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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Luxe by Anna Godberson

Yes, I'm doing it to you again. I'm posting yet another review on a book seemingly revolved around girly glamour. Bare with me here though, I'm about to tell you about a very good book that I can't help but gush about.

The Luxe is a dramatic, romantic tale full of scandal, intrigue, and some very fancy party dresses. Here's a summary I wrote for it, 'cause, ya know, I just love summarizing.

Welcome to Manhattan in 1899, where a life of luxury and splendor is a privilege, not a right. Girls in ballgowns chase after the men with the most money. The newspapers are abuzz with gossip about last night's parties and the people who were there. Servants work endlessly to make the society girls seem flawless. Elegant ladies buy the best they can afford at Lord & Taylor. The people of the high class would rather die than fall from social graces. And a midst all this, 5 teenagers have their own personal struggles.

There's Elizabeth Holland, society princess who is adored by all of Manhattan.
There's Diana, Elizabeth's rebellious little sister, who would rather be out having adventures than stuck at stuffy balls.
There's Penelope Hayes, Elizabeth's backstabbing best friend who will do anything to get what she wants.
There's Henry Schoonmaker, the wealthiest, most attractive young bachelor in all of New York who just wants to have a good time.
There's Lina Broud, Elizabeth's personal maid who is secretly jealous of her and is determined to one day rise above her mistress in Manhattan's social scene.

When Elizabeth and Diana learn that they are suddenly very poor after their father dies, their mother sees only one solution if they want to keep their wealth and status: Elizabeth must marry Henry Schoonmaker. Henry himself has no interest in Elizabeth, but his father threatens to disinherit him if he doesn't. But once he and Elizabeth are engaged, he falls for mischievous, romantic Diana, who returns his feelings. Elizabeth does not know this, she's too busy having her own affair with Will, the family coachman, a man she could never have a future with without giving up everything. This enrages her maid Lina, who also has affections for Will. And on top of it all, when Penelope learns that her best friend Elizabeth is engaged to Henry, the man SHE loves, she begins plotting revenge and vows the luxe wedding that is being held for the two will never take place. It's a dangerous life, there in the folds of Manhattan's elite, so dangerous and full of hatred that someone is almost bound to end up dead...

Ohmuhgosh, this book was awesome. Perfection is the only way to describe it. Anna Godberson is crazy talented in the way she flawlessly transports the reader into another era. Her descriptions and detailed insight were really something, there isn't dull moment to be found. Each chapter is told from the point of view from one of the 5 main characters. My favorite point of view was hands down Penelope. Getting into the head of scheming, vengeful rich girl is loads of fun, she's a fantastic antagonist expertly crafted by Godberson.

The story was laid out cleverly. It begins with a prologue that takes place at, in fact, the funeral of one of the main characters, Elizabeth. I found it shocking and disturbing that after that, the first chapter, and many chapters after that were told from Elizabeth's point of view in the days leading up to her death. At the end of the preface, it is mentioned that Diana was smiling at her sister's funeral, and on the very last page of the story, we learn exactly why she did this. I thought this was (what can I say?) cool.

The multiple love triangles of the book were also done well, not too confusing but filled with enough drama. But the best part about the novel wasn't that, or all the scandalous intrigue. For me at least, the highlight was the fashion. The author never failed to describe an outfit that a character was wearing, especially for the leading ladies of the story. The descriptions of their fancy dresses really made the book.

A flawless, breathtaking read that takes you to another time and will leave you wanting more. (Thank God for sequels!) I loved it, and hope you will too.
5/5 stars

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