I read the first two books in this series, The Luxe and Rumors, about a year ago, and intended to read this one (and the last one!) but they just got it into the digital collections for the library recently. It's a long gap to follow up on a book that consists primarily of costume porn and petty drama, but I dove right back in anyway.
This series continues to be teenage drama trash, and I continue to love it anyway. Penelope Hayes, the young socialite queen of New York City, has recently married the guy she always wanted, Henry Schoonmaker. She doesn't love Henry, but rather wants to possess him like some expensive bauble or trinket, and in that she is successful. Of course, this comes at the expense of Diana Holland, the younger sister of Henry's former fiancee, Elizabeth; Henry and Diana were romantically involved in the second book, and Diana doesn't know why Henry abandoned her to marry Penelope, because she keeps burning all the letters that Henry sent trying to explain things--namely, that Penelope knows about Henry and Diana and threatened to ruin Diana if Henry didn't marry her.
Pause. Why would that be such a bad thing, to have Diana "ruined" by Henry? Because there would be a scandal? Everything these kids does causes a scandal, and if Henry had ruined Diana, the honorable thing for him to do would be to marry her, which is what everyone except Penelope wanted anyway, so I'm not sure why things proceeded in this manner.
Penelope is of course a prime bitch, but she's kind of an evil genius in her petty, mean-girl way. She goes after what she wants, ruthlessly, while all the other characters kind of just flit about letting her do whatever she desires to them. You gotta give it to her, she knows how to trample over people, and they just make it so easy. I don't want to admire Penelope, or like her, but everyone else is basically spineless, even Diana, who used to possess a bit more attitude and a backbone, so I guess I can't really blame Penelope, even though she's, you know, terrible.
But the truly despicable character in this book is Lina. Still masquerading as an heiress, she goes about on the arm of her wealthy benefactor, then abandons him when he's clearly dying and only want her completely innocent company so that she can instead go to Florida and strut about in palm trees. And then she acts all affronted when he dies and the people managing his estate try to push her out--the people who saw her taking advantage of him the entire time! Granted, Lina has an ax to grind with the Holland family, for whom she was a maid--though they never actually appear to have treated her badly--but the way she tosses aside people when they no longer suit her needs is awful. How is this different than Penelope, you ask? It's simple. Penelope only wants one thing: Henry. If she can have Henry, she will be perfectly content. But Lina? What Lina wants is more. Always more. She will never be satisfied, and will just continue on forever. Out of all the people in these books, Lina is the one who I most hope gets her just deserts.
The logic in this book is lacking, the drama is over the top, and much of the story is devoted to lavish descriptions of the wealth surrounding the characters, as if there's no life that isn't upper class in New York in 1901, but it's all strangely intriguing. I don't think the library has the fourth book in its digital collections yet, but I'll still read it when they get it. It's kind of like a train wreck--it's absolutely terrible, and I know that, but I can't seem to bring myself to look away.
3 stars out of 5, because it's awful but I still like it.