The last of the Luxe novels entertains and captivates its readers as it provides an ending to Manhattan’s upper class families at the turn of the century.
Diana Holland has given up everything during the summer of 1900 to find Henry Schoonmaker, who has enlisted in the military to escape Penelope. She has cut her hair, left her gowns behind, lied about going to finishing school, and traveled to Cuba to find the unit that Henry has been assigned to. She now tends bar in a place frequented by sailors and other military personnel and can probably out drink anyone in Manhattan. Just as in any fairytale story, Henry walks into the bar she is working at and sees her across the room. Henry and Diana spend the remainder of their time in Cuba together in love until a superior officer recognizes Diana as being someone from an important New York family. The officer sends her back to New York, of course with Henry, and they foolishly return to their families, sealing their fate in the end. Despite their best efforts, Henry and Diana encounter every obstacle possible in their plan to run away from New York and go to Paris together. Mr. Schoonmaker passes away, making Henry feel obligated to stay in New York and handle the Schoonmaker finances. Diana had no intention of remaining in New York to be confined by social rules and upper class living. She is the only one in the entire story that ends up truly happy and uninhibited.
While this is happening, Elizabeth Holland Cairns is settling into her new life as a married woman, but pregnant with her first love’s child. Throughout the book, Elizabeth is overwhelmed with being pregnant and making their home their own, frequently needing to rest. However, she starts to uncover clues that her husband is darker than he seems. After she starts to question his relationship to her father and their interests in the Klondike, he starts to forcibly sedate her. I found it hard to believe that her mother and her aunt never came to visit their pregnant Elizabeth, especially with Diana being gone for the summer. It was only after Teddy Cutting broke social norms and visited the sedated and very pregnant Elizabeth that she was eventually rescued… sort of. It was only due to a missed dose of sedative in the middle of the night that allowed Elizabeth to wake up enough to confront her husband at the top of the stairs, which she finds the strength to shove him down. Teddy arrives just after this happens and whisks her off to safety and asks Elizabeth to marry him. Of course she says yes and they live happily ever after.
Lina’s story ends up being much more of a rollercoaster ride. After her benefactor dies, everything that she acquired while with Mr. Longhorn is taken from her and returned to his estate. She no longer has a place to live, gowns to wear, money to survive on, or a friend in the world. She ends up sleeping on the street the night before the will is read, but finds out that she is the main benefactor of the estate, making her the newest edition to the Manhattan upper class. With this inherited wealth, she buys an upscale place near her crush, Leland, and storms into the upper class social scene by throwing a lavish party. Leland shows up and they start their courting immediately. But nothing lasts forever, and the bed of fibs and lies that Lina has made catches up to her on her wedding day when Tristan makes an appearance. Lina’s past is revealed to Leland, who may not have cared about a lowly start in life but cannot get over her lying to him. The devastated Lina returns to her home an embarrassed socialite, only to be reunited with her supportive sister. They end up living together, enjoying the splendor of upper class living and parties.
Penelope has moved past Henry’s absence due to the military. After catching the eye of the visiting Prince of Bavaria, Penelope decides that being married into New York’s most powerful family is not enough. She wants to be a princess. After Henry returns to New York, she is determined to leave him and New York to marry the seductive prince. After several nights out on the town and overnights in the hotel with the Prince of Bavaria, Penelope and Henry, who has his own plans to run away with Diana, decide to have their marriage annulled after Mr. Schoonmaker passes away. Penelope packs her bags and heads to the hotel where to meet the prince and travel with him back to Europe. When she gets to the hotel, she is told that the prince and his new fiancé (not her) have already left for the Europe. Devastated, confused, and embarrassed Penelope faints and is returned to the Schoonmaker home. When she wakes up in her own bed, she walks into the adjoining study where she finds Henry. There they both tell their tale of heartbreak and decide to remain together, occasionally finding other partners to love throughout their wealthy, but unhappy, lives.
Overall, I enjoyed the Luxe novels, but Splendor was my least favorite of the four books. I found each storyline in the finale to be predictable and incomplete. While the scenes in Cuba and at Elizabeth’s home were captivating, I could see the endings well before I was a quarter of the way through the book. Hurried scenes and predictable endings make for a disappointing ending to an enjoyable series.
When Lina was ousted from the hotel and stripped of the gifts the Longhorn gave her, I felt she got what was coming to her. However, I knew that when she arrived at the hotel disheveled and at rock bottom to hear the last will & testament that she would once again rise to the upper class. She knew he would leave her something to save her, and so did I. I also knew that all of the lies that she told to Leland, even though she loved him, would come out just in time to stop the wedding. Tristan was too much of a liability. But in the end, Lina comes out alright.
I found the ending for Penelope and Henry to be rushed and boring. We all knew that Penelope was going to get used by the Prince of Bavaria and that Diana would never settle in New York City. What I would have liked to hear more about was Diana’s adventures in Paris or wherever she travels to. Does she marry? Does she come back to New York to visit her sister? If so, does she meet up with Henry or the columnist?
Elizabeth’s story could not be complete without someone coming to her rescue. Her character bored me in the last three books. Complicit and meek, Elizabeth is easily controlled by Mr. Snowden and his cronies. War hero Teddy is obviously the only one who could rescue her, but he doesn’t do so until the end of the novel. It would have been nice to see how they got married, where they settled, and the birth of the child that drove Elizabeth’s story for so long.
My disappointment in Splendor is in my own taste. I does not reflect my opinion at all on the first three novels in this series. I recommend the Luxe novels for anyone who enjoys scandal, family secrets, drama, lavish turn-of-the-century parties, and descriptive scenes. Godbersen is talented in her imagery and use of adjectives to paint a vivid scenes and lively characters.