And so, alas...there is no review in two. Instead, I'll just give a quick plug for the series, which has been billed as "the new Gossip Girl," set in old money Manhattan at the turn of the twentieth century, complete with glamour, desire, deceit, and page-turning intrigue. If it were set in modern Manhattan, the storyline might be trashy, but something about the historical setting makes it feel literary (you know, the way anything said in a British accent sounds important and/or humorous?).
Godbersen's elegant writing style seals the deal. Told in third-person omniscient**, there's a voyeuristic quality to the novels which sucks you in, not unlike a tabloid magazine at the grocery checkout. Each book begins at its end, giving a taste of what's to come and then taking the reader through all of the lies, mis-steps and romantic connections that unfold to bring the novel to a dramatic cliffhanger ending. I also find myself wrapped up in the story and am helplessly addicted to the little period newspaper/magazine clips (which I think are real?) and personal notes that lead off each chapter, lending authority and authenticity to the story and giving the reader further insight into the social mores of the time.
Envy is the second-to-last in the series, and while I realize I just finished it today and it came out just last week, I am anxiously awaiting the fourth and final installment in the saga: Splendor, which isn't set for release until 2010. I guess that means I have plenty of time to write my own ending where the characters finally escape the fatal flaws and social norms that bind them and finally get what they want (and others get what they deserve).
Oh, and I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover and all, but how can you not?
*No, seriously, how?
**See, Mrs. Cunningham! I can pay attention in your sixth grade "Reading and Writing" class AND write and pass notes at the same time. Booya.