Book Review & Discussion: Splendor (The Luxe) by Anna Godbersen (SPOILERS)

Posted August 12, 2015 by @Angelized_1st in 2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge, Books, Entertainment, Reading Challenges / 0 Comments

Book Review & Discussion: Splendor (The Luxe) by Anna Godbersen (SPOILERS)Splendor by Anna Godbersen
Series: The Luxe,
Published by Harper Collins on October 27th 2009
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Adolescence, Girls & Women, Historical, United States, General
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
ISBN: 9780061935909
Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks

New beginnings.
Shocking revelations.
Unexpected endings.

A spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.

Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.

In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?



Anna Godbersen’s historical fiction, young adult series, The Luxe, concludes with the fourth novel, Splendor. The synopsis states that there will be new beginnings, shocking revelations, and unexpected endings, and that was partially true. When we last saw the scheming characters of 18th century New York high society, Elizabeth got married off to Snowden Cairns after discovering she was in the family way with her late husband’s child. Diana had run off in search of Henry Schoonmaker, because she decided she’d rather be his mistress than be without him at all. Meanwhile, Penelope Schoonmaker tried to save face in light of being abandoned by Henry who’s off to war. Carolina Broad was left out in the cold following her benefactor’s sudden death, but still hopes to find love with Leland Brouchard.

New Beginnings… Shocking Revelations… & Unexpected Endings

Elizabeth’s new marriage turns out to be just what she needs to avoid the social backlash of having married her father’s former valet. While she still dreams of Will, Snowden appears to be an attentive husband. I felt like this arrangement was too good to be true from the very first moment Snowden arrived at No. 17 Gramercy Place claiming to help the Holland women in respect to his relationship with the late Mr. Holland. Something about the man rubbed me the wrong way, and I knew he was looking to marry into the prestigious family. However, it wasn’t until the end of the previous book that I realized his plans were much more nefarious.

As I read other people’s reviews about this book I noticed many thought the shocking revelation about Mr. Cairns came out of nowhere. But it didn’t. The ground work had been laid from the very beginning. That’s why I figured it out long before Elizabeth. Since the twist wasn’t that surprising, I feel it would have been better if Snowden got his own POV so readers were privy to more of his backstory with Mr. Holland. Especially considering the other twists the conclusion offered reader made this one unnecessary. As for Liz winding up married to Teddy Cutting, I feel as if the ground work was being laid from the get go, yet there should have been more scenes of Teddy trying to be with Liz so that them winding up together didn’t seem so rushed.

Penelope finds herself being seduced by the Prince of Austria, which seems like a way to advance herself further, and boosts her ego after the whooping it got from Henry’s desertion. This irritated me as I felt that Penelope was getting what she deserved from all of her scheming and the way she hurt so many people. As I began to read Splendor, I finally realized how much of a fool Penelope was being, and was happy how everything turned out for her. Somewhat. She deserved to be in a loveless marriage, but I just wish Henry didn’t have to suffer alongside her.

Despite my hatred of Carolina, I actually really enjoyed her story the most. Out of all the characters I feel that Carolina changed the most. I’ve seen on Goodreads and other forums how people were disappointed that Lina didn’t get the ending they wanted for her, but I feel satisfied with her ending. I also feel like her story may continue beyond the pages, and that’s where readers can imagine that she ended up however they wanted her to. While she didn’t have the typical “Happily Ever After,” end the end Lina’s life was happy. I feel like by not having Lina end up with Leland, it’s sticking the point that a woman’s happiness doesn’t have to depend on whether or not she has a man. In the end, Lina found happiness by being with the one person who loved her unconditionally.

Diana and Henry both end up in Cuba. Henry’s father William used his political influence to ensure Henry wouldn’t see any real action, and Diana was there in search of her love. I had been hoping for this couple to find themselves together, so it was nice reading how they were able to enjoy a relationship in the open without worrying about the judgmental snobs back in New York. After reading three books of them bumbling their way to get together, these scenes felt like my waiting had finally paid off. And then they returned to New York.

Many are unhappy with what finally happened with Henry and Diana’s story, but I felt it made sense for Diana’s character and what life was like for women at that time. Had Diana married Henry and stayed in New York, she would have been miserable. Despite being Henry’s wife, her “friends” would never let her forget how she became Mrs. Schoonmaker, and would only tolerate her because of who she was married to. If anything ever happened to Henry, she would become a pariah. Also, their children would suffer. People wouldn’t want their children to associate with their kids, as they would feel that Diana’s bad influence had probably run off on them. The only reason Henry and Diana would be able to marry their daughters into a good family, would be due to Henry’s standing in the community. Yet, if Henry failed to maintain the position in society his father left him, the Schoonmakers would be utterly ruined. By running off to Cuba after Henry, Diana ruined herself from ever being accepted in New York society again, and by staying away ensured that she didn’t bring that ruin onto the rest of her family.

As for Henry going with her to Paris, that was out of the cards the moment William Schoonmaker died. Henry now has too many responsibilities, and isn’t the carefree man we first meet in the first novel. He could have gone with her for a short time, but he couldn’t stay, and Diana could no longer remain. I really enjoyed how they continued to write letters through the years, and always held a fondness for one another. I also appreciated how Henry and Penelope came to an understanding. However, while Penelope didn’t deserve to find love, I feel that Henry did and it’s sad it appears he never did.

Discussion Questions

  • If you’ve read this series, do you feel that the revelation about Mr. Cairns was lackluster? How would you have preferred this been revealed?
  • Do you feel Penelope got what she deserved, or do you wish she had wound up with the Prince or cast aside in ruin?
  • Did Carolina’s ending satisfied you, or do you feel Leland should have forgiven her?
  • Were you disappointed by the resolution to Henry & Diana’s story? Why or why not?
  • What did you think about how Elizabeth’s story concluded? Did you feel as if her winding up with Teddy Cutting was out of the blue or well deserved?


About Anna Godbersen

Anna Godbersen was born in Berkeley, California and moved to New York to attend Barnard College. After graduating she worked in the literary department of Esquire magazine, where she also wrote book reviews. Her debut novel was the first installment of the bestselling LUXE series for young adults, which she followed with the BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS series. THE BLONDE, to be published by Weinstein in May 2014, is her first book for grownups. She lives in Brooklyn.


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