Monday, November 8, 2010

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Imagine, if you will, New York City, 1899 . . .
Society's elite: the glamour, the grandeur, the glittering parties, the most handsome beaus, the most beautiful debutantes, the sounds of decadence, the rich girl, the humble boy, the forbidden love, the hushed whispers, the stolen glances, the secret rendezvous, the sin, the scandal, the mystery, the revenge.
You are cordially invited to step into The Luxe, where the secrets are dark and the sins are delicious . . . (publisher's site)

With the tagline: White Lies. Dark Secrets. Scandalous Hook-ups. you know The Luxe is going to be one of those guilty pleasure books.

There's four main girls and two main boys in a, hmm, you can't really call it a love triangle, because it's much more tangled up and complicated than that...

The girls:

  • two are sisters: beautiful, elite and rich - secretly on the brink of poverty. Elizabeth is in a secret affair and Diana's kissing someone she shouldn't be... 
  • another is a best friend, gorgeous and flirtatious and scheming. (Penelope)
  • and the fourth is a maid, watching on and seeing more than she should. (Lina)

The boys:

  • one an utterly gorgeous player, a wealthy bachelor with a rowdy reputation. (Henry)
  • the other, a stable boy who heats things up in the barn. Quite nicely. (Will)

Mix it all up with a high profile engagement, family secrets and forbidden affairs and you have a glamourous and deliciously compelling read.

The strength in this book is in the story-telling. It's told from multiple points of view so it took a little while to set the scene. But once you settle in (for me - it was the 50 page mark) the pages just fly by. Godbersen knows how to plot and throws in twists and revelations, hints and secrets in a such a timely way that you're constantly tempted to keep reading the next chapter.

At it's core it's a story of forbidden love, temptation, family duty verse desire. Expect scheming and betrayals and flirting and broken hearts. Despite some sexy shenanigans, it's very PG and told in a fun and glittering manner.

It's a socialite, glitzy novel set in a historical era rather than historical fiction that explores a historical period. There's no social commentary or wider scope of the world at the turn of the 20th century, it's not a period study. But you can expect New York High Society balls and fashion and gowns and girls who are chasing dashing boys despite the rules of etiquette and decorum. (And the boys are chasing them back). These girls like breaking the rules and living a little bit dangerously.

It feels like Godbersen is more than comfortable writing in this era, her language and narration all add to the tone of period.

For all the fun in the pages, it's not a character driven novel. Godbersen is weaving a story of high drama and taking us along for the ride. Characters motivations remain easy to understand, but are not explored in depth. I didn't overly care for any of the characters - I cared more about the actual story. It's not a book designed to linger, but to give readers a good time while reading it.

A few discussion-y thoughts:

I loved all the little letters and newpapers articles and invitations that were scattered throughout the pages.

I really didn't dig the prologue. Not only did it overwhelm me (I felt like I had to concentrate with so many new characters filling the scene at once) but it also, for me, took some of the oomph out of the climax/resolution. I read it twice and it still didn't grab me into the book.

Henry Cavill
haha, this picture amuses me
and suits Henry from the book as well
anyone else watch the Tudors?
I kind of imagined Henry as Henry Cavill. Hey, it works for me ;)  (even Henry's character somewhat matches the early playboy portrayal of Charles Brandon in the Tudors).

My favourite girl is Diana - she's a spunk, feisty, fun and a bit of a dreamer and not so overwrought as a few of the others :)

The Luxe is a New York Times Bestselling novel which is available now

Recommended: Perfect for a rainy day indulgent read, anyone who loves a bit of soapie scandal will devour this book. The best thing is - all four books in the series are out, so no excruciating waiting between book releases (the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger...)

I liked it. I read it in two indulgent days. But didn't quite love it :)
(If we're talking ratings, I'm giving it 3 stars)

More stuff to check out
The Luxe Website
Read an Excerpt
Read the Prologue
More about Elizabeth (who is the girl on the cover)
The Luxe @Penguin Australia

Thank you to Penguin Australia for sending me this review copy


  1. I totally agree with you on this one (although I picked up one of the later books in the series. Reading out of order is something I pretty much always do, haha). It's a guilty pleasure, and it takes a while to get into but it's pretty enjoyable once you do.

    I imagined Henry as Henry Cavill, too! Weird but cool coincidence :D

  2. I didn't finish reading The Luxe, which is rare for me. I agree that's it's hard to care about the characters and I don't think I was in the mood for the story when I read it. It might be a good Christmas read though.

  3. Thank you for the review! I've been wondering if I should buy Luxe since I love historical books, but maybe I'll try to get it at my library instead. If I like the first, I can always buy the series. :)

    Have you read the author's new book, Bright Young Things by chance? It's set in the Roaring Twenties (my favorite era!) and I'm thinking about buying it too.

  4. Awesome review! I so adore this series, Godberson is wonderful at writing in that era :)

  5. I bought this book when it first came out, basically because the cover is so gorgeous!

    Never actually got around to read it though.

  6. Another great review Nomes! I have a copy here of Luxe and I am going to save it until I am in the right mood. I am not the biggest fan of historical fiction.

  7. One of my students recently read this and raved about it. Guess I need to read it too. Thanks for the review!

  8. I've had The Luxe sitting on my shelf for a while now I think I'm going to have to bump it up on my list, especially if you imagine Henry as Henry Cavill, he's gorgeous (I'm a huge fan of The Tudors), great review Nomes.

  9. Great review! The Luxe has been lying on my shelf for a long time. I guess I will finally read it now.

  10. This book sounds delicious... already on my TBR list but I'm dying to read it!

  11. That dress on the cover is gorgeous, but I'd probably pass on this because I'm not a real big history buff. Awesome review as always though!

  12. I think I would have to agree with you on this one.
    I didn't LOVE it, but it was still an alright novel.

    I definitely agree that the novel isn't character driven, and like you, I was definitely engaged by the random articles and letters scattered throughout the pages.
    A fantastic review Nomes, thank you!

    I've seen the first season of the Tudors (quite a while ago) and enjoyed it, but I haven't had a chance to finish it due to school. But now that I'm finished... :)

  13. You truly have the gift of most wonderful posting.

    I have yet to read this one but you make me want to run to the store this instant. However that is not necessary, I shall send my butler. ;)

    Have a pleasant day,
    Mad Scientist

  14. i looooved this one. i read them as they came out and it was always such an agonising wait. i'd call up our penguin rep and hassle him, saying "bring it to me the day you get it, ok? ok? i can come to you if that's easier." i don't know when i've been more 'fangirl'.

    this is such a fun series, i invested a lot in the characters (diana defo my fave as well, but lina's plot gets v exciting too!) and i always, always, imagined henry as that king of the upper east side, mr chuck bass. so hot. so bad. so awesome.


Thanks for the commenty love :)