the mansion’s backyard, fairy lights glowing all around us. If I was writing a romantic scene into a book, I might set it here.

Marcus stops at the edge of the mansion’s pool. I look down at the water, then back up at him.

“Well?” I say. “Are we doing this?”

I slough off my heels and crouch down, sitting at the edge of the pool, hiking up my evening gown, and dipping my feet into the water.

With a laugh, Marcus gets down beside me, untying his shoes and then removing his socks.

“Don’t get your pants wet,” I warn him.

“Eh.” He shrugs with an easy grin. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“I don’t know, I guess you could just disappoint your future wife,” I return.

“Maybe I’d disappoint my future wife if I didn’t get into the pool with her,” Marcus says, and despite myself, I feel my cheeks warm.

“I wasn’t sure we’d get to talk again,” I admit to Marcus.

“But you wanted to?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say, leaning my body toward his as much as I can while still sitting beside him. I think of kissing him, the bourbon I’d had taking a powerful hold of my bloodstream. “I might even move in, if you really want.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Charlotte grinning.

Marcus is looking at me, and I see his eyes flick down to my lips. “I’m not supposed to give anything away,” he says after a minute, then swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down.

“Well, I can’t reveal my tragic backstory until after a few dates, Marcus; those are just the rules.”

Then he leans down and kisses me.

It surprises me, how quickly it happens, but it’s a pitch-perfect culmination of our meet-cute. I sink into it. He has firm lips, and the kiss lasts longer than expected, but I can’t help but feel aware of all the cameras on the two of us, of the way this is playing out like a rom-com.

Finally, he pulls back, and his eyes go to my lips again and then to my eyes, and we both laugh nervously.

“Marcus!” someone calls. We both look up and it’s Andi the accountant. “Can I steal you for a second?” she asks, smiling saccharine sweet.

Marcus, carefully, so as to not get any water on my dress, gets up and out of the pool, grabbing his shoes. “But you didn’t tell me any of your secrets,” I whisper to him, grabbing on to his hand before he can leave.

“I will,” he promises me, leaning back down closer—too close in front of another girl, I think. “Soon.”

Then he goes; I stare at his backside as he does.

Charlotte rushes over to me with a towel, helping me up out of the pool. “That was good!” she gushes.

“The sparks were flying. If you need any more towels, let Elodie know,” she says, pointing to Elodie crouching nearby so the camera won’t catch her as Andi and Marcus make their way to another part of the house. “I have to run, but call me if you need me.”

“Sure,” I say, wrapping the towel around myself. I slide back into my heels.

“You look great,” Elodie assures me, hurrying over. “I know you’re going to be a star on the season.” She pauses as noises come through from her headset. “Can you head back inside okay? I need to go set up something for one of the girl’s one-on-one time. Priya will grab you as soon as you’re back inside.”

The night drags on, endlessly on, and girls are drunk and crying and a couple are napping sitting up in overstuffed chairs. Priya asks if she can grab me for one more ITM before the elimination ceremony. I sit through it, dead-eyed, feeling as if I barely have anything left to give, the camera trained on me with Priya looking increasingly bored with my answers.

“Let’s try one more,” she tells me. “I just need one good answer from you, Jac, and then we’ll be done.” As she says this, Charlotte slides through the door, watching me from a corner, arms folded over her chest. “Come on, Jac. You’ve met Marcus. You’ve met the other girls. What do you think of them?”

I stare at the camera, completely drained, yet confident at what I’d already managed in one night. I steel myself to give a good answer, take a sip of my champagne, and say it without thinking about it: “The other girls? I don’t think about them at all.”

Charlotte smiles. “Cut and print.”

Excerpt from THE VILLAIN EDIT by Laurie Devore. Copyright © 2024 by Laurie Devore. Used with permission by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

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