The Luxe (2007), by Anna Godberson

Anna Godberson’s The Luxe is touted as “similar to the Gossip Girl series, featuring beautiful socialites and various romantic encounters” (Wikipedia); I have not yet decided whether I am upset or relieved that this is misleading.  The Luxe is far more like a Georgette Heyer novel, only with more words and explanation and less action and plot, if such a thing can be imagined.  The word “innocuous” springs to mind… its existence, while inconsequential, lies in contrast to my opinion of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Clique as morally and ethically problematic, if not dangerous.  The plot of The Luxe is mundane and predictable, the writing mediocre, and the sexual exploits of the characters comparatively innocent.  The temporal distance—and the author’s interpretation of Victorian American society—means that the social transgressions that Elizabeth and Diana Holland—and even Penelope Hayes—are responsible for are tame compared to those exhibited by their more modern counterparts.  In The Luxe, the protagonist is a marriageable age, so her serious romance with a coachman—instead of the rich gentleman her family needs her to marry—is romantic, and risky, but not risqué.  For the modern reader, crossing class boundaries this way does not resonate… at least not in Godberson’s text.  Similarly, Diana meeting her “crush” in a greenhouse at 9 pm will not thrill readers who no doubt have much later curfews themselves—and often break them.  Godberson does not manage to instill in her text the sense of adventure—sexual or otherwise—that she is obviously attempting to; readers wanting the combination of innocence and sexual adventure The Luxe purports to provide should perhaps seek out Georgette Heyer instead (but you didn’t read that here…)

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