04 May 2009

Review: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

In the high-society world of Manhattan in 1899, young women were readying themselves for the fall season of balls and teas and rides in the park. Among them is the beautiful, well-mannered, and obedient Elizabeth Holland. The debut ball is being held at the brand-new Fifth Avenue home of Liz's best friend, the vivacious Penelope Hayes.

Even though Elizabeth has only just returned from a year in Paris, her mother is already pressuring the eighteen-year-old to find a husband, preferably at the Hayes event that very night. The younger and rebellious Diana Holland has so far been able to avoid being in her mother's spotlight. Despite what the lower classes might think, marriages among the rich have little to do with love and much to do with merging fortunes and businesses. Elizabeth knows her duty, even if her heart protests.

Enter Henry Schoonmaker, the handsomest and richest of the eligible bachelors. Penelope wants him, Elizabeth hates him, and Diana loves him. Henry's father is well aware of his son's ability to charm the young ladies and his inability to assume responsibility. The elder Schoonmaker, more concerned with protecting his assets and running for political office than he is with Henry's happiness, has decided it's time for his son to marry.

All of New York is buzzing with the news of the upcoming wedding of the century. Everyone is happy except the couple in question. The only woman Henry doesn't want is exactly the one his father has picked out for him. Elizabeth, always under her mother's thumb, is the one young woman who thinks Henry is disgusting. Meanwhile, Penelope will stop at nothing to win Henry, and Diana is trying to hide her broken heart and do right by her sister.

The Luxe, the first in a series, is an terrific look into the high-class world of turn-of-the-century New York. Godbersen has gathered all the elements of a fun and gossipy tale: rakish bachelors, jealous maids, vengeful friends, handsome stable boys, secret lives, and sisterly bonds.

The book is set up as a bit of mystery because the opening scene is Elizabeth's funeral. The rest of book tells us how the characters end up where they are on that cold October morning. There are enough suspects and possible scenarios to keep the reader wanting to know more. Although I had figured out much of the plot before the end, it did not detract from my enjoyment.

This was an entertaining and quick read and a welcome addition to my YA shelves. This fast-paced, well-written historical novel is a refreshing break from fantasy and vampires. All women and girls who went to high school in the United States will have met some rendition of the various characters who inhabit Elizabeth Holland's world. I need to know more about these families, and I've already ordered the next two books in the series, Envy and Rumors.

Godbersen's portrayal of New York City at the turn of the century included details about the buildings, parks, and changing neighborhoods. I was impressed with the minutiae of daily life in an upper-class home. While listening, I noticed three possible anachronisms. However, when I looked them up, I was surprised to find that automobiles, mascara, and ragtime would all have been found in 1899 Manhattan.

I listened to this book via digital download from my library. It was nicely read by Nina Siemaszko, a new to me narrator. The Luxe is a super audiobook, and I found it difficult to turn off the player.

Print publisher: HarperCollins, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780061345685
Audio publisher: Harper Audio, 2007
Challenges: A-Z Author, New Author, Support Your Library, YA, 999, 100+
YTD: 34
Rating: A-


Jen - devourer of books 5/4/09, 11:38 AM  

You guys convinced me, I'm picking this up on my next trip to the library.

bermudaonion 5/4/09, 11:45 AM  

I've added this series to my wish list since I've heard so much about it lately!

Julie P. 5/4/09, 11:48 AM  

All the talk about this on twitter plus your review is making me add it to my TBR list.

Alyce 5/4/09, 11:49 AM  

This is one of those fun read that's been on my list for a while. I hope I have time to read it over the summer.

Stephanie 5/4/09, 12:09 PM  

This is another of those books that have been sitting on my bookshelf just waiting to be read! Thanks for the review!

Sandy Nawrot 5/4/09, 12:18 PM  

This definitely sounds like something to get lost in. Not sure if I would get it for my kids though, only because to my son, girls have cooties and doesn't want to hear about them much. I might get it for myself though!

Becky 5/4/09, 12:20 PM  

I really loved this series, and can't wait for book 4 to come out. You'll probably find yourself hitting book 2, and scrambling to find book 3! :) Have fun with these.

Great review!

Nely 5/4/09, 12:26 PM  

Oooh I like this. I'm going to have to get it now. Thanks for the great review.

Alea 5/4/09, 1:18 PM  

Glad you liked it! I need to read the next two as well!

Meghan 5/4/09, 1:19 PM  

Sounds even better from reading your review! I hope my library gets it in soon. I'll have to buy the rest if I like it as much as you do, though.

Belle 5/4/09, 1:48 PM  

I don't normally read historical fiction, but this one sounds like fun.

Unknown 5/4/09, 2:01 PM  

Great review. I just finished reading it this weekend. I'm working on Rumors now. You are so right, it is a nice change from fantasy and vampires (and faeries!), which seem to be the majority of the YA books I've been reading lately.

I never really thought about the service class in America, that was always something I attributed to the British...so that was really interesting to read about. I don't trust Lina. At first I felt bad for her, but then, I thought, she seems too vengeful...too much like Penelope. I'm interested in seeing how her plot arc plays out.

Jenn's Bookshelves 5/4/09, 2:40 PM  

I can't wait til my Luxe books arrive! Thanks for the recommendation!

Beth F 5/4/09, 2:44 PM  

Laza: I know, I loved the part about the Lina and Claire. I think Lina has set herself up for some trouble. I can't wait to see what happens to her.

Olga 5/4/09, 2:52 PM  

I've largely ignored this book, although the cover draws me in (who wouldn't want to wear that dress?), but I'm more curious now thanks to your review, Beth! I'll have to look for it next time I'm at the library.

Amy 5/4/09, 3:13 PM  

If you liked it I should probably give it another shot-the covers are gorgeous!

Toni 5/4/09, 3:33 PM  

I WANT to read this! I want to stop what I am doing.. and buy it now! I am in that sort of mood. :) Nice review!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 5/4/09, 3:37 PM  

I had this in my hand the other day when I was browsing. I guess I should have kept it there because your review makes it sound really good, but alas I put it back.

Margot 5/4/09, 5:37 PM  

I don't recall a book like this set in America. Most of this plot line takes place in England. Very interesting. I look forward to hearing about the rest of the series.

Beth F 5/4/09, 5:42 PM  

Margot: It really adds to the book that it takes place in New York City and at the turn of the 20th century. European themes with an American twist. (Drat, I should have used that line in my review! LOL!)

Robin M 5/4/09, 6:19 PM  

Thanks for the wonderful review. As always makes me want to get the book. :)

Passages to the Past 5/4/09, 6:22 PM  

Great review Beth! It's good to hear that it's beautiful, inside and out =)

Darlene 5/4/09, 7:05 PM  

I have the whole series sitting on my shelf. I hope to get to them this summer.

Melody 5/4/09, 7:43 PM  

Thanks for the great review, Beth!
I've this book in my pile but just haven't got around to reading it yet. Don't you think the cover is lovely? :)

Molly 5/4/09, 9:12 PM  

Saw this series the last time I went to the bookstore and was intrigued by the covers. Now after reading your review I think I need to check them out more closely (LOVE the "European themes with an American twist" comment!)

S. Krishna 5/4/09, 9:49 PM  

As you know, I thoroughly enjoyed this one as well. Great review! Mine should be posting at some point, I've been putting it off to post review copy reviews!

Christina 5/4/09, 10:08 PM  

I had been eying this book for awhile, waiting to see if it would come out in paperback. I have it on my TBR and I really want to read it this year.

Whitney 5/4/09, 11:16 PM  

Thanks for the great review, I'll have to check Luxe out on my next trip to the library.

Carrie K. 5/5/09, 11:02 PM  

Great review - I'm going to see if my library has this one.

Kailana 5/6/09, 3:46 PM  

I have wanted to read this book since it came out. Must remedy that!

Becca 5/7/09, 8:28 PM  

Mascara? Really? That one shocks me. I had no idea that it was such an old invention! Learn something new every day, right!

Great review, Beth. I have this one in my TBR pile. I finally decided after reading so many gushing reviews by bloggers whose taste is similar to mine (including you) that I should give it a whirl.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books 5/7/09, 9:58 PM  

My daughter (ack! a teenager now!) read and enjoyed this series. I like your line about "all women and girls ... will have met some rendition of the various characters." I wonder if that's why my girl connected with it (must ask!)

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie 5/8/09, 12:57 PM  

Terrific review! It's great to see some historical fiction aimed at the YA crowd. I'll be adding this one to my library list :)

Anonymous,  9/22/09, 1:38 AM  

I've yet to read any historical fiction ya I think I will make this one my first.

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