Well, it had to happen. Edith Wharton meets chick lit. It’s 1899 in Manhattan, and glam girls vie for irresistible boys while guarding scandalous secrets not quite hidden from jealous servants.
After a promising opening at a funeral, this plot-driven story quickly becomes as insipid and predictable as its characters. Stereotypes like “bad girl,” “rake, “little sister” of “good girl” inhabit set pieces at a costume ball, a racetrack, and countless pocket-doored drawing rooms. Elizabeth is in love with Will the stable hand, but must marry heir-to-fortune Henry to save her suddenly impoverished widowed mother and sister. But Elizabeth’s best friend Penelope is Henry’s mistress and wants to be his wife, while Henry is falling fast for his fiancée’s little sister. Worry not, at 448 pages, a scorecard is unnecessary. A whole chapter is devoted to capturing a fly-away bonnet.
Multiple viewpoints fail to distract from wooden dialogue asked “leadingly” and said “warningly” by faces “hung with anger,” who realize they should “snap out of it.” But wait, there’s more: the see-it-from-a-mile-away ending is all set up for a sequel. For ages 14 and up, but kids, skip this and go straight to Aunt Edith and the real deal.