82 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating from start to finish!
The year is 1899. While women and young ladies are supposed to be demure and proper in each and every thing they do; so is not the case for many of those living in New York City. Four young women, to be exact, who are committing different forms of wrongdoing, which would certainly turn heads and cause whispers in upper class society. Things that would leave them shunned...
Published on November 19, 2007 by Erika Sorocco
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If only the book were as good as the cover
I wanted to love THE LUXE. I really did. And I only liked it.
The book begins at the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, 1899 Manhattan's ideal young lady of the upper class. She presumably drowned in the Hudson; her body has never been recovered. This should make for a really interesting book, exploring her death and the possible causes and how everyone reacts,...
Published on December 17, 2007 by Anidori-Isilee
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82 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating from start to finish!,
The year is 1899. While women and young ladies are supposed to be demure and proper in each and every thing they do; so is not the case for many of those living in New York City. Four young women, to be exact, who are committing different forms of wrongdoing, which would certainly turn heads and cause whispers in upper class society. Things that would leave them shunned. But, as long as no one finds out, I suppose it doesn't really matter. If those secrets are revealed, however, things may not be as...peachy keen as they are now.
Eighteen-year-old, Elizabeth Adora Holland, is the girl every gentleman wants to be with, and all the girls want to be. As far as society goes, Elizabeth is the ideal up-and-comer. She's demure, polite, pure, and breathtakingly beautiful. What society doesn't know about, however, are her late-night trysts with a certain member of her staff. Trysts that seem harmless and loving to Elizabeth and her...admirer; but would turn heads and cast her out of the inner circle in mere moments. When she is betrothed to the most sought-after bachelor in New York City, the world practically stops as wedding preparations begin. Unfortunately, Elizabeth's heart isn't in it, instead, her conscience and her true love take over, causing her to question her impending marriage. But with a horrible secret haunting her family, there is little she can do to save herself from a lifetime of misery, without taking matters into her own hands and doing something drastic.
While Elizabeth is the perfect model of society; her sixteen-year-old sister, Diana, is practically anti-proper manners and living. Diana would rather spend her days reading romance novels, and kissing random boys, than acting proper. She dreams of being a heroine, who is rescued by a dashing gentleman. When she learns of the impending trouble facing her family, she relishes it - believing it will bring her some excitement. Certainly not as much excitement as her secret affair with someone else's future husband, of course.
Penelope Hayes may be viewed by society as an improper floozy-esque young lady; but what she lacks in manners, she certainly makes up for in ravishing clothes, gorgeous looks, an estate that turns heads, and a bank account that leave people drowning in a puddle of their own drool. On the outside, it appears that Penelope and Elizabeth are best friends; but for those on the inside, it's quite obvious that Penelope's loath and jealousy of Elizabeth dominate their relationship. Especially when Elizabeth steals the man of her dreams away from her. Now she plans on destroying her future, no matter what it takes. As they say..."keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
Lina Broud has always been an outsider looking in at the privileged world of high society. As Elizabeth's maid, she once shared a close friendship with her employer. But times have changed. Elizabeth is too busy to be friends with someone beneath her, and Lina is too proud to go on serving someone so ungrateful. Luckily, Lina has some juicy gossip about Elizabeth. Gossip that could finally permit her entry into the glamorous world of high society. The question is whether or not she's capable of betray her childhood friend for a little cold, hard cash. It's amazing what type of effect money can have on someone.
I am beyond shocked to learn that this is Anna Godbersen's debut novel. From page one, her lavish descriptions of old time New York City, and high society hooked me; while her gossip-loving, well-dressed characters reeled me in. The scandal and mystery wrapped inside this charmed world, of course, didn't hurt the story at all. Rather, it added another dimension to the tale, making it incapable for the reader to put it down. While Elizabeth is a good girl doing bad things; and Penelope is a bad girl doing bad things; and Lina is a spiteful servant you can't help but dislike; Diana comes off as the most diverse, multi-dimensional character - at least in my eyes. Diana is the epitome of a girl gone wrong. She doesn't take direction from her elders, she spends her days devouring books, and she has no problem with smoking, or kissing random men. Her free spirit is overwhelmingly delightful; and, mixed with the characters of Lina, Penelope, and Elizabeth, Godbersen has woven a tightly knit story that leaves the reader craving more. And with a cliffhanger that would leave anyone salivating, there's no doubt in my mind that people won't be racing to the store for the next installment. Intoxicating from start to finish!
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If only the book were as good as the cover,
I wanted to love THE LUXE. I really did. And I only liked it.
The book begins at the funeral of Elizabeth Holland, 1899 Manhattan's ideal young lady of the upper class. She presumably drowned in the Hudson; her body has never been recovered. This should make for a really interesting book, exploring her death and the possible causes and how everyone reacts, right? Unfortunately, this book is not about Elizabeth's death but the lives of five teenagers living in upper class Manhattan.
Elizabeth does not want to marry Henry Schoonmaker and he doesn't want to marry her, but neither have a choice. Elizabeth's family is faced with ruin if she doesn't marry; Henry, who is quite a scoundrel, is faced with being disinherited. But Penelope Hayes, daughter of a newly wealthy family, wants Henry for herself and will do anything to get him, and servant Lina Broud, who hates her mistress Elizabeth, might prove dangerous.
The characters are all stereotypical or boring. There's absolutely no thought behind the characters of Penelope, Lina, and Henry. They are exactly what you'd expect to find, and there's nothing about them that makes them stand out. Elizabeth is just dull, and the adults too have very little personality. Only Diana Holland, Elizabeth's rebellious and slightly immature younger sister, shows any potential for developing into a memorable literary character. I will read the second book, but mainly to find out what happens to Diana.
And then the writing...Godbersen tried to make her writing stand out by using vivid words, but honestly in the end her writing just seemed stilted. She seemed to do a lot more telling than showing, and sometimes she added details in places where they disrupted the story. Overall, the writing made what should have been an exciting book hard to get into.
This wasn't a bad book. I did enjoy it, but it's not as good as I was expecting.
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing. WARNING might contain SPOILERS,
I really wanted to love this book, I was excited about it and added it to my wish-list before it even came out. I'm a born New Yorker and have always been interested in NYC history and am pretty well read about NYC's 'gilded age' (the Astors, Vanderbildts and all that;) and I also have a love for Gossip Girl type books so I thought the marriage of the two would turn out some wonderfully entertaining reading for me :D
When it comes to historic accuracy (especially down to small details like comments about Tammany Hall or Worth, or "Mauve is a made-up color") Godbersen shines. You can tell a lot of research went in to this book! It is always a good thing when the author respects her work and her audience enough to put an effort into making a books as authentic as possible. The other thing is, she doesn't choke us down with too much detail, she gives just enough so it's there without being annoying or distracting. She is especially good at storytelling, all her words and sentences flowed together seamlessly and I only caught one typo, which for 400+ pages, we can forgive.
Now the bad:
I really hated her characters. There are six main ones (WARNING SOME OF THE FOLLOWING MIGHT BE SPOILER-ISH!) Elizabeth, Diana, Penelope, Lina, Henry and Will. From what I can tell, Elizabeth and her mom just reminded me of that whole Consuelo & Alva Vanderbilt thing (Alva, the mom basically forced Consuelo into a loveless marriage and there was a huge drama/scandal), and then Penelope reminds me of that whole Alva Vanderbilt saga in a different way because her whole family is depicted as the noveau-riche outsiders trying to break into big society. Then you get Penelope's male bff Bucky who is basically just like Mrs. Astor's male bff Ward McAllister, except of course all these people are meant to be in their late-teens!
I'm not against the fact that a lot of the characters seemed as if they were modeled on real people, I actually thought that was a very cute touch, but the thing is I just never warmed up to any of the characters. That touch of human warmth was not there. In Gossip Girl I was rooting for all the characters despite all of their faults (and yes, they had many!) but here, none of the characters had anything that made up for their faults. To me, the most likeable was Diana, it seemed as if the author put the most effort into crafting her. She seemed most like a 16-17 year old as well, cute, flighty, naiive, bored, exciteable, attention-seeking,etc.. whereas most of the other characters were just flat. We were basically told at the beginning of the book that we should not like Penelope because she is the villain but we never really saw her do anything bad though. if anything, *SPOILER* bad things happened to her and she had her heart broken. Who can blame a girl for trying to get her boyfriend back?
We never really got to know any of the other characters at all. we were just told 'Will is the sexy, rugged and forbidden servant', 'Henry is the wealthy, handsome, slutty drunkard that everyone wants', 'Lina is the jealous, disgruntled servant' even with the main character Elizabeth, we were just TOLD who she was but most of the things we SAW about what she was were actually contrary to what we had been told (like we kept being told shes an innocent, boring, proper golden girl but we keep seeing her getting into inappropriate situations that would indicate that she is NOT innocent in the least)
The other problem was the plot itself. It started off as a murder-mystery and within the 1st few pages they mention the body is missing so then you already know the dead person isn't really dead because that's always what happens in stories like this. When I got to page 75 I knew exactly where the 'dead person' was going to end up being by the end of the book. It was just way too obvious.
I am reading 2 other teen series involving murder-mysteries (private and pretty little liars) and those authors weaved their plots so well that I was left guessing to the last minute so I was really disappointed that I was able to figure this book out so early on.
I probably wont read the sequel because I just do not care what happens to any of these characters. I feel really bad about saying that because I know the author probably spent a million hours writing this book but it just feels like, okay there were 400+ pages and only 6 main characters, (or maybe 4 if we dump out Lina and Will) there could have been A LOT MORE character exposition and development.
by the way, what is up with all these random 5-star 2-line reviews?
64 of 78 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What year is it? Oh really, 1899? Yeah, right.,
I normally dislike writing negative reviews, but in this case I feel absolutely inspired to. I received this book as an Advanced Readers copy from the Harper Collins First Look program, I am I truly expected to be blown away by what promised to be an excellent historical portrayal of teens at the turn of the nineteenth century. Instead, I felt like the characters in the book had been plucked from some modern day series like the Gossip Girl books. I am sure there are plenty of naughty girls of the upper crust in any time period, but it seemed to me that all the girls were lacking in the basic decorum of the time.
That is not to say the book was on the whole terrible. The descriptions of the lavish way of life certainly inspired me, placing me within the glittering late Victorian world. My main qualm was the characters. To me, they just didn't seem to embody the spirit of the age. I am not a prude, to be sure, as I read things that have sexual depictions, but the casualness of the depicted sex left a bad taste in my mouth. I could not care much for any of the characters because they seemed so bratty and duplicitous with their so-called friends. There wasn't even a good loathing hate that can come from an excellent depiction of a villain, just a dislike for everyone.
Perhaps I should have thought twice about wanting to read a book that talked about the bad girls acting bad and the good girls also acting bad, but I suppose I just wanted the book to be something else. So while I have been a little scathing, there is certainly an audience for this book, if you like the kind of modern melodrama with plenty of sex and betrayal along with a dose of "friendship." And there are beautiful descriptions of the luxury of the times which are quite impressive and vivid. A mixed bag for me, but sure to be a catch for those who like this sort of thing.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What's all the hype about?,
I finally got around to reading this book, and pushed my way through it. Anyone with half a brain could figure out what was going to happen at the end of the novel. The author should have been more inventive and done things differently. The characters were pretty standard too and were all one dimensional. We had the pretty boy who got all the girls, the jealous but beautiful best friend, the envious poor maid and the bratty little sister.
While some people disliked Elizabeth, I actually liked her character because she tried to be the perfect Victorian lady (except for that whole sleeping with her servant thing). As for the historical detail everyone is raving about. Eh, she got some of it right and some of it wrong. I didn't find it rich in historical detail and could list 50 other books that have done it better.
Another reviewer said this book (and I'm paraphrasing) was nothing more than Gossip Girls in old fashioned dresses. I would agree with that statement. No one acted like they should, and hence that's one historical detail that the author got wrong. Everyone was sneaking off to sleep with their lovers. I could imagine one girl being daring enough to do this, but so many?
The writing style was also a bit odd. At first I thought the author would write in a Victorian style, because it seemed as if she was trying. Then she would cast it aside and write in a more modern tone. She would flip flop between these two styles which was annoying. Pick one and go with it! If you can't write in a Victorian style, then don't attempt it sometimes and discard it half way through. The dialogue was also very modern.
I wonder if this series will become a TV show. It just seems like it would. We have scandal, pretty people and lavish sets and costumes. It's just ripe for the CW to pick it up and make it into a series.
For teens looking for good historical fiction I strongly suggest A Northern Light or the Queen's Soprano. For teens looking for a mindless read about catty girls in pretty dresses that somewhat resembles the Victorian Era, then this book is for them.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Far from luxurious,
It's 1899, and all of New York high society is mourning the death of beautiful socialite Elizabeth Holland (not a spoiler--the book opens with her funeral). As the book flashes back to the days preceding Elizabeth's funeral, we discover that her life of glittering parties was far from glamorous. Forced into a loveless engagement to save her family from financial ruin, Elizabeth secretly longs for a boy who works in the carriage house, but she can't see a way out of family duty. Meanwhile, flashy, "new-money" Penelope Hayes feels betrayed by her best friend Elizabeth, who is marrying the very man Penelope dreamed of wedding. Elizabeth's maid Lina, too, nurses a deep hatred toward her mistress, who she feels stole the carriage boy away from her. Then, too, there's Diana, Elizabeth's younger sister, who dreams of adventure far away from the confines of Manhattan. As September rolls on, Elizabeth begins to feel increasingly trapped within societal and familial expectations, while Penelope and Lina attempt to take control of their worlds with drastic results.
The Luxe has all the ingredients of a deliciously addictive series (the second book, Rumors, comes out in 2008). The trouble is, Godbersen's writing is just not up to the task. At times she tries for a pseudo-Victorian style that comes off as stilted, and descriptions and dialogue often sound stiff and forced. All this could be forgiven for a riveting plot and fascinating characters, but Godbersen fails to deliver in those respects, too. None of the characters are fully developed, though Diana has potential to develop into an intriguing figure later on in the series. Most of the characters are stock types--the jealous friend, the vindictive maid who longs to rise in society--save Elizabeth herself, who I just couldn't figure out. We're told she's beautiful and perfect, but all her former friends hate her, and in public scenes she comes across as vapid and practically lifeless. In terms of the plot arc, I suspected the true ending by the end of the prologue, and by several chapters in it was practically confirmed.
It can be a fun ride to the end, however. Godbersen does well with the Gossip Girl-type elements of the plot, and the cruel machinations and intrigues between characters are particularly fun to read. I felt hooked even as I was disappointed by other elements of the book. As stilted as some of her descriptions can be, Godbersen really plunges you into the time period with her physical details, and she's clearly done her research on turn-of-the-century New York and its social mores.
Where her research goes wrong is in the translation to story. Most of the characters felt very modern to me, willing to jump into bed with the stable boy or the handsome rake next door at the slightest notice, with no thought to reputation or social expectations. I realize Godbersen has to walk a fine line between stuffy Victoriana and using modern behaviors to appeal to readers. Being a historian, however, I found it difficult to trust Godbersen as a writer because of the historical compromises she made for the story. By the end of the book I was wondering why she'd set the book in 1899 Manhattan at all, since it came across as a modern Gossip Girl with slightly higher stakes. And that questioning really ruined the book for me.
Again, though, even as I was aware of the problems in the book, it was still a fun read. It could be entertaining for an undiscriminating fan of the Gossip Girl series. For those looking for an absorbing, thoughtful historical novel set in the same time period, though, I'd steer readers in the direction of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, starting with A Great and Terrible Beauty (Readers Circle).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The gorgeous cover is the best thing going for this novel,
This review is from: The Luxe (Luxe Novel) (Paperback)
I wonder how many readers bought this book only for its sumptuous cover? I picked up this galley at BEA last year and was hoping for a Jennifer Donnelly-type read. I also wanted to like it simply because the author went to Barnard, where I used to teach. But -- Ugh. If you took Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 and set them in 1899 Manhattan, you would have this book. Godberson gives us the usual array of stock victims and stock victimizers, throws in some sex and the Gilded Age equivalents of drugs and rock-n-roll, and mixes it all up with a hackneyed cast of clueless, unreasonable parents. It's well-researched from a historical perspective, and I appreciated the attention to period detail. The trouble is that there is simply no one to root for here. Not one character is well-rounded enough to make a discerning reader care. There is also no moral center, no real conflict. These characters are so silly, shallow and self-centered that I almost didn't finish the book, which is rare for me with fiction. I made it to the all-too-predictable ending, but I will be avoiding the sequel no matter what the cover looks like.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Books and Covers,
Caught by the lavish cover, I requested this book from my local library to check it out. It was ploddingly dull and predictable, and so completely out-of-period for its characters and their behavior that I finally took it back (after renewing it once) without having read more than a third of it. Most readers are familiar with, or are fans of, the current fad of "school girl" novels in which underage privileged beauties scratch each other's eyes out and sleep around, so there is nothing left to say about this offering lightly coated with a sheen of historicity.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 400 Plus Pages and It Just Sets Up A Sequel,
My main complaint with the book is in the title of this review. Sequels and series fiction are fine, but after 400 plus pages there should be some sense of closure and not the set-up for the next novel. Still, the author sets the time and place with a well researched expertise but is able to deliver this research through her story without it hitting you over the head. The characters are drawn well and in some there is growth, always a good sign in a book. On the whole the book was enjoyable but the "twist" is telegraphed well in advance, rendering it not so much a surprise. The important detail is will I read the sequel? Yes, but I will approach it with a more jaundiced eye than I did this one.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Grossly overratted,
This review is from: The Luxe (Luxe Novel) (Paperback)
I was drawn into this book by the pretty gown and exquisite features of the cover model, and hey, who didn't love New York high society? As a fan of Edith Wharton's work, especially House of Mirth, I was appalled at Godberson's whole plot line and style. I was wholly unsympathetic to Elizabeth Holland, despite how much I tried to like her character. She is perfection in the eyes of her high string society and the prize for almost all guys, except, well, Henry Schoonmaker. I surmise this is where Godberson injects the everlasting theme in literature, of someone wearing a facade to the world, while battling within themselves to either follow their heart or duty. I saw Elizabeth as only an arrogant 18 year old, from the way she treated Lina. The author's attempt to redeem Elizabeth's hollow character by making her throw away her life for the sake of her love for Will Keller did not satisfy me. Also, I could not but keep comparing this book to House of Mirth, which is totally unfair of me in its own context, but The Luxe pales so much in comparison. Wharton's elaborate setting and tragic story, coupled with her flair for nailing NY society at its core (she was raised in it herself), cannot be replicated in this novel. I know myself that this is unfair to Godberson, but I still have to state my opinion. I was okay at the characterization of Penelope and Lina, for they fell right their roles of how they should act. The only part I like most about the book was Diana, and I was actually rooting for her to steal away Henry as soon as possible. If I can't even like the protagonist of the first book, how can I read the rest of the series?
I have a friend who likes the series a lot, so in the end, this is a good book if you are looking for an entertaining read about juicy gossips, scandals and a glimpse of how New York high society was like. Still, I would recomment House of Mirth, to the ones who have not had a chance to pick it up, that it really goes deeper into the morals and conscious of the "real" era.
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The Luxe (Luxe Novel) by Anna Godbersen