The Luxe begins with the funeral of one of its protagonists, Elizabeth. The characters are introduced one by one: her best friend Penelope, her wayward sister Diana, Henry Schoonmaker, man she would have married. They are shown in their grief, with twice the pain because Elizabeth’s body could not be recovered. Then the clock rewinds a few months, to the time before Elizabeth’s fateful plunge into the river.
Life for Elizabeth, Diana, Henry, and the other members of their “set” is filled with glittery parties, Parisian dressmakers, and all of the trappings class and wealth can provide. But scratch the surface, and life is not nearly so rosy. Like a turn-of-the-century Gossip Girls episode, betrayal, backstabbing, jealousy, dishonesty, and illicit trysts abound. Emotions run high for all involved, slowly implying that Elizabeth’s death may not have been an accident.
I solved the “mystery” only a hundred or so pages into the 433 page novel. This made the last few chapters, when the plots suddenly start to thicken, slightly less intense for me, since I was rock-solid certain what was going to happen. It did not stop me from enjoying the ride, however.
While the emotions might sometimes come off as a bit histrionic, there is real feeling behind the characters loves and hatreds, with a palpable sense of being trapped by circumstances. The stifling atmosphere of the upper class is contrasted with the equally though differently stifling life of the maids who serve them. Though Lina the maid’s story is possibly the least convincing of the several subplots, even here her strong sense of injustice can at least partially explain her actions.
This book is an excellent choice for both historical fiction fans and more modern fans of series like Gossip Girl or the It list.