In October 1899, Elizabeth Holland, one of society’s most fashionable young women, is laid to rest with great ceremony, after tragically falling into a river. What was to have been her wedding day was in fact the date of her funeral. The story, however, is vastly more complicated than that, when the novel speedily backtracks so as to explain just how Elizabeth died. A beautiful, proper society girl, Elizabeth is opposed by her unconventional sister Diana, who refuses to follow the proper rules of behavior. Add in to the mix Penelope Hayes, Elizabeth’s best friend, who is determined to marry New York’s most eligible bachelor Philip Schoonmaker, as well as Elizabeth’s dissatisfied maid Lina Broud and all the pieces are in place for a scandalous tale of love, loss, and revenge.
Reading The Luxe felt a little bit like eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself. This is actually an event that has never happened, but I imagine it would be the same: delicious and addictive, but I feel a pervading sense of guilt about it. The book was a very fun, very quick read, and I loved it for the most part. Everything kicks off with a bit of a mystery as we wonder what’s happened to Elizabeth and why on earth her sister is smiling at her funeral. While the resolution of this particular plot becomes very obvious very early on, it was a great way to snap the reader up and by the time we figure out what’s going on, the rest of the story has us engaged enough for the rest of the book to speed by.
Perhaps the unhealthy part about this book is that it is so scandalous. It felt somewhat different from the YA I normally appreciate because the girls are all so catty, promiscuous, and vengeful. Three of them hop into bed with men without much thought for the consequences; one of them actively uses her sexuality to get her way while tearing down her friend over a man who is, quite honestly, not worth either of their time. I suppose these are reasons that I’ve never been into the Gossip Girl series or really any drama about teenage girls since I stopped being one, because the outright backstabbing as shown here is actually common enough in the real world and I don’t need more of it.
Having said all that, there is no way to avoid that despite its questionable morals, I totally loved my time with this book. I found myself speeding through it and thoroughly enjoying myself. I especially came to love Elizabeth and Diana and I really want to know what happens next in their lives. I also loved the setting of New York City in the late nineteenth century. One of my two favorite books, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, is also set around this time in New York, and I’ve developed an immeasurable fondness for it as a result. I could just picture these girls heading to the Lord & Taylor on 5th Avenue for fittings!
So, in conclusion, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book is hugely enjoyable but full of questionable moral standards and teenagers who are not to be emulated. I definitely recommend it to adults, because it’s a whole lot of fun, but I don’t think I’d buy it for a sixteen year old.