Series: The Luxe,
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on October 13th 2009
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, 19th Century
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.
Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan’s social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City’s elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone—from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud—threatens Elizabeth’s and Diana’s golden future.
With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city’s gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan’s most celebrated daughter disappear...
In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.
Anna Godbersen’s writing reminds me of Edith Wharton’s when she wrote The Age of Innocence. Like that older novel, The Luxe depicts New York’s high society. Set in the 19th century, sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland try to navigate the treacherous waters of the rich and famous. Following the death of their father, Elizabeth must step up to the plate and play her part as a young, wealthy marriageable young woman to ensure her family’s survival. Young Diana has just debuted to New York society, and must learn to behave like a young woman raised in one of the oldest and wealthiest families. However, both young woman have their own ideas of what their life should be like, and how they want to live it. After Elizabeth meets tragedy in a horrible accident, the sisters discover that things never turn out the way you plan.
I really enjoyed how Godbersen began the novel with Elizabeth’s funeral, causing readers to spend the remainder of the book looking for clues to who could have been behind Liz’s tragic accident. Was it her social-climbing best friend and rival Penelope? Her scheming and jealous maid Lina? Or could the charming and debonaire Harry Schoonmaker have decided to rid himself of an inconvenience? There are several good candidates, and unraveling the mystery was part of the fun.
The novel isn’t told from first person perspective, so if you are unfamiliar with the older style of writing Godbersen uses to tell this story, hate third person narratives, or are not a fan of historical fiction novel, then this book is definitely not for you. The characters do nothing but plot, gossip, and generally act horribly. Each chapter begins with a newspaper, magazine article, or book excerpt that gives readers an idea about what will happen in that particular chapter. All-in-all it depicts the life of the upper class to be filled with superfluous things, wasteful, and disdainful. While I found this to be entertaining, it does make the majority of the characters unlikable.
Another aspect of the story readers may not appreciate is that there are several mysteries set-up in the novel, but only one is solved by the end of The Luxe. You’re going to have to read the entire series to find out the resolution to the other lose ends story. The only reason I don’t mind this is because I bought the Complete Collection edition ebook from iBooks, because it was cheaper than buying each book individually. If I hadn’t done that, this might have made me feel taken advantaged of.
Do I Recommend?
I really enjoyed it, but I’ve always found books set in 19th century New York to be highly entertaining. The synopsis likens the Luxe to Gossip Girl, but I think it does the book injustice, and probably harm, as that description put me off reading it initially. I actually thought the book was reminiscent of The Age of Innocence or even Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The sexual encounters are only hinted at, though, so young readers can still enjoy the story without being exposes to anything salacious. Like I stated above, if you aren’t a fan of gossiping socialites, or historical fiction, then you won’t enjoy this novel.