Release: November 20, 2007
Others in the Series: Rumors, Envy, and Splendor
From the striking cover on the outside to each little word on the inside, everything about The Luxe is gorgeous and enticing. This novel is everything a drama should be, and I absolutely loved it.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 the 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.
The book opens with a "prologue" describing Elizabeth's funeral, and then proceeds to flash back to the beginning of the story, the rest of the events following in chronological order. It was certainly an interesting thing to do, and one I was not sure I was a fan of at first, but I soon realized that intentional spoilers can make the rest of the book so much better. When various characters began musing about murdering Elizabeth, knowing her body would not be found and a ceremony would be held made my desire to know who the killer was-or if there even was a killer-that much stronger. Of course, it did enable me to figure out the ending as it approached, but I somehow did not mind. This was one of the best things Anna Godbersen did for the novel, because it gave the plot a touch of mystery even in the beginning, which focuses more on the family's personal conflicts. If readers somehow become bored, they can simply remind themselves that Elizabeth dies and their need to uncover how will keep them turning pages.
Honestly, this was something I had to think to myself from time to time, but not because I was disinterested. The Luxe is what I can only describe as rich, and reading it is like eating a filling and delicious dessert; you love it, but can only consume it in small quantities. It has a strange, entirely new quality that I cannot quite pinpoint. Godbersen is the only author of whom I know who can write a book that makes "put down-able" a positive description.
When I was reading, however, I was absolutely enthralled. Complete with arranged relationships and love triangles that are really more like love rectangles, historical Manhattan's social class-driven society provides a story that is filled with scandal in the classiest possible way. Despite the fact that these girls are teenagers faced with what should be adult problems, the characters' reactions to these events are so palpable and relatable. Whether a girl is being ripped out of her secret, forbidden relationship and thrust into a loveless marriage, or being forced to see someone close to her engaged to the object of her affections, readers will feel her misery. All of this combined with the mystery established in the first chapter creates a book that is simply thrilling.
The accents that really made this story stand out, though, were the details strategically placed throughout the novel. I am in no way an expert on this time period and therefore cannot make any statements regarding their accuracy, but I can obliviously say that they gave the story a sophisticated, polished shine.
The Luxe is a fascinating picture of privileged life at the turn of the century that will appeal to everyone's drama-loving side. It has just about everything a person could want, and I could not have reasonably asked for anything else from it. Undeterred by its very filling quality, it has left me hungry for more.