by Anna Godbersen. Why did it take me so long to read it? I've been hearing wonderful things about it for ages. Probably because there's no fantasy, magic, steam power! (I think I've been drinking too much Harry Potter Kool Aid.) But here's a wonderful, gossipy, historical mystery, with bells, frills, and whistles.
Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.First Line:
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.
Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone—from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud—threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.
With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...
In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.
From the prologue: "In life, Elizabeth Adora Holland was known not only for her loveliness but also for her moral character, so it was fair to assume that in the afterlife she would occupy a lofty seat with an especially good view."
Though told in third person, with chapter POV shifts, the narrator manages to maintain a slightly snarky voice--maybe more ironic than snarky. It kept me riveted an involved all through the twisting plot, multiple scandals, and character shifts.
I gave you the line from the prologue because it demonstrates the narrator's voice. But also because the prologue was surprising. I would never
suggest a new writer do this (chalk this down as Expert Level; you wouldn't try playing Guitar Hero on Expert your very first time, would you?). The prologue is basically a commentary on the guests at Elizabeth's funeral, giving us just enough information so that when we meet them again in the book (takes place leading up to Elizabeth's death), we know a little about them--and it intrigues us as to how they came to be as they are. It could be considered back story, or information dump, but it's done in such a way you keep reading.
I've briefly mentioned the POV shifts, and I have to again. When I first realized that each chapter would follow a different character, I was annoyed. But I didn't stop reading. And I found, despite the third person, I was dedicated to each and every character. We were given enough time with each one to understand what makes them tick. Again, this is set on Advanced level--don't try this at home.
If you've read any Historical in the past and liked it, you should definitely read it. If you, like me, only read Historical Fantasy, this might be able to change your mind. When I have time, I will
be reading the rest of the series. But I'm super excited to read another of Godbersen's books, Bright Young Things
, set in the Roaring 20s.
Would I represent it?
Have you ever heard me say that I'm not looking for Historical? Well... I might take a look if the time period interests me (can't really say what does interest me, so I guess the timeline is open). Unless done really well, I probably will reject something written in a similar style. I prefer third person limited or first person.