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….
When I saw the buzz about The Luxe hitting the blogosphere a few months ago, I immediately added it to my list of “must-reads”. Novels about the gilded age, or set in Victorian settings, have been some of my recent favorites. I also loved the Gossip Girl series and the TV show is appointment tv for me. The Luxe seemed like a perfect combination of these two. After getting a few giftcards for Christmas, Anna Godbersen’s book was #1 on my list.
First of all, how gorgeous is this cover? Despite the fact that one couldn’t even move in a dress like that, I want it! Where can I get a dress like that? If that dress evokes similar feelings in you, I am sure you will enjoy this debut novel from Anna Godbersen.
The Luxe is the story of rich, spoiled teenagers living in Manhattan. The twist? It’s 1899. The main characters are Elizabeth Holland- prim, proper, beautiful, and the eldest of the Holland clan (and hiding a secret romance with a boy below her class); Diana Holland- fun, silly, romantic, and everything her older sister is not; Penelope Hayes- rich, snotty, and full of new money…a mean girl for the ages; and Lina- the Holland girls’ maid servant with ambitions of her own. The chapters alternate from one girl to the next, with each chapter beginning with a primary document. For those familiar with the Gossip Girl series, instead of beginning chapters with emails and text messages, Godberson begins each chapter with a ball invitation, society gossip column, or correspondence. From blind items in the gossip pages to scandalous notes sent from one character to another, the primary documents are essential to the book’s plot.
It took me a few chapters to really get into this book. However, once I did I was swept into the world of balls, carriage rides, and Sunday visiting hours. While not overly heavy with historical facts, there is enough history thrown in to appease most readers. Mentions of Gramercy Park, Admiral Dewey, and the corruption that ran rampant in NYC politics at the time serve as a subtle backdrop for the scandalous lives of the main characters. I do wish the setting played a bigger part in the story. At times, it felt like the setting was merely background and the story could have been taking place anywhere, at anytime. Godbersen has an opportunity to really make NYC an important character, if you will, and I hope she takes advantage of that.
I did especially enjoy the almost circular ending. I finished the book very late last night, and immediately reread the first chapter. All of a sudden, so much more made sense. The first chapter serves as a great lead to pull you into the book, as you question exactly what is happening. It also serves as a great ending, so make sure you do reread it after finishing the book! My opinions on the characters also changed as the book went on. Godbersen slowly made each character seem more human as the plot unfolded, and characters that I hated as first began to seem more human.
This is a very fun book. The next book, in what is sure to be a 3-4 volume series, is due out in June, according to Amazon. I will definitely read the sequel, just to see what happens to these characters! Plus, I can’t wait to see what the next cover looks like- this book definitely wins the Cover of the Year award for YA!