Rumors is the second book in the Luxe Series, and is just as well-written and scandalous as the first. There are so many twists and turns in the storyline that by the end of the book I was so turned around that I have no idea what is going to happen next!
The book starts with each chapter centering on a main character and bringing the reader up to speed with a brief review of how Luxe ended and what their societal goal is. Elizabeth’s untimely and unexplained death is sparking conspiracy theories; Penelope has set her sites on Henry and the Schoonmaker name; Diana is in love; Lina is climbing the social class ladder with hopes to catch Will’s eye, no matter who she has to befriend to get there. Once the reader is caught up with each main character, we see that Elizabeth has found Will and living humbly and happily with him in San Pedro, California. Will has found a partner and they work each day to discover oil, while Elizabeth has completely let go of the social constraints and rules of New York, but still yearns to hear what is going on at home through newspapers or telegrams from Diana. Elizabeth, who used to enjoy the finest fabrics and elegant meals, is now trying to become self-sufficient, but opening a can of beans for dinner proves to be a difficult task at times. Meanwhile, back in New York, Diana and Henry’s attraction to each other becomes physical after Henry learns that Elizabeth is alive. Diana sends word to Elizabeth and Will that Mrs. Holland is too ill to even get out of bed and that she has made a mess of things with Henry, who is supposed to be grieving for his dead fiancé. Also, that the family is out of money. Diana and Henry are caught by the Holland’s last remaining maid, Claire, whose sister is Lina, aka “Carolina”. Carolina uses this secret to force Penelope in assisting her climb up the social ladder. She has also revealed her true self to a store clerk, Tristan, and the pair work together in manipulating an older and wealthy gentleman into funding Carolina’s shopping sprees. Penelope uses the secret that Carolina tells her to corner Henry into marrying her to save Diana’s reputation, despite the fact that Henry finds Penelope as vicious and unattractive to him anymore. Will Henry actually go through with it?
Just when the reader thinks that we’ve reached a plot pinnacle, the author brings Elizabeth and Will back to New York. Elizabeth and Will sneak into her old home on Christmas Eve and Elizabeth goes straight to her mother’s room. Mrs. Holland thinks that it’s Elizabeth’s angel that has visited her, but when she goes downstairs in the morning Mrs. Holland is overcome with happiness and relief to see her oldest daughter alive and well, thinner and tanner, but well. After a long conversation with Aunt Edith and Elizabeth, Mrs. Holland determines that Will and Elizabeth should be married, but must return to California as soon as possible, without being recognized, and never come back to New York. Mr. Snowden, who had arrived at the Holland residence before the holiday and revealed that he was an old partner of the late Mr. Holland and had money from his shares to bestow on the Hollands, suggests that Elizabeth and Will go to the train station late on New Year’s Eve because there should be very few travelers at that time. Of course, this ends up not being sound advice, as they are discovered near the train platform. The police officers stationed there think that Elizabeth had been kidnapped by Will, not knowing she had secretly left New York, and end up shooting Will, who dies in her arms at the train station. The novel ends with both Holland sisters grieving their losses – the newly widowed Elizabeth and the heartbroken Diana.
Anna Godbersen is skilled in creating lifelike characters and painting dramatic scenes that readers will feel as though they are watching the story unfold in front of them. One cannot help but form serious opinions on these characters as if they are real people. Diana, who I found to be annoying in the first book, is strong-willed, intelligent, passionate, and loyal. She would take Elizabeth’s secret to the grave if she had to. However, her impulsiveness reminds me of a young teenager, which they are in this book. Elizabeth is a great character in both books. She is raised to be noble, feminine, and obey all of the rules of society, but the impulsive and strong-willed Holland gene comes out and she leaves all of the comforts of upper class behind, which I cannot help but to admire. However, she abandons her family and friends for a guy. I would have preferred if her character could stand a little more on its own, without being defined by a male character. Lina and Penelope are also motivated by men, but atleast part of their motivation is climbing the social ladder and raising their family’s status. They are characters that if Will and Henry were removed from the story could be interesting on their own, unlike Diana and Elizabeth. I find Lina to be quite lecherous at this part of the story. She uses Tristan and Mr. Longhorn to gain beautiful gowns, jewelry, confidence, and social status. She cares little for their feelings for her. It seems that her entire purpose is to steal Will from Elizabeth and cause the Hollands as much disgrace and heartache as possible. Penelope, who is the most vivid character in the storyline so far, is ruthless. Even more so than she was in Luxe. She will take down anyone who stands in her way of getting into the Schoonmaker family. Beauty, good taste, intelligence, desire, and focus are all in Penelope’s malevolent arsenal. Henry was a bore for me in the first book, but really broke out of his shell for a while in this one. I was disappointed in how he ended up at the conclusion of this book, but I think it will be setting us up for a comeback in Envy. My favorite character is Teddy Cutting. He is not a main character and is in very few scenes, but he has a profound effect on Henry in this book, and some on Elizabeth in the first. He is attractive, educated, gentle, interesting and fun-loving. He is really the only one who puts Henry in check, advises his friend the best that he can, and motivates Henry to improve his character.
There are very few things that I dislike about this series so far. The author uses similar descriptive terms throughout the first two books repeatedly. Heart-shaped face, are getting old for me and I hope that Godbersen uses other terms in the next books, though I doubt it. While she spends a lot of time describing the gowns, tuxedos, and ball rooms, other important elements are neglected a little, like she traumatic scene at the train station or the two sisters in the last scene of the book.