Anna Godbersen – The Luxe
Length: 435 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: 03 February 2008
Finished: 05 February 2008
Summary: It’s 1899, and while there were no celebrity gossip blogs, the lives of young socialites were followed just as ardently as they are today. Elizabeth Holland was the perfect young debutante, but tragically, her funeral was held on the very day she was to marry Henry Schoonmaker, the most eligible young bachelor in town, although admittedly a bit of a cad. The novel then backtracks a few weeks and dives right in to the steamy, sordid, scandalous web of attachments of the young well-to-do in New York City at the end of the nineteenth century. Parental pressures force Henry’s engagement to Elizabeth, but she’s in love with Will, a servant. Penelope, Elizabeth’s ex-best-friend, is in love with Henry and cannot stand the idea of any one else marrying him. Meanwhile, Henry discovers that he’s falling for Elizabeth’s younger sister, Diana. Complications ensue.
Review: Wonderful, fluffy fun. I haven’t read any of the Gossip Girl books (nor do I particularly want to), so I can’t comment on the comparison, but I do enjoy some good historical fiction. This book served admirably – it evoked turn-of-the-century New York effortlessly, provided a cast of interesting (if somewhat stereotypical) characters, and let the scandal and backstabbing and liaisons and lies begin. The shifting viewpoint of each short chapter moved the story along at a good clip, although there was one subplot (that of Elizabeth’s maid, Lina) that I didn’t feel was incorporated or resolved as well as it could have been, and winds up feeling somewhat tangential to the main story. Overall, though, this is the literary equivalent of every teen soap that has ever aired on the WB… slightly trashy, a little predictable, horribly addicting, and even though you know there’s probably something more edifying you could be doing with your time, you get involved with it anyways because it’s just so much fun. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: This book is in no way serious literature, but it’s a fun read for fans of historical romance whose brains need a bit of a break from heavier tomes.
Read my review of the sequel to The Luxe, Rumors
- p. 28: “For a moment, Diana felt like she could have been a million miles off in a tent hidden away in some souk in Tunis or Marrakech, arranging for secret deals in magic powders.” – a market, or part of a market, in an Arab city
- p. 49: “‘Yes, you good-for-nothing boulevardier,’ his father spat out, his momentary good humor quickly evaporating.” – a man about town.
- p. 68: “They’d agreed that the terrine was delicious, though they had both been too excited to really eat any of it, and that they’d drunk more champagne than they had meant to.” – a paté or similar dish of chopped meat, game, fish, or vegetables baked in such a dish and served cold.
- p. 147: “The phaeton came to a stop, and Buck climbed – almost delicately for a man of his size – down to the street so that he could assist Penelope.” – a light, four-wheeled open carriage, usually drawn by a pair of horses.
- p. 152: “Penelope was about to ask more questions about the prince, when she noticed the curious figure of Diana Holland, in a pale peach and Belgian lace concoction that was topped off with enormous gigot sleeves.” – leg-of-mutton sleeve.
- p. 164: “All around the table, there was movement – the servants passing in the shadows of the room, the young people clapping their hands and squealing the older guests ordering second helpings of terrapin – but Henry held his gaze steady.” – any of various edible North American web-footed turtles living in fresh or brackish water
- p. 186: “She tried to calm her heart as she took the padded red leather backseat of the landau.” – a four-wheeled, two-seated carriage with a top made in two parts that may be let down or folded back.
- p. 209: “Then she stood, letting Robber fall and skitter across the floor, and walked over to one of the floor-to-ceiling ormolu-encrusted mirrors that filled the spaces between Old Master paintings, to look at a more visually appealing subject.” – gilded metal, esp. cast brass or bronze gilded over fire with an amalgam of gold and mercury, used for furniture mounts and ornamental objects.
- p. 229: “She was wearing a maroon dress, and her neck was covered by a cream scarf, which she claimed would protect her from catarrh.” – inflammation of a mucous membrane, esp. of the respiratory tract, accompanied by excessive secretions.
- p. 317: “She gave her sister a nod and then she stepped onto the iron porte cochere.” – a porch at the door of a building for sheltering persons entering and leaving carriages.