Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: The Luxe (Book #1) by Anna Godbersen

Source: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Series: Luxe (Book #1)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: 23 September 2009
Tagged under: 2014 read, YA-fiction, historical, romance, guilty pleasure, soap opera, why did I read this
Pages: 464
Buy at: Amazon

This is Manhattan, 1899

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.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone - from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud - threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.
With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...
In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.

Review [May Contain Spoilers]

I was really looking forward to this series. I heard a lot of good things about it from booktubers and everything from the cover to the summary just made the book sound so appealing. If I actually cared at all by the time I reached the end of this book, I would have been devastated over how badly my expectations were dashed.

In short, this is Gossip Girls set in the late 19th century. 

The fact that Cecily von Ziegesar wrote the endorsement on the back cover is an obvious indication where the inspiration for this book came from.

The premise of this book is actually not that bad and I have read some historical romance novels that holds a similar plot. The beautiful Holland sisters, Elizabeth and Diana, are the darling of Manhattan's social scene. Unfortunately, not everything is as glittering and beautiful as they appear on the surface. The Holland is a prestigious old family of Manhattan but now, following the death of the head of the family, they are facing financial ruins unless Elizabeth marries into a wealthy family. While she is secretly in love with Will Keller, who works for the Holland family, her mother is already planning on marrying her to the wealth Henry Schoonmaker.

Henry Schoonmaker is basically blackmailed into this whole arrangement - either marry the beautiful demure Elizabeth or face being kicked out, penniless, by his father. Yet unexpectedly, while visiting the Holland household, he comes across the lively Diana and the two begins a secret love affair. Meanwhile, not everyone loves the Holland sisters. Lina, Elizabeth's maid who's secretly in love with Will, is growing more bitter by the day. And there's also Penelope Hayes, who has grand plans of marrying Henry herself. 

Did all that confuse you? Yeah, me too, buddy. It is complicated and convoluted yet at the same, so predictable that I stuck the "soap opera" tag on this series.

But what makes the whole plot completely unbelievable is the fact that while this is set in the late 19th century, all the characters behave with the decorum of modern Gossip Girls. Everything is just too unrealistic and outrageous for me to get into the story. Yes, secret midnight trysts and scheming behind everyone's backs are a part of historical romance fiction. But blatant pre-marital sex, sneaking out of the house to be romanced, sneaking off to reveal blackmail-material secrets - it is simply too much of an imbalance between the naughty and the proper for this to be believably set in the 19th century. 

I also struggled a lot to relate to the protagonist Elizabeth. Yes, she is meant to be quiet, obedient and demure but that doesn't mean she has to be bland. For the whole duration of this book, she is mulling over the fact that she has her true love and has no wish to marry Henry Schoonmaker but on the other hand, if she marries into the Schoonmaker's family, wouldn't all her family's financial problems be solved. Back and forth. Back and forth. Try reading that for over 400 pages.

The only characters I've grown attached to are Diana, Henry, and to a minor extent, Lina. The chemistry between Diana and Henry is amazing. They are literally the only thing that made this read worthwhile. Lina, while angry and hurtful, at least has reasons for her spitefulness and while I don't agree with what she did in the novel, at least I can see why she did those things and that makes her a more three-dimensional character than Elizabeth.

Overall: 1.5/5

I really didn't like this book. The plot was too theatrical. The characters too bland. The actions of the characters a bit too unbelievable for this to be set in the 19th century. If this was a contemporary Gossip Girls 2.0 then yes, I would have simply labelled this a guilty pleasure read. But if you're going to go historical, at least make it realistic. 

Like what I did with the TV show Gossip Girls, I'll most likely end up reading the online summaries of the next three volumes to satisfy my own curiosity regarding the ending rather than force my way through the books. [Spoilers!!!!!] Had Diana and Henry finally reunite in the finale like they deserved to be, I might have been coaxed into reading the series just to get my happy ending. But apparently, it is not meant to be and even avid fans of the Luxe series said the ending of volume 4 is simply too rushed and out-of-character to be enjoyable. So there you go, I'm not going to read the rest of this series.


  1. I am glad you read it before I did - sounds so good but failed huh? Great review

    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. Thanks for checking out my review! :) When I really don't like something, I get quite vocal. I don't know. I just really didn't enjoy this novel or the whole series as a matter of fact. :( Which was disappointing because I had such high hopes for this novel and I really did give it a good go and attempt to find good points about it.

      And looking on goodreads, I don't think I'm the only one who made the Gossip Girls comparison...

  2. Yikes! Sorry it didn't live up to your expectations. Thanks for the honest review though.

    1. Thanks for stopping by :) Whenever I find a book disappointing, I'm always worried that I am being too negative in the review.