“In life, Elizabeth Adora Holland was known not only for her loveliness but also for her moral character, so it was fair to assume that in the afterlife she would occupy a lofty seat with an especially good view.  if Elizabeth had looked down from that heavenly perch on particular October morning on the proceedings of her own funeral, she would have been honored to see that all of New York’s best families had turned out to say good-bye.”

Sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland are as different as black and white – with beautiful and perfect Elizabeth being the white.  The book opens with Elizabeth’s funeral, she has perished in a carriage accident the day before her wedding to one of the most handsome and eligible bachelors in New York society.  Diana is exuberant and full of passion, she never liked being in the spotlight and was happy to let Elizabeth take it from her.  But now, there are rumors that Elizabeth’s death wasn’t a mere accident and suspicion is flying everywhere.  We’re taken back several months to examine the many possible suspects, from Elizabeth’s angry and jealous maidservant to her “best” friend, the scheming and selfish Penelope.  And along the way, we learn that neither of the Holland sisters are quite what they appear.

My future sister-in-law recommended this book series to me and I have to say, I vastly enjoyed this first book.  It takes the era of Edith Wharton’s “Age of Innocence” and places an edge on it.  Penelope’s character especially adds such an element of deceit and near evil that she shines light on many other areas that this upper crust of New York society is not as clean as one would think.

Though at times I verged on the point of hatred for some of them, I couldn’t put the book down simply because of the characters.  They struggled along, trying to use and abuse the rules of the society they live in to get what they want, sometimes only to discover it’s the furthest thing from what they need.  There’s enough plotting and backstabbing, scheming and betrayal to satisfy anyone looking for a guilty pleasure read.  And just enough romance to keep you from hating the lot of them.  This is a Gossip Girl from the 1890’s.

“The Luxe” is written by Anna Godbersen and published in 2008.