Anna Godbersen – Rumors
Read my review of the first book in the series, The Luxe.
Length: 423 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: 29 June 2008
Finished: 29 June 2008
Summary: Turn-of-the-century New York socialite Elizabeth Holland faked her own death to avoid marrying Henry Schoonmaker, the town’s most eligible bachelor, and to run off to California with the working-class man she loves. However, her “death” has left ripples in the society she left behind. Her younger sister Diana, in love with Henry, is now responsible for marrying well in order to repair the family finances. Henry is in public mourning for his fiancée, and societal pressures keep him from pursuing Diana, who he loves in return. Penelope Hayes is scheming to fit into the place that Elizabeth left behind, both in society’s eyes, and as Henry’s wife; and Elizabeth’s old servant Lina has schemes of her own. Adding to the confusion are the persistent rumors that Elizabeth is not as dead as almost everyone believes her to be.
Review: The Luxe novels are the literary equivalent of eating frosting straight from the tub – you know it’s probably not good for you, and you wouldn’t want anyone to catch you doing it, but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. They’re trashy teen historical fiction romance, all scandal and intrigue and dresses and secrets and sex and flitting about and fluff and fun. Rumors, which picks up only a few weeks after the end of The Luxe, carries on with the same storylines with much in the way of introduction or preliminaries; it’s not a stand-alone novel, by any means. Usually I get annoyed when sequels go overboard with the exposition about what’s come before, but I actually felt like Rumors could have used a little more of that. Godbersen relies pretty heavily on her established characterizations in this book, without actually having most of her characters behave so as to live up to them – a case of “tell but don’t show”. Similarly, the scandal and intrigue in this one falls somewhat flat. The first novel was such juicy fun as the various lines of attachment and secrets and betrayal were unraveled, but in this one, it just feels like we’re retreading familiar ground. Still, I will almost certainly read the third novel, Envy, when it comes out – sometimes the siren song of the brain-fluff frosting tub is hard to resist. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: An entertaining way to pass the afternoon, but lacks some of the spark of the first novel.
First Line: It has become almost regular for the lower classes of New York to catch glimpses of our native aristocracy in her city streets, tripping in for breakfast at Sherry’s after one of their epic parties, or perhaps racing sleighs in Central Park, that great democratic meeting place.
- p. 3 “The ladies had brought their historic jewels, diamond-tipped aigrettes for their hair, silk gloves.” – an ornamental tuft of upright plumes, especially the tail feathers of an egret.
- p. 5: “She looked regal now, in lace-trimmed velvet panne, her auburn hair done up in elaborate curls, as much a Vanderbilt as anyone.” – a soft, lustrous, lightweight velvet with flattened pile.
- p. 83: “There was nothing to suggest movement in the crimson penumbra behind them.” – a shadowy, indefinite, or marginal area.
- p. 140: “This change in atmosphere did not deter Diana, who continued on to the bed and perched on the white matelassé bedspread.” – an embossed, compound fabric woven on a dobby or Jacquard loom.
- p. 264: “Her portrait was small and famed in simple black tole.” – enameled or lacquered metalware, usually with gilt decoration, often used, esp. in the 18th century, for trays, lampshades, etc.