Monday, 4 October 2010

Splendour by Anna Godbersen

GENRE: historical romance/young adult

SUMMARY: A spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendour comes. Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty — but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle. In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?


Splendour is the fourth and last novel in the Luxe series, preceded by The Luxe, Rumours and Envy.

Splendour was a great read for me, maintaining the rich writing style of the previous novels in the series, great luxurious settings and beautiful and expensive gowns and frocks. A true homage to New York during the Gilded Age. It felt like reading about the fictional versions of the Vanderbilts, the Astors, the Rockefellers and the like.

The stories of all the characters finally reach a conclusion and I have to say that I was afraid to read the ending because I’d been warned it wasn’t so good, but I actually truly liked the conclusion. Every character received the ending they deserved, with the exception of one. I loved Diana Holland throughout the series, but she really disappointed me in this novel. I understand that she is a free spirit, an artistic soul that finds it hard to get attached to anything, but she took the whole free-spirit notion a bit too far for my taste. I felt cheated in the end, as her love story was my favourite one, and then it received the closure I just didn’t like. I understand it, but I don’t like it. As I’ve said, I felt cheated, as if someone’s been pulling my leg for the entire series.

Apart from Diana, I really loved what happened to all the characters. Teddy Cutting, my favourite male character in the series, had the best ending, of which I completely approve. Elizabeth Holland’s story took a very dark and delightful turn and what she did in this novel showed a completely new Elizabeth to me. For the first two books, I thought she was bland and not exactly likeable, with her superficially prude ideas and an air of superiority, hiding behind a mask of exquisiteness. In Envy, she showed some character, but in this novel I absolutely loved her. She became a fighter. Her actions in this novel are not legal, but I don’t care – she blew my mind with her determination to save her life. Penelope Schoonmaker, née Hayes, was even nastier in this novel, if that’s at all possible, but she proved to be the most naive one of the bunch, which showed her vulnerable side, making her very human and actually likeable to me. Henry finally became a man and matured, becoming responsible at last. Of course that cost him a lot, but I’m glad he stood his ground and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. For the first time in his life, Henry was not selfish and he made sacrifices. That deserves some praise.

BIG SPOILERS: I was shipping Henry/Diana all along, but I had a dark wish to see Henry and Penelope stay together, and it came true. I’m very happy! Of course, they’re bound to exist inside a love/hate relationship, but they kind of deserve it and I actually really love them together. Both of them are dark, beautiful and have a nasty streak in them. END OF SPOILERS.

I felt a bit sorry for Carolina. She was the sort of woman in the series that wouldn’t mind leaving a trail of corpses behind her if it meant that she would be able to achieve her goals, but she matured as well, and finally included her sister Claire into the picture. What I most liked about Carolina’s story was how the author presented the social changes of that time through her. The old, wealthy Manhattan families were slowly beginning to decline and a new social class, the nouveau riche – normal people becoming rich – were emerging, conveying the message that anyone could succeed and it was not about breeding and one’s origins, but about hard work and its final result – success. I truly liked that and I’m glad that, despite the frivolities and all the beautiful dresses, the author included a more serious topic into the novel.

Perhaps I’m pushing it, but the whole series strikes me as something that Edith Wharton might have written had she lived in the 21st century and tried to look back into the past, recording it as best as she could. Godbersen’s novels are far more dramatic and sexier than Wharton’s, but I see a sort of similarity between them.

I personally think that this is a great conclusion to the series. My favourite novel in the series was Envy. Splendour is not as splendid as it might have been, but it truly does conclude the series nicely. I think the ending was a bit rushed. Perhaps some random scenes exhibiting dresses and furniture could have been excluded and replaced with more important scenes. But all in all, a very enjoyable read.

I recommend the entire series to all who like a good historical romance with drama, luxury, beautiful people and gorgeous gowns. A truly enjoyable series.



The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I love the covers for these books but I tried to read the first one and found all the characters unlikeable. I might try to go back some time since you think this book is really good.

Blodeuedd said...

Great review!
I am going to try the first book one day. I am just so very intrigued