Author: Anna Godbersen
Part of a series? Luxe #1
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Length: 433 pages (hardcover)
Genre: YA historical romance
Source: Library eBook
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.
First Impression: Gossip Girl with a historical twist. That's what I thought The Luxe was going to be. And to some extent, it does bear not-so-startling similarities with Gossip Girl: the gorgeous cast of rich and spoiled teenagers, the decadent setting, the deliciously snooty narrative, the life-altering scandals and secrets. But it only takes the first couple of pages for me to realize that there's something else in The Luxe that sets it apart from Gossip Girl: mystery. The kind that hooks your interest, gets you to sit up a little bit straighter, and turn page after page after page.
The rest, as they say, is history.
SQUEE-worthy: I absolutely adore how this novel opens! The mystery is there from the get-go, and I think using the flashback approach is a brilliant move. Then there's the characters. These are not your average cookie-cutter characters with one-dimensional personalities and even shallower problems. The main characters--Elizabeth, Penelope, Diana, Lina, even Henry--are not purely good or bad; they're a writhing mix of both. I find myself vacillating on my opinion of each character, and this is one of very few books out there that actually made me hate--like gut-wrenchingly despise--a fictional character (*cough-Lina-cough*). There's also something about Godbersen's narrative voice that swoops and swells, bows and curtsies, just like the glittering boys and girls whirling across the ornate marble ballroom. It's grand, it's atmospheric, it's delicious.
"Meh" Moments: If you're a hardcore history buff like me, you'll soon realize that The Luxe is riddled with historical inaccuracies and a few instances of clunky dialogue. But the thing is, it never promises a meticulous account of life at the turn of the century (for that, you may want to read something by Edith Wharton). At best it's meant to entertain and suck the reader into this posh, extravagant whirlwind of upper class pageantry, and I think it certainly managed to do both.
For fans of: Edith Wharton, Gossip Girl, Downton Abbey, Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty.
Buy or Borrow? Buy! This is a great read for historical fiction fans who can tolerate a couple of inaccuracies here and there. I borrowed the first book in the the Luxe series from the library, but as soon as I completed it, I bought the 3-volume box set on Amazon!