Gossip Girl is one of those TV shows that you feel like should be a guilty pleasure, but it’s not. It should be because it centers around a privileged class of society that is so out-of-touch with the realities of their surroundings, focusing on irrelevant drama like high school cliques, queen bitches and fashion. But it’s not a guilty pleasure because the characters are inherently flawed and complex- each with an intricate web of relationships that are complicated, frustrating yet completely endearing. The women, despite being part of a class that is usually stereotyped as ‘superficial’ and ‘materialistic’ are actually so much more than that; the women in Gossip Girl are independent, passionate, ambitious, and incredibly smart. They may be bitches when they want to be – but they are inherently good people whose lives are as multi-faceted as anybody else’s, as complicated, and as full of joy.
The Luxe had all the potential to be a stunning version of this show. Often marketed as Gossip Girl set in the nineteenth century, you’d expect a story about a privileged society, about drama and the ugliness that simmers beneath the glamorous surface. Instead, what I came across was an incredibly lackluster novel with virtually no real plot, more angst than I could possibly digest, and characters that felt like caricatures of every trope out there. Instead of exploring the ugliness of the top 1% – the drugs, the betrayals, the ambition verging on evil, the deceit and politics, the Luxe focuses solely on one woman’s loveless arranged marriage to a guy. Elizabeth is betrothed to Henry- who was Elizabeth’s best friend Penelope’s sex buddy. Penelope was in love with Henry, but he does not feel anything for her. Instead, when he encounters Elizabeth’s free-spirited little sister, Diana, he is drawn to her. The result? Not even a love triangle – a weird love polygon THING.
Now, the romance would have been interesting had it not been literally the main plot. And again, if this were a romance novel, I wouldn’t have minded it if the characters weren’t throwing away their lives for the sake of one boy or another. Elizabeth is, I believe, our main character and we are constantly told that she is prim and proper only on the surface, that there is a rebel simmering underneath but I don’t see that. I see it in the story, but not in the character itself. She was so… dull. Her younger sister, Diana, had all the potential to be a heroine worth rooting for- she’s the rebel in the family. She doesn’t care about dresses and manners, because she wants to live her life as she sees fit. That would have been great had she not constantly reminded her reader what a special snowflake she was. Being condescending towards other women just because you are different is not likable.
At the turn of the last page, I didn’t want to know more. Heck, I didn’t think there needed to be any more- everything worth caring about was wrapped up. If Godberson wanted to pursue the story, at the most she could have written one more book with the same plot – romance, angst, marriage, half-hearted rebels. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand why there are three more books? What is there to write about?!
Ultimately, I’m giving this book 2 stars rather than 1. Why? Because I finished it. Also, Godberson’s technique of writing was pretty good- it didn’t feel overcomplicated, nor juvenile but a good balance between simplicity and complexity. But there was little else of merit in the book. I think it’s safe to say that I will not be continuing on with the series.