Series: The Luxe #1
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Read it in: 2 days
The Hook: 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.
Reading this book was like devouring a giant, heavily-frosted piece of dark-chocolate cake with a big glass of golden, bubbly champagne—it was just a wonderfully decadent and guilty pleasure from beginning to end.
The year is 1899, and sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland are caught up in all the opulent wealth and scandalous intrigue of New York City’s Gilded Age. Anna Godberson does an incredible job of bringing this world to life in all its vibrant color—I absolutely loved it! From the witty dialogue to the luxurious descriptions of upper-class life, to the dynamics that unfold between the characters, this book had me hooked within the first couple pages.
The cast of characters really stood out for me. From Elizabeth Holland, the elder sister who is pulled along by her sense of duty to her family and outwardly conforms to all the etiquette of her class (while secretly harboring a love affair with the family’s coachman), to Diana Holland, the younger sister who is calculating, unconventional and rebellious towards everything having to do with “high society.”
And the side characters are just as engaging: Penelope Hayes is Elizabeth’s “best friend” who ruthlessly tries to bring her down at all costs as revenge for taking the eligible but hopeless playboy Henry Schoonmaker away from her. Henry Schoonmaker is pompous and vain, chasing after as many skirts as he can. Mrs. Holland is consumed by the fortunes of her family and the need to maintain their wealth and luxury at all costs after the death of her husband. Lina the maid is jealous and spiteful of her old friend Elizabeth, who has not only stolen Will, the man she’s secretly in-love with, but who was once her best friend and now uses her as her servant. If this all sounds like some crazy Italian-operetta with a bunch of different POVs and intrigues, well you wouldn’t be far off! The entire cast of characters work together so well and are all woven perfectly into this story of playing high-stake games in late 19th-century New York City.
The Luxe has totally turned my opinion and restored all my faith in the brilliance of historical fiction (which I have said I’m not a fan of). I absolutely adored this book and thought that its portrayal was not only accurate but vividly real in its descriptions of high society at the end of the 19th century. (The only thing I might point out is that, if you don’t like lots of descriptive language that takes the time to paint every little thing in a room or setting, you might get slightly annoyed with The Luxe, because there is a lot of description!) I for one love these little details so for me they were almost as fun to read as all the tantalizing secrets and scandals, but that’s just my own preference…
If, on the other hand, you like the idea of getting pulled into a 19th century soap opera where everyone is beautiful and no one can be trusted with their dirty secrets and two-faced games, then The Luxe is for you. Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun reading a book in a long time and could NOT put it down. LOVED it and can’t wait to read the sequels!!