Skip to main content

Envy: A Luxe Novel

Review

Envy: A Luxe Novel

Penelope is the envy of society. She is married to Henry Schoonmaker and has everything money, privilege and blackmail can buy. But she cannot force the affections of her husband, or the loyalty of her friends.

Elizabeth has lived quietly since her return to New York. Grieving the death of her husband Will --- who she cannot recognize publicly --- her mother still hopes that she can make an advantageous marriage to fortify the family fortunes. But Elizabeth harbors another secret, one that will force her to marry or to live a life of shame.

It falls to Diana to uphold her family’s position and reputation. The arrival of her father’s mining partner has provided a temporary reprieve from the family’s financial woes, but she still supplements her income by selling society scandal to newspaper gossip columnists. Diana is also nursing a broken heart. Why would Henry Schoonmaker marry Penelope Hayes when he was really in love with her?

Needing to escape the dreary winter that is post-holiday New York, ENVY features a trip to the opulent pleasure grounds of Palm Beach and the now-vanished splendors of the Royal Ponciana Hotel. Away from the prying eyes of the New York press, Palm Beach is the perfect place for clandestine meetings and new flirtations. Diana finds that Henry’s marriage has not dulled his interest in her, while she also struggles to make sense of the attention she’s receiving from Penelope’s dashing brother Grayson. Elizabeth finds a renewed affection for Henry’s best friend Teddy, while the self-styled heiress Carolina Broud finds herself courted by the wealthy and eccentric Leland Bouchard.

Unfortunately, the reprieve of the Florida resort does not last forever. After the death of Carolina’s benefactor and guardian, Carey Lewis Longhorn, they return to New York’s cold, damp streets and the lives they left waiting there.

ENVY is the third book in Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series set in Gilded Age New York. Her characters still sit at the top of the world, but are now living with the consequences of their choices. Hope for love and personal happiness is swiftly vanishing, along with the cash they all require to continue living their lavish lives.

Carolina Broud’s situation is most perilous. When her benefactor dies, she is ejected from her hotel room and has most of her belongings seized. Briefly acting as the social secretary to another upstart heiress, she is thrown out and spends a night on the streets contemplating her future. She has no real friends. Her friendship with Penelope is built on blackmail. The money she lived on was stolen or belonged to someone else. Her sister still works as a maid in Elizabeth and Diana Holland’s house. Briefly taking a job as a seamstress, she sees the life she has always dreamed of vanish into drudgery.

The Luxe series affords the same guilty pleasure and curiosity that must have fueled readers of Gilded Age gossip columns. Godbersen’s rigorous attention to detail with descriptions of parties, gowns, architecture and events are a large part of what make these books so much fun to read.

But I’ve also appreciated Godbersen’s nods to larger forces in literature in history. Carolina Broud’s descent carries echoes of Edith Wharton’s classic about the Gilded Age, THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. The forces of history are strong enough to convince two of the novel’s characters to enlist in Theodore Roosevelt’s military during the occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. I imagine readers encountering these subjects in other parts of their lives with a sense of recognition.

As for the rest of the story, the question of whether any of these characters will be able to escape the narrow confines of their roles remains to be seen. Will Carolina manage to live the life of luxury of which she’s always dreamed? Will Elizabeth find love and fulfillment after so much tragedy? Will Henry and Diana ever find a way to be together? Will Penelope finally reap the rewards of her villainous behavior? None of these questions are answered in ENVY, but the next book in the series, SPLENDOR, promises more romance and intrigue in Gilded Age New York.

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on October 18, 2011

Envy: A Luxe Novel
by Anna Godbersen

  • Publication Date: July 3, 2018
  • Genres: Historical Romance
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0062852183
  • ISBN-13: 9780062852182