The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2017)
Fiction | Historical Romance | Paranormal
“Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin’s wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.
Antonina, who prefers her family’s country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society’s ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can’t help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent.
Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice.”
Expected Publication Date: October 24, 2017
pooled ink Review:
This book was not what I expected. Technically I might categorize it as paranormal since two of the characters have a telekinetic gift or “talent” but really it was simply another piece of the setting like the lavish dresses, the perfect tea, or the stifling summer heat. It did not play a large role in the story and was not the focus either, but it was important in that it is a part of who Nina is, and Hector for that matter. Hector uses his talent to make a living and Nina was taunted back home for it. But other than it being a natural part of their lives it held little focus other than to give the story some more color. Really this was more of a historical romance in that it was very much like a Jane Austen novel, but with a whole lot more going on.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was very good but it was a bit exhausting (in a good way!). When I was barely halfway through the story already so much had evolved, shattered, and passed that I felt as if I’d read a lengthy novel and was almost surprised that I’d made but a dent in the book. The style of this novel is certainly one that is left up to your personal taste. I happened to really enjoy it but others might not. Because while in some ways it felt slow it also felt like an enthralling whirlwind. The author manages to pack so much emotion in so few pages that I was held captivated despite my slow progress.
The story is told in alternating POVs, in particular Nina (the innocent), Hector (the blind), and Valérie (the clever, beautiful, and miserable shrew). I felt this worked quite well for this story as it not only helped pack in more for its punch but it unveiled the misguided motives and secrets of these characters. I think that without the alternating POVs, Nina and Valérie would have been reduced to flat characters and Hector would have been, well, rather irredeemable.
“Nothing matters more than money to us, the proper people who walk down these city streets in pristine gloves and silk-lined garments. You can give yourself the luxury of love because you are not one of us.” –Étienne
The Beautiful Ones is beautifully written, absolutely bursting with tension, drama, secrets, and greed. Despite the glamour and money, it truly conveys how stifling and ridiculously stressful life can be for one of the Beautiful Ones (the lovely, wealthy, elite).
So let’s talk about the Beautiful One. Valérie. She’s secured a place at the height of society and I hate her. Stereotypical perhaps to make a powerful beautiful woman a bitter taste on our tongue but the author, unlike so many others of such stories, manages to give her a three-dimensionality that explains her self.
Ugh! Valérie! She is so cruel it is difficult to sympathize with her at all even knowing where she’s coming from. Perhaps earlier on I thought I could feel sorry for her and the unfair situation her family put her in but with every chapter we see just how rotten she has let herself become and any sympathy I might have had curdled. Her family may have forced her hand initially but because she could not let the past go she ended up letting her heart rot.
Every time she strode upon the page my stomach turned, a grimace marred my lips, and angry thoughts lashed out from me. Hector did wrong, make no mistake, but even he was, and is, far too good for her.
In her misery, she was able to find the beauty of spite and cling to it. [Valérie]
Valérie is miserable and she has let such injustices and misery leech any laughter or kindness from her heart. Her life was forced so she shall force the lives of others. The happiness of others chafes her, she views it as weakness and unfair and she delights in smothering it.
I feel truly exhausted from all the manipulations twisted upon poor Nina. Perhaps in some things she is naïve but she had such a glow of life and uniqueness only to have the city rip it out of her and leave her tumultuous, cautious, and wounded. And it is all because of the selfish desires of all those around her. Love and money have torn them all apart, the abusers and victims alike.
I really liked Nina, she was a sweet girl with an innocent independence. She always tried to find good in people, tried her best to make her family proud and to learn the rules of society as Valérie taught her. And although Nina walked through life with a transparent glow of innocence she wasn’t annoying in the least, but rather charming and fun and an honest breath of fresh air amongst all the stuffy stifling squabblers of the Beautiful Ones.
Hector is a difficult character to box. Even while knowing he was in love with one woman and wooing another, somehow his nobility and blindness kept me from hating him. I was angry and disappointed, I pitied him and he deserved the coldness and misery he received, but he was not irredeemable. Unlike with Valérie, I felt Hector could be forgiven. Perhaps it’s because he so dearly wanted to be forgiven whilst Valérie would rage until lowered into her grave.
This book, despite it igniting with the arrival of the young Nina and the love she hopes to find in the city, is very much Valérie’s story. Nina might be the main character but this is absolutely Valérie’s story. Valérie manipulates it, pushes it, weaves it with her every breath and gesture. Nina smiles dreaming of finding a romance like she’s read in books and is utterly oblivious to the black deviousness of Valérie’s games.
I kid you not, this book had me hiding my face in my shirt collar for the last good chunk of the story out of fear and anxiety for these characters. My head was desperately chanting and pleading for a happy ending. I don’t think I’ve read a book where I’ve mentally screamed “That witch!” so many times (and I didn’t say “witch”). Ugh! I shamefully admit that I felt no shame when justice was served and I couldn’t keep a goofy Cheshire grin off my face. When I finished reading the final page I ended up flailing in a silly happy dance. I am an utter romantic beneath the icy cold exterior of my cynical heart. 😀
This is a Jane Austen-esque romance riddled with the darker realities of the world and heavy with its vices. A glowing and pure thread of romance is strung throughout the story as others attack it with greed, money, desire, and selfishness. The Beautiful Ones is a tale of innocence and selfishness and the haphazard navigations of true love. Love can strengthen, love can blind, and love can destroy. Read as these characters learn the deep costs of chasing the madness of their desires.
Purchase here: The Beautiful Ones
Meet Silvia Moreno-Garcia!
Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, won a Copper Cylinder Award and was nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Aurora and Sunburst awards. Her second novel, Certain Dark Things, is a noir with Mexicans vampires. She co-edited the anthology She Walks in Shadows (winner of the World Fantasy Award) and is an editor at the magazine The Dark.