The day Elizabeth Adora Holland died was a sad day for New York City. A shining beacon of the city’s high society, tales of Elizabeth’s life brightened the days of those who read about her in the local papers. That she should be buried on the very day of her wedding to Henry Schoonmaker, the city’s most eligible bachelor, only makes the young socialite’s sudden death that much more tragic.
Life for the New York elite was easy in 1899 when servants still catered to a family’s every whim and a family’s name almost meant more than its fortune. Almost . . . .
Godbersen peels back the veneer of some of New York’s wealthiest (fictional) families to reveal a world of intrigue, betrayal, and even danger in the first novel in the Luxe series. It should also be noted that reviews citing The Luxe as a thinly disguised historical Gossip Girl are not far off.
While Godbersen creates a compelling plot that will have readers anxious for the next installments in the series, her characters are distinctly feeble by comparison. The story revolves around the events leading to Elizabeth’s untimely demise, but the story follows many points of view including Elizabeth’s younger sister, her dashing fiance, her embittered maid, and her ruthless-social-climber best friend. None of whom are particularly convincing or likable.
Godbersen struggles to portray Elizabeth as a beach of moral fortitude in a world rife with corruption and selfishness. But even the author cannot maintain the lofty pedestal she created for Elizabeth ultimately making her appear at best to be an irresolute hypocrite and at best as a spoiled (largely oblivious) brat. Everything that seemed meant to endear Elizabeth to readers served instead as further annoyance.
Her sister Diana is equally frustrating. Diana comes off as a slightly dim, intensely annoying, poor little rich girl for the majority of the story as she fantasizes about a life bereft of her family’s ostentatious wealth. Her general air of recklessness and thoughts turning constantly to handsome young men do little to improve her character.
Even with the lackluster, inaccurate, and generally unconvincing characters The Luxe does manage to provide readers with a strong story with several twists along the way. This page-turner will be a book readers will love to hate–or hate to love.
Possible Pairings: The Shadows by Megan Chance, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher, Vixen by Killian Larkin, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor