Good lord...the relationships in this book go beyond mere love triangles. I'm not quite sure there's even a shape I can use to accurately diagram the various romantic entanglements going on. When I try to draw it out, I end up with something that sort of looks like one of those two-headed scythes, which I suppose is a fairly accurate depiction of the relationships in this book.
Most of the story consists of various characters being in love with someone they can't have. While I'm normally all for forbidden and unrequited love stories, it got a bit ridiculous. Every single character the story followed was in love either with someone who was in love with someone else, or someone that society said they shouldn't be in love with. And they all whine about how they can't be with the one they love. Constantly.
There's also a murder mystery going on, amidst all the whining, but it isn't much of a mystery. It's pretty painfully obvious what's really going on behind the unusual circumstances of Elizabeth's death.
If you couldn't tell from the synopsis, don't go into this book expecting any real female relationships. Elizabeth and her sister, Diana, come the closest to having a decent relationship, but that's not until the end of the book, when it's too late to matter.
The strongest part of the story, to me, was Elizabeth's internal struggle to find some sort of balance between what she wanted, and what was best for her family. No matter which decision she ended up making, somebody was bound to lose. Of course, there wasn't nearly enough time spent on this part of the story, and there was never really any question of what choice she was going to make. The book didn't even try to hide what her choice would be.
I ended up liking Henry more than I expected to. He was an incredible scuzzball for the first half of the book or so, but he redeemed himself by the end. He finally starting acting like a mature adult, and it was heartbreaking to watch him deal with the guilt that Elizabeth's death was possibly his fault.
I've got the rest of the series, so I'm going to read right on through. I'm expecting book two to have even more cattiness than this one, as Elizabeth is out of the picture.
And I've got to hand it to whoever did the covers for this series - those are some absolutely gorgeous dresses.