Once again, it is impossible to talk about this book without talking about the books that came before it. If you have yet to finish Envy, don't read my review of Splendor. Just look at the pretty picture on the cover (it's Lina this time).
- Carolina is actually an heiress now and uses her money to get a house within view of Leland's. Coincidence? Of course not.
- Elizabeth is settling into her new life with Mr. Cairns away from the public eye. Women who are "in the family way" are better not seen.
- Penelope is recovering. Polite people won't say that she's recovering from a miscarriage, but really impolite people don't mind letting it slip that she wasn't ever actually pregnant.
- Henry and Teddy are off to war, but only one of them gets there.
- And Diana. Diana is in "Paris." At least that's where the Gamesome Gallant would have you believe she is.
In the last installment in The Luxe series, things never go as you would expect. There is a death, a new-found love, an uncovered plot, a steamy affair, a wedding. Someone is thrown from her high horse as someone else decides to share in her bounty. And someone decides to run away and start life over somewhere else. Again. There are no neat little bows in this ending, except for those on Penelope's dresses, but did you really expect everyone to get to live happily ever after?
These books have never really been heavy on the historical details, and neither is this one. If you worried after Envy that Godbersen would let her pretties be set aside so the boys could go off to war (honestly, I'm still unclear as to which war they went off to), breathe a little easier. Henry lives the good life in the army just as does anywhere else he goes, and Teddy, who really does see combat, is back in the States by the time we see him. Both of the guys, and a few others, have important roles, starring you might say in the case of Henry, but this book is still about fancy rich girls in pretty dresses and their intrigues.
There were a lot of ends to tie up in order for Splendor to be the final book in the series. Some storylines had miles to go before they could make it to the last page. Godbersen took all the room she needed to tell Diana and Henry's stories, they are everyone's favorites after all, but that left little room for other storylines that also needed endings. Penelope and Carolina seemed to get a fair share of the page space, but their stories weren't as fleshed out as they had been in previous books. Elizabeth's story was downright anemic. She had one or two big scenes where important things happen, but the story was slim on the build-up and then managed to wrap up so very nicely a page later. After all she's been through, maybe Godbersen felt that Elizabeth deserved to be calm for most of Splendor and then have a happy ending dropped in her lap. Lord knows hers was the only traditionally happy ending provided.
I could have lived with all of the focus being on Diana and Henry (who couldn't) at the expense of Carolina and Penelope and even Elizabeth. I do wish that the stories overlapped more. Yes, Diana visits her pregnant sister. Yes, Penelope and Carolina attend a couple of the same parties. Of course Penelope's husband is still snubbing her in favor of Diana. Their stories aren't really connected by much else. There's a whole lot less gossip, plotting and backstabbing going on than in the other books. But what I really missed in this book were some of the minor characters that were so multidimensional and so alive in previous books. Aunt Edith only got one really good appearance, Buck is practically a prop, and the elder Mr. Schoonmaker hardly even gets to yell at anybody! He does get to change the course of EVERYTHING though, so he shouldn't be too upset. And Mrs. Holland? Who's she?
But even with all of this, I still loved Splendor. It wasn't until after I was done reading (a whole 4 hours after purchase) that I felt a bit let down in places. What Godbersen gives us is really good and really enthralling. I just wish she'd given us more. Le sigh. I'm so sad it's over!
About the ending (spoiler-free)
I wasn't going to talk about the ending, but after reading reviews on amazon, goodreads and librarything, I feel like I have to. I really liked the ending. This series does not end with the good people all happy and in love and the bad people publicly paying for their sins. How would you figure out who falls into which category anyway (except for Elizabeth and Penelope who embody good and evil so distinctively)? Disney did not write this, and I'm glad Anna Godbersen did not compromise her characters to make it seem like he did.
Book 1: The Luxe (on amazon)
Book 2: Rumors (on amazon)
Book 3: Envy (my review)
Book Source: I bought it.