Book Series Review: The Luxe by Anna Godbersen 

Here is a new series on this blog!! We’ll just keep up with different books that I’m reading, and give ’em reviews. I hope you’ll be able to find some recommendations that are worth your read through this series! Enjoy 🙂

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SERIES TITLE: The Luxe

AUTHOR: Anna Godbersen

INDIVIDUAL BOOK TITLES: The Luxe, Rumors, Envy, Splendor

GENRE: Historical Fiction (with just the right amount of romance!)

RATING: 9.5/10

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This past summer I read the above series all the way through. I’d read the first book several times over the years (probably two or three since 2010), but in June 2016, I decided it was about time to read all four books. It was a great experience, as you can see from the rating, and I can’t wait to delve into Godbersen’s other series, Bright Young Things, when I have a little more time on my hands again. There are three points I want to discuss in these reviews:

1) Plot

2) Pacing

3) Character Development

So, let’s start with plot, shall we? It can be tricky to have one plot span the length of four entire books of 300+ pages each. That’s a pretty tall order, but Godbersen does it very successfully. The story is is in 1899-1900 New York City, where high society rules the scene.  We follow the third-person perspectives of five characters, and each chapter is a different perspective as they rotate around the five. Four of them are from that high society: Elizabeth and Diana Holland, Penelope Hayes, and Henry Schoonmaker. The fifth is a ladies maid who aspires for more: Lina Broud. This technique really helps keep the plot going (and it’s something I want to try in my own writing!); having multiple perspectives and seeing their individual stories amount to the overall plot kept me turning pages. I never got bored; there was always something more to find out, something to see of this world I’d never lived in, another corner to turn. Godbersen kept me entranced every time I sat down to open one of these books. Essentially here are the individual plots among the five featured characters, without revealing too much:

Elizabeth Holland: Prim and proper daughter of the Holland family. Loved by society. Torn between helping her family from financial distress and true love. Will do whatever it takes to achieve both…

Diana Holland: Wild child of the Holland family. Not as admired by society as her sister is. More concerned with breaking the mold and following her dreams… Until she falls in love with one of society’s finest, who also happens to become engaged to her sister. Now she has a choice to make.

Penelope Hayes: Always the cunning woman of high society, and the product of new money. She’s got her eye on one man and one man only, and she will do anything to get him. Absolutely anything, whether society likes it or not.

Henry Schoonmaker: Known more for his partying than his manners, and his father, the mighty William Sackhouse Schoonmaker, isn’t happy. Now, it’s his lifestyle or his fortune, and if he wants that inheritance, his father gets to choose his bride. The problem is, he already has someone in mind.

Lina Broud: A ladies maid in the Holland home who dreams of more than brushing the girls’ hair and washing their clothes. Instead, she’d rather run away with the stable boy, Will, but his heart belongs to another. When fate gives her the opportunity, will Lina go for the guy, or try to make herself a member of the society she’s served for so long?

These stories all intertwine and connect to create the plot of The Luxe Series, because the image of society and what happens behind the scenes are two very different things.

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If an author has a good plot on their hands, that gives the book a greater chance of success, but if the pacing of that plot is too fast or too slow, it can break the book altogether. Here is where I give the pacing its own rating on a scale of 1-10. For this series, it’s a 10. Godbersen knew exactly where to put the shocking moments, and where to pull back for buildup with the characters. This was done extremely well. I think that each chapter as a different perspective aided in this endeavor, and it was a clear success.

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Character development was spot on, as well. My only critique in this case, where that half point was taken off the overall rating, was that Henry didn’t draw me in nearly as much as the other four main characters. I loved Elizabeth and how sweet she was, I loved Diana’s ambition and related to it, Penelope’s cunning was chilling at times, and I found Lina lovable and yet sometimes a bit annoying. Whether or not I liked these characters, though, they were all successful because they evoked a strong emotion in me. Henry fell just a little bit flat, and I didn’t enjoy his chapters as much as I did the rest because I didn’t feel as much for him. He was a good character, but the rest were phenomenal characters. This didn’t break the story at all for me; that’s why it was only docked half a point. But I could go on and on raving about the rest of the characters. Elizabeth had such a complex conflict between being a good society girl and aiding her family, and wanting a life with the man of dreams. You could sense that underlying feeling in everything she did. Penelope didn’t always get whatever she wanted, but she sure did in the span of these books, and her immense (and sometimes unethical) desires were so interesting and her reactions were so over the top. These are just a couple of examples, but you can see how stunningly detailed they are. In my opinion, Henry didn’t quite reach that level, but even he was still very well done. You would have to read these books for yourself to get the full character effect. I’ll leave it at that 🙂

Overall, this is probably my favorite series I’ve ever read! I will read it again and again, and I can’t recommend it enough! Another touch that I’d like to note is that at the beginning of each chapter, there’s either a headline from a newspaper, or a passage from a book about society, or (my favorite) passages from Diana’s diary. It just brought another special something to the books, so I’d like to give it a mention. All in all, these books were stunningly written, perfectly paced, and kept me engrossed the whole time I was reading. I can wait to read more by Anna Godbersen!!

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As always, just a little reminder to count your blessings 🙂

-Quinn

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