Downton Abbey meets Gossip Girl. That’s the “nutshell” premise for a show based on Anna Godbersen’s Young Adult book series, The Luxe. Does this pitch intrigue you enough to watch its potential television adaptation?
The Luxe series includes four books published from 2007 through 2009. In addition to being well-received by readers, the series has garnered generally positive reviews among critics, with The Luxe even spending time on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
The first novel focuses on the elite of New York society around the turn of the 20th century, and their help, including numerous social climbers. At the center of it all is the beautiful Elizabeth Holland, and her free-spirited younger sister, Diana. The Hollands have never recovered from the death of their patriarch, and Mrs. Holland is quickly trying to marry her eldest to a wealthy suitor. The extremely prominent Henry Schoonmaker is a bit of a reckless playboy, which troubles his father because he has political ambitions. He desires to clean up Henry’s reputation by marrying him to the image of propriety, Elizabeth, to the pleasure of Mrs. Holland.
Both manipulate their children into agreeing to the match. Henry had no inclination to marry and doesn’t even believe in love…until he lays eyes on the captivating Diana. Desperate to save her family’s good name, Elizabeth is conflicted by the idea of marrying anyone…who isn’t William Keller, her family’s coachman. Friends since childhood, the pair had begun a passionate love affair a few years earlier, and Elizabeth is desperate not to lose him.
Gorgeous, nouveau riche Penelope Hayes is Elizabeth’s best frenemy. She is carrying on her own secret affair, but with Henry. She seeks to turn it into a marriage, and increase her standing in society. When she finds out Henry agrees to wed Elizabeth, she plots to get him back at all costs. Henry is about the only young man in Manhattan not in love with Elizabeth. His impending nuptials are a devastating blow to best friend Teddy Cutting, who’s been quietly in love with Elizabeth for years, but who no one ever considered a serious prospect.
Rounding out the “downstairs” portion of characters is Lina Broud, Elizabeth’s maid. Once close friends, Lina became bitterly jealous after her upper-crust rival won Will’s affections. Equally incensed at her station in life, Lina determines to scheme and blackmail herself into better fortunes. While big sister Claire disapproves of Lina’s intentions, she keeps her plans secret. Claire is Diana’s maid, and content to just read about the Hollands, Cuttings, Shoonmakers, Hayes' and the rest of New York society in the gossip pages.
What makes the storylines of the potential, juicy melodrama even more addictive is the time period in which it takes place. Like Downton Abbey, TheLuxe is set during a place in history when wealth, status and marriageability were everything. A new millennium may have been coming, but it was still a time when unmarried couples needed chaperones, and most servants could never hope of becoming masters. Even the hint of scandal could ruin one’s reputation and irrevocably destroy their life. This naturally amps up the stakes for our characters.
Think of it this way: if an 1890s Blair had caught an 1890s Serena having “relations” with her escort (like in the pilot of Gossip Girl) Serena would have died a spinster. If Elizabeth and Diana come to ruin before an advantageous marriage can secure the family’s finances, it’s believed they’ll both die a spinster’s death too. Despite all this talk about marriage, the median age of our characters is seventeen, so a Luxe TV show would be a great excuse to have another cast full of beautiful, young people.
A show like Luxe would be welcomed in today’s TV landscape. Series’ like Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family and The Vampire Diaries on The CW have already proven how a YA book adaptation can easily capture audiences. They’ve also demonstrated source material doesn’t need to be followed verbatim, in order to create a show which keeps viewers guessing. Especially coupled with the explosion of Edwardian drama Downton Abbey, a TV version of Luxe screams viability.
Would you watch a series based on The Luxe? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: PBS/HarperCollins/The CW