From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance with a dash of magic.
They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.
But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina—and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins. The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu's Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.
Note: For people who only know me for Mexican Gothic, I should warn you all my books tend to straddle different genres and have a very different feel for one another. This is very much a novel of manners and a romance, much closer in tone to Gods of Jade and Shadow than some of my other work and very far from Mexican Gothic.
I love Silvia Moreno Garcia’s books! I really do! If I had a chance to give Gods of Jade and Shadow or Mexican Gothic ten shiny stars I would do it instantly!
When I read the blurb which excited me about its paranormal vibes ( since I’ve read Carrie when I was 13, my special interest about telekinesis has been growing for years) and romance parts made me intrigued!
But... this book’s genre is closer to historical telenovella. Most of the book is about love triangle. My favorite heroine Nina was kind hearted, quirky, witty, cheery, innocent, naive character. As Valerie and Hector met 10 years ago, engaged, parted their ways when Valerie decided to save her family from debt by marrying Gaetan. And Hector returns back Louisal to see her one more time to change her mind , rekindling their love story but Valerie cares more about her reputation. She doesn’t want to be gossip material, losing her position at societal hierarchy by divorcing her husband. So Hector decides to charm Gaetan’s young cousin who is also our main character Nina to be closer to the Valerie!
As you may imagine I hate the direction of the story because I already invested in Nina. I also hate to read POV’s Valerie: she was cynical, unhappy, whiny, selfish cutthroat bitch from the beginning. I didn’t care she left her love of life to save her family. I’m not so sure this manipulative, calculating character can love a person properly.
I also hated Hector and his intentions about Nina but thankfully his change of heart earned him several brownie points which help me to erase his cumulative punching points.
The story starts Antonia “Nina” Beauliau’s attended to a ball to meet young proper gentlemen candidates to get marry. She meets with Hector Auvrey who is telekinetic performer. Nina has also that kind of power which gave her bad reputation, resulted in people’s calling her witch when she was just a little girl. She talks and dances with Hector all night and as Hector learns his love of his life married to Nina’s cousin, he sees this as an opportunity to reconnect with Valerie by befriending this awkward girl.
At first it starts as a part of vengeance plan. Hector thinks by marrying with Nina , he can break avenge Valerie’s betrayal. But as he starts to spend more time Nina for sharpening her telekinesis powers by showing how to control them, their relationship slowly blooms. But Valerie has no intention to let them ride into the sunset.
Overall: I didn’t like this book as much as the author’s previous works:
It was too long, repetitive, melodramatic and full of cliches!
I didn’t like to read Valerie’s POV: she was vindictive, unlikable, very very punchable character!
Paranormality didn’t take much place at the story. I wanted to see more juicy, exciting chapters: like Nina moves entire sharp objects with her eyes to chase Valerie’s ass out of the town!
So I’m rounding up 2.5 starts to 3 for the love of Nina and Hector! But I’m a little disappointed. After seeing this remarkable cover ( actually the artist Ms Moreno works is amazing! I adore all of her book covers!) I was expecting something more mind blowing! But I’m still do hopeful about her other upcoming book! Fingers crossed!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan/ Tor- Forge for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.
This is the first novel I have read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a slow burn of a beautifully written, character driven historical romantic drama with a small element of the fantastical, emulating the likes of Jane Austen, set in the fictional city of Losail in the early 20th century. The young and naive Antonina 'Nina' Beaulieu, loves insects such as beetles and butterflies, has the gift of telekinesis, a source of shame for her family, a gift she is unable to control but which comes to the fore whenever she is emotionally overwrought, which taints her reputation and has her referred to as the 'Witch of Oldcastle', . She leaves her rural home to stay at the home of her well off cousin, Gaetan and his wife, Valerie, in Losail for the Grand Season, attending balls with the aim of securing a rich husband.
As could almost be predicted, Nina's debut does not go well but her world improves considerably when she meets Hector Auvray, a well known telekinetic entertainer, who has acquired wealth and pulled himself up the social strata to mingle with the high born aristocrats. Hector does not see Nina's gift as problematic, and helps her to manage and control it better. Unaware that Hector and Valerie have a past, Nina feels love, but it is a love that has a rocky path to negotiate between being true to her love and passion, pitted against the heavy pressures that come to bear in terms of society's expectations. We can see the consequences of accepting society's limitations on women in the bitter, scheming, enraged, selfish and manipulative Valerie, who gave up love's young dream, and intends that Nina should suffer just like her, in her efforts to thwart Nina's love for Hector.
Hector has never been able to forget Valerie, and seeks to make her pay for her betrayal, but can he see beyond his deception and really see Nina? This is an atmospheric, entertaining and engaging novel of class, manners, gender, love, the rigidity of expectations to conform, and the hypocrisy of society where it is acceptable for a man to be telekinetic but not a woman. The highlights for me was the clear development of Nina's character in the narrative, along with the detailed observations, such as the clothing, and the rich descriptions of the historical era. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
The Beautiful Ones is a great example of Moreno-Garcia's fluid and engaging writing style.
The romance was subtle and delicate, yet still intriguing. While reading, I kept thinking of how much it reminded me of a magical version of Thackeray's, Vanity Fair.
The atmosphere is thick with old-world, upper-class traditions and excesses; easily transporting the reader to the streets and parties of the fictional city of Loisail.
I was swept away.
The main characters were just quirky enough, full of vices and a few virtues, spewing forth with inner desires. I enjoyed how the story was told from multiple perspectives as it helped the story to progress at a strong, steady pace.
I would definitely recommend this book to friends who enjoy stories with just the right amount of magical elements and plenty of beauty!
I also would definitely seek out other books by this author in the future.
Update: I have since read Moreno-Garcia's, Gods of Jade and Shadow, as well Mexican Gothic, and really enjoyed both. If anything, her writing continues to get stronger and stronger.
Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin's Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!
The Beautiful Ones was a delightful read. The writing was cozy and embracing. It was easy to fall in love with the main character, Nina Beaulieu despite her naïveté and free spirit, in fact, it made her all the more lovable. And the mean girl of the story, Valérie Beaulieu, her cousin’s wife, was easy to hate. She was a model of beauty in what seemed like a renaissance era. Reputation was everything and Valérie will sell her proverbial soul to stay on top of the social ladder. She was cunning and cruel to Nina for daring to fall in love with her long-ago lover, Hector Auvray, whom she abandoned for wealth and riches. She won’t have him and won’t let anyone. I enjoyed the seamless flow of the story. It was very enjoyable. Four stars.
Silvia Moreno Garcia presents a novel that seeps beneath the surface. There's far more here than what meets the eye. The Beautiful Ones focuses on the thin veneer of beauty and its head-turning abilities. Beauty catches the light and often clutches the beholder in a suffocating grip. And its aftermath has one gasping for more than air.
Antonina Beaulieu carries the weight of her name. She prefers the shortened version of "Nina" which better describes her simple life and desires. But the name Beaulieu stands like the pillars of the wealthy generations before her. It is expected that she marry well even though she is not yet twenty. And two of her family members will see to it.
Valerie Beaulieu is married to Nina's cousin, Gaetan, a rich businessman managing his family's affairs. Gaetan indulges Nina, but he respects her undisciplined ways. Valerie, a stunning beauty, married Gaetan for his wealth and position. She has been appointed to oversee Nina's arrival in polite society. Valerie has a strong dislike of Nina and considers her beneath herself in every way. This she keeps secreted away from her husband. But like all things, threads tend to unravel in time.
Garcia introduces us to Hector Auvray, a well-received illusionist who specializes in telekinesis while traveling the world. He has amassed a large amount of wealth through his travels and investments. This allows him into the drawing rooms of the well-heeled. And we will come to find that he and Valerie have shared quite a past together. More secrets.....
At the core of The Beautiful Ones is the irrepressible Nina. Not known for great beauty or her parlor conversations, Nina is a breath of fresh air. Her youth limits her experiences and her ability to captivate male suitors. But she knows her mind readily and she is frustrated by the limitations imposed upon her by Valerie. You'll be applauding her throughout the novel. But her pathway will not be an easy one.
The Beautiful Ones is character-driven within the boundaries of old family names, generational wealth, societal mores, and the limited roles of women during this time period. It would provide lively conversation for a book club. You'll be seething at the behavior of some of these individuals and frustrated at the loss of dreams. People are driven by a multitude of desires. But that aforementioned desire to wound may just impale oneself in that cunning moment.
DNF 50%. Soap operas are, at their most basic, stories about emotionally compromised people making shitty decisions. I'm not categorically opposed to this, but I went into The Beautiful Ones thinking it would be a fantasy of manners set in an alternate Belle Epoque, and what I got was the very soapiest of soaps.
Ten years ago, Valerie Veries was secretly engaged to penniless telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. Under pressure from her family, she married a wealthy man of society instead. Now they are both back in the same city - he, having gained fame and fortune through his talents; she, bored and saddled with an unwelcome protegee of a country cousin. Said cousin Nina Beaulieu catches Hector's eye, and he decides to court her as a way of maybe continuing to be in Valerie's life...maybe causing her pain.
See what I mean about emotionally compromised people? It gets worse from there. Heartbreak! Deception! More broken engagements! Duels! There's no plot except emotional drama against a backdrop of manners and pretty clothes. I could have got behind a story of how young Nina Beaulieu defied her family's expectations to become a respected entomologist plus a little romance on the side, but no, every plot arc is romantic. And not only is there the expected love triangle - there are love polygons.
Fantasy readers should take note that there's very little fantastical here except that a) London has been given a French makeover; and b) both Nina and Hector have some telekinetic abilities, which he uses to earn his bread and she doesn't know how to control and apparently has never thought to try until Hector shows her the light (?!). That might be the biggest fantasy of all. Social stigma or not, what telekinetic child would not explore these abilities?
Usually I acknowledge that I'm the wrong reader for a book I dislike, but not only am I way too cynical and Vulcan for this one, I also think the writing is astonishingly poor. Silvia Moreno-Garcia's third person omniscient perspective is the epitome of tell rather than show. The characterization takes place in lines like this: "She was by nature a jealous, possessive creature. She had to have every bit of everything, and that included every bit of everyone." The dialogue doesn't bear reasonable resemblance to any exchange I've ever heard between humans, and the excess verbiage could be a textbook example of the need for concision ("She had a way of talking that he enjoyed because there was often merriment in her words"). I tried and failed to wrap my head around what it means to describe a character as having "dented and wearied" eyes. My understanding is that eyes do not dent unless they have lost significant amounts of vitreous humor. And whilst on the topic of humor: there is exactly none in this book.
The overall tone is breathlessly romantic, and as such, induces near-constant eyerolling: "She was alive that morning, alive with hope and love. Each breath she took, each beat of her heart, every sigh, was meant for Hector. She existed for him alone and knew nothing but him."
Which leads me to a side rant: I strongly dislike naivety/innocence as the quality that attracts older male character to a heroine. I've never liked super young heroines as romantic leads because they're just not set up to enter into relationships of respect and equality with much older heroes who are amused by their gaucherie. Georgette Heyer didn't persuade me otherwise, and Moreno-Garcia sure doesn't either.
I quit around the halfway mark when I realized I'd rather read the news (in the middle of a pandemic!) than keep going with the vicissitudes of the hearts of Valerie, Hector, and Nina. This is my second outing with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and it is definitely my last.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s The Beautiful Ones offers readers a kaleidoscope of nostalgic trimmings – a splash of Austen, a dash or two of the Bronte Sisters, with an early modernist garnish. Set in a fantasy (alt history?) version of post-industrial France but dealing mainly with an aristocratic class resembling the landed gentry of the British, the novel’s plot centers around a nouveau riche entertainer, Hector Auvray, who returns home after many years abroad to rekindle an old flame, by way of the beautiful Valerie Beaulieu, who years before had broken off their secret engagement so she could marry into a wealthy family. In the present, Hector pretends to court Valerie’s cousin by marriage, Nina Beaulieu, but only as an excuse to be close to Valerie. The magical wrinkle in all of this is that a small number of people in this society have telekinetic powers, Hector and Nina among them. High society considers telekinesis a vulgar subject, but Hector’s male privilege permits him to hone his natural talents into skills that make him a successful stage performer, who is then generally accepted by the upper class because of his wealth and fame. Nina is not so lucky. Her family regards her telekinetic abilities as a shameful nuisance, so her skills remain unrefined, her powers asserting themselves only at the most inconvenient times. As a result, she is a bit of an outcast at a time (19 years old) when she is supposed to be “entering” society, but she manages to stay in good enough graces thanks to the indulgence of her rich cousin, Valerie’s husband Gaetan. The Beautiful Ones is very successful as a straightforward genre exercise. While the story doesn’t shy away from Bronte-esque melodrama, it does so through the lens of Austen-esque psychological realism. This is especially welcome when the novel is dealing with the fantastical element of the story, which is presented in a grounded and ordinary way. The novel is perfectly plotted, and the shifting points-of-view offer the reader a rounded perspective of the main actors as the drama unfolds. There is a kind of purity to Moreno-Garcia’s approach that works against the novel, an unwillingness to contaminate the proceedings with anything resembling a direct political or social commentary. The novel’s alternaFrance has motorcars and other novelties of the early industrialized world, so it is beyond me why, in some respects (such as the fact that the heroes have the luxury of not worrying about their finances while the villains are motivated by their lack of access to capital), the author seems unwilling to deconstruct “polite” society in the vein of the early modernists. Despite some thematic ambiguities, The Beautiful Ones is exceptional in form, careful in its study of character and buoyed by Moreno-Garcia’s expressive prose and tightly managed storytelling. I don’t think it’s possible to read the book without rooting for its lovers to unite, or without being charmed by the elegant world the author has created.
I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I can confidently say that I think Silvia Moreno-Garcia is one of the best writers ever. Her style and ability to craft a narrative is unmatched in my opinion. After reading and loving Gods of Jade and Shadow, I have slowly been making my way through the rest of her books. When I saw this one was up on NetGalley, I could not pass up the chance.
The Beautiful Ones was originally published in 2017, but it is getting a reissue in paperback this year. I remember struggling to track down the original hardcover of this book and Certain Dark Things because they were out of print, so I am very excited that readers are getting another chance to pick up a copy!
If you know of this author because you read and enjoyed Mexican Gothic, you should know that this story is very different. Silvia Moreno-Garcia does not stick with one certain genre or style. Every book I have read by her has been completely unique and different than the last. The Beautiful Ones is no exception to this. It is a novel of manners with a hint of fantasy. The story itself follows Antonina Beaulieu as she travels to Loisail to stay with her cousin Gaétan and his wife Valérie for the Grand Season. She meets the Beautiful Ones, or notable socialites, and is expected to make friends and find a suitor. Nina does not really fit in as a “proper lady” like she is expected to, especially since she struggles to control her telekinesis. However, she is drawn to a telekinetic performer named Hector Auvray who helps her learn more about controlling her abilities. Nina falls head over heels for him in the process, but Hector is hiding a big secret that could hurt Nina and ruin their relationship.
There is a lot of drama and romance to the point where it feels like a classic Jane Austen novel in some ways. I loved this because it is something I have not seen done by the author before. I really appreciate how she cannot be defined by one style and excellently pulls off whatever she chooses.
One thing I think this author is known for her is impeccable writing. It is so beautiful and atmospheric. I really enjoy how it works to pull you into the narrative more. I have seen others say that the writing is slower, and I would agree to an extent. It feels like a slow build and burn compared to other books. It is not slow as in boring, but it is just the style that is consistent between her books. I know it is not for everyone, but I absolutely adore it!
The story itself was so entertaining, but I appreciate how it comments on other important concepts like societal and familial expectations. Through the main characters, we see how people deal with pressure and conformity. This can be really difficult to manage when you are also figuring out what you want for yourself. Making the right decisions for yourself can be hard when you always have to worry about what others will think. Beyond that, I enjoyed the conversation this book had about love, heartbreak, and moving on.
I thought the characters and character development were really solid in this book. It was interesting to see how they played off one another and dealt with different expectations. I really liked Hector and Nina, so I was rooting for them the whole time. I like that the author allowed them to grow not only for the sake of their romantic feelings but as individuals as well. I also really liked how Nina and Valérie show the different ways people manage societal exceptions. Nina stays true to herself and does not quite agree with most things that are expected of her. On the other hand, Valérie deeply cares about these things. She has had to make tough choices for herself and her family, but it makes her seem cold and selfish. Both characters work to show what it means to resist or go along with outside pressures.
I have said it before and I will continue to say it, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an auto-buy author for me. She has never let me down, and that is something I do not understand. I am beginning to think she has some kind of magical powers because every time I read one of her books I give it five stars. Her writing is just that good. I really do think The Beautiful Ones is something that a lot of readers will love, and I cannot recommend it enough!
When I say I would throw any current read out the window to read an impending release by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, I mean it. Antonina Beaulieu is a fish out of water, sent to the city of Loisail to stay with her cousin and his wife as she prepares for her first grand season where she will hopefully find a husband. Unfortunately she's been dropped straight into a world she is both ill prepared and ill fitted for. Drawn to Hector Auvray, a performer who shares in the same telekinetic abilities as herself, she begins to hone her skills and find solace in his company. However, Hector keeps a secret, one that could shake the very foundations of their budding relationship. Her connections may have brought her to Loisail, but old ties are hard to break and could threaten the success of the season, as well as her impending marriage.
There is something exquisite, yet utterly unique about each of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's written works, and The Beautiful Ones is no different. This is a heartfelt and romantic story unlike anything I have read in a very long time. It's a sweeping tale of new beginnings and the long term consequences of the choices we make. This whole book felt like a period drama. It was melodramatic and oh so decadent, using its characters to fuel the raging fire of the central conflict. The focus on these relationships as a way to make a commentary about conformity and the suffocating weight of societies expectations was really interesting. I loved how it progressed to the point where each character had become the roadblock on their journey towards finding happiness. Not that I wanted either of the two main characters to be unhappy, but it was a very realistic portrayal of how sometimes you can become your own worst enemy. One that certainly kept things entertaining and made me want to bang my head against the wall on more than one occasion. This novel is definitely more of a romance with a dash of fantasy intertwined, than strictly fantasy. However, the romance took me by surprise. There's nothing I love more than a complicated relationship and two people who have to overcome something in order to be together. Hector and Nina showcased that perfectly. Although the pacing of this was quite slow, I found I didn't mind as I was once again drawn into the authors incredible prose and talent for storytelling. It's clear I can rely on this author for a wide array of different novels. In creating this, Silvia Moreno-Garcia has shown that she can thrive in truly any genre and I for one cannot wait to see what she does next.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ability to jump from genre to genre, write completely different stories, but still have the same touch, astounds me.
This has the echos of the likes of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours but make it a little more magical realism than fantasy. I would have wanted more magic and nuance that explores the socialite society but this was the historical romance I needed before reading Jade Legacy and I thank it for it's service.
the first 70% of this book is 4 stars for the yearning and pining *chef's kiss* I was so SOLD... but the ending got a lil bit too cringey and dragging. I still loved it for the most part though.
There is a literary niche which is 'Austenish comedy of manners but with fantasy' (Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw, for one) and this is in it. It's basically a romance between an older man and a young woman from a wealthy family, both of them on the edge of 'the best society' and manipulated by her cousin, his ex lover. The fantasy element is that they are both telekinetics, which is regarded as a bit of a low habit by the best people. Comedy of manners is not my thing at all, and I kind of felt I wanted the TK element to be more prominent in the story given it was there (probably because I wanted to be reading a fantasy more than a comedy of manners) but it's beautifully written and the character description of the cousin is absolutely tremendous--clear sighted, acute, and conveying a thoroughly selfish and awful person with immense empathy and humanity.
Hmmm I think this book and I did not fit well together given my literary tastes. When a book includes romance, I prefer the characters to feel developed outside of their romantic interests and relationships. These characters’ lives and actions felt very centered on their romantic pursuits, which may feel fine for some though left me wanting more. I think I wanted more from the writing too.
I will say I found Valerie’s treatment of Nina sad and interesting. Valerie has faced gender oppression throughout her life and instead of supporting Nina, she tries to make Nina’s life as miserable as hers. Silvia Moreno-Garcia does a nice job of showing that just because someone shares an identity with you (gender in this case, though applicable to race, sexual orientation, etc.) it does not mean they will always want the best for you.
Antonina "Nina" Beaulieu has arrived in the city of Loisail for her first Grand Season with the hopes of finding the love of her life to marry. She's been sent to live with Valérie Beaulieu who will oversee Nina as she attends balls and mingles among the high society. Nina coming from wealth should have no problem finding a husband with one exception, she has telekinetic powers that she hasn't been able to control leaving her the subject of gossip.
When Nina meets Hector Auvray who happens to be a telekinetic performer she is immediately drawn to him with the two sharing their ability. Hector doesn't shun Nina but instead sees her powers as a gift and begins to help her hone her skills and learn to control them. As the two spend more and more time together Nina thinks she may have found the love she had been looking for but Hector hasn't let Nina the whole truth about himself.
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is mainly a historical romance story that has the added element of the two main characters in the story being telekinetic. I think those looking for more of the fantasy side involving telekinetic powers will be a bit disappointed in this one as it's a very very small detail that doesn't really get expanded on very much at all with the romance being the vast majority of the story. And a warning for those looking for romance the story I hope not to be too spoilery with this but it is a bit of a triangle that at one point becomes a love square so just be warned if those elements are something that you totally dislike before picking up this book.
For myself I thought the story was one that was just on the OK side since it is a rather slow moving book and I'm more of a fan of the faster pace reads. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more myself had the author done more with the telekinesis too but I'm not sure that would have really moved it along any faster though. The story stretched over quite a bit of time and it just didn't seem to actually have much depth to the plot other than eventually making Nina and Hector a pair so while I didn't dislike it I wasn't a huge fan either.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
I’ve often been asked for advice from friends who are interested in giving audiobooks a try, but are worried that they might have trouble getting into them. In response, I always say that starting with a good book and a good narrator is key, but also important is finding a story well-suited to the format. While it’s true some books simply work best in prose form, there are also plenty of times where I’ve come across audiobooks that made me think, “Wow, I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed this as much if I had read the print version.”
The Beautiful Ones is the perfect example of such a book. As soon as comparisons to an Austenesque romance and descriptions of a Belle Époque-inspired fantasy-of-manners started floating about, I made the decision to listen to this one in audio, and I don’t regret that one bit. Featuring a slow-building love story and only a light touch of the fantastical, I might have become dreadfully bored by the long drawn-out expository sections on propriety and high society had I chosen to read this in print (not to mention all the endless romantic drama based on manipulation and miscommunication would have worn me down). However, a good narrator along with some excellent characterization ensured that I was never bored while listening to this audiobook, and the entire experience was pleasant, even relaxing.
Set in a world reminiscent of late 19th century Europe with inspiration from the pre-WWI “Golden Age” era of France, The Beautiful Ones introduces us to a tri of central characters. First is Hector Auvray, a telekinetic entertainer who has arrived back in the city of Loisail after spending nearly ten years traveling and performing abroad. Now rich and famous, he has returned to his home country hoping to meet up with his old flame Valérie Beaulieu, to whom he had been engaged when they were both young and penniless, but pressured by her family, she had ended up breaking his heart to marry someone else with wealth and status.
To Hector’s disappointment though, the emotional reunion he had planned for was spoiled when Valérie fails to show up to the high society ball he attends. Instead, he makes the acquaintance of another young woman at the gathering, the interesting but socially awkward Antonina who is in the city for her first Grand Season. It’s not until after the party that Hector learns, to his surprise, that Nina is the beloved cousin of Gaetan Beaulieu, the man Valérie ended up marrying. In fact, Nina is staying with the Beaulieus right now, tasked to learn the ropes of etiquette from Valérie, who is supposed to be helping the young girl find a suitable husband. But unfortunately for Nina, she also has telekinetic talents similar to Hector’s, which is considered inappropriate for a young lady of her stature. Along with her eccentric personality, they have a pesky way driving off potential suitors. Yet Hector sees Nina’s powers as a gift—as well as an opportunity. Under the guise of courting her, Hector offers to teach Nina how to control her powers, when in reality he is hoping their relationship will help him get close to Valérie, convinced that she still loves him the way he still loves her.
I won’t lie, I wanted to throttle nearly everyone in this book, but in this they have something in common with characters in a soap opera—you just love to hate them. Likewise, I found it impossible to tear myself away from the drama, and I would even hazard to say I enjoyed The Beautiful Ones more than the author’s previous novel Certain Dark Things, despite this one being much slower paced and having none of the action. This is because Silvia Moreno-Garcia knows how to spin a good yarn, and more importantly, she knows what it takes to capture the reader’s attention. Rather than shy away from the usual conventions of the fantasy of manners genre, she instead revels in them, offering up a lavish feast of romantic melodrama, high societal punctilio, and weaponized etiquette. Within this context, the fantasy element almost feels like an afterthought, having little to no impact on the overall story.
Still, the novel came together very well. By taking such a huge departure from her previous work, Moreno-Garcia might have been risking a lot in writing something like The Beautiful Ones, but ultimately I thought it was a move that paid off. I practically hung onto every word, even though the plot played out exactly as I thought it would, with the requisite frustrations and misunderstandings between the characters. I’ve lost count of how many times I wanted to slap Hector silly or to shake some sense into Nina, and don’t even get me started on how much I absolutely loathed Valérie, but at no point was I not completely 100% invested in the outcome of their story.
Like I said, the fact that I had the audiobook version may have helped with my enjoyment, and the time simply flew by as I was listening to this. The only thing that might have made the experience better was if they had multiple narrators, one for each of the three POV characters, but then P.J. Ochlan also managed to do a fine job by himself so in the end I really have no complaints. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy of manners novel, The Beautiful Ones definitely fits the bill, and it’s probably one of the best ones I’ve read in a while.
Set in an imagined world inspired by La Belle Epoque, this is a beautiful slow burning story of a love scorned and a love found. Not so much a fantasy, this story of beauty and manners could be set in early 20th century Europe with the aristocrats creating a beautiful world of balls and wealth and scorning those who have made money but are not from the landed families. There is a slight magical element to the story with the two main characters possessing telekinetic ability, which is acceptable to the society as an entertainment by showmen, but not acceptable when displayed by a woman.
The story opens with Nina, a young, naïve girl from the country embarking on her first Grand Season. She has been sent to stay with her cousin Valerie who is to teach her manners and elegance and help her capture a desirable husband from a wealthy aristocratic family. Nina is very much her own person and has trouble adapting to the strictures and expectations put on her by Valerie. As a young girl Nina was allowed to grow up running free in the countryside collecting her beloved beetles and butterflies. Her telekinetic ability is an embarrassment to her family, especially since she has little control over when she is upset or angry. Nina is delighted to meet Hector Auvray, a famed and wealthy telekineticist, at a ball and then later when he comes to call on Valerie, she asks for help in learning to control her own ability. Not knowing that Hector shares a past history with Valerie, Nina is delighted when Hector becomes a frequent visitor.
This novel struck me as a cross between a Jane Austen period drama and a Marcel Proust novel where the author has created a world where manners and elegance are all important and the prose is lovingly descriptive in detailing not only the appearance of the men and women but the parks and countryside. The characters are well drawn with Nina and Hector both evolving through the novel. Nina loses none of her charm as she navigates this grown up world of elegance, remaining true to herself, except for one period where she succumbs to the pressure of her family and friends and allows a handsome young man to turn her head. Hector is somewhat obsessed with the idea of Valerie as she was when they were young that he fails to see her true nature for a frustratingly long time. Valerie is so well depicted as the evil, scheming witch who tries to manipulate young, naïve Nina and does not deserve her lovely husband Gaetan who adores all his family and smothers her with love and riches. I would recommend this for those who enjoy historical romances (albeit in an imagined world) with a smattering of fantasy.
With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher St Martin's Press for a copy of the book to read and review
4.5 rounded up! Its been a while since I read Jane Austen but like major Jane Austen vibes for this book. With bonus superpowers!
The Beautiful Ones follows our main characters in an basically Victorian-esque society with a few twists. Though actually its like the 20s since there are cars so maybe the JA vibes were too powerful for me to properly place this in time? Uh anyways. Hector comes to the city in order to chase a long lost love, Valerie who married a rich man instead of poor Hector ten years ago. Hector on his journey to get back to Valerie meets Nina, who turns out to be the cousin of Valerie’s husband. Hector begins courting Nina in order to get closer to Valerie. Also they have telekinesis.
Nina is our absolutely wonderful main character. Her kindness and innocence shines through and I wanted to take her away from literally every character in this book who used her to their own ends. I kind of read her as neurodivergent, though that could probably be debated. Either way, she was great and interesting character to fall in love with.
Hector is Darcy.
Valerie is this character that actually started more interesting than she ended. Valerie has been emotionally corrupted by the situations she grew up in. She was forced by situation to marry for money instead of love and this left a black mark on her. By the end of the novel though she devolves so deeply into villainy to feel cartoonish. Like she could be wearing a coat of Dalmatians in the final scenes.
The love story really was such a nice slow burn and left me at times wanting them to be together forever or for Nina to run away and never see these people again. The emotional journey is powerful and pulls you along with it so easily.
There is nothing really new here but Silvia Garcia-Moreno seems to have a skill in taking well tread paths of stories and breathing new life into them with simply wonderful writing and adding supernatural twists. I really loved this.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Imani Jade Powers (wow what a cool name). It was a great audiobook and I highly recommend!
This was my first time reading a novel of manners and I really enjoyed it. I'm honestly not surprised because Silvia Moreno-Garcia is fantastic in any genre she writes in. As always, this was a very character driven story and the pacing was slow. However, it was full of melodrama so it was never boring. I really liked Hector and Nina and thought their romance was sweet. However, if you prefer steamy romances this may not be for you.
The antagonist was complex and interesting. I can't remember the last time I hated a character so much. Ha! The fantasy elements are pretty minor in this story, which I didn't mind because the atmosphere was so perfect. If you are looking for a light, sweet romance with historical fiction vibes, definitely pick this one up.
Seeing Gaeton finally stand up to his fucking viper of a wife was ... so gratifying I did a dance in happiness I fingered my book and was laughing jsut about as unhinged as his wife is.
I love Nina, as I love all of SMGs main characters. But I also love Hector, and how romantic and soft yet how distinctly different this is from Gods of Jade and Shadow. SMG is easily an auto buy author I love this story 😭 I love her brain and thank god for the publishing gods for republishing this.
Second read: 10/10 I cried
Third read: standing ovation 100000000000/10 and cannot recommend enough. Fuck Luc and Valérie 😌
I have read this book eight bloody times. Each time it is just as good. Each time I feel extremely emotional alongside Nina, I love Hectors arc, Valérie’s demise, the Loisail society. All of it. But I especially love Nina in Montipouret post Hector. She speaks to me on a deeper level.
This novel very much lives in the legacy of 19th century great American novels about young women in love, traveling to Europe, meeting men and their conniving exes. I was enamored and impressed by the delicately woven line between fantasy and history, and the masterful portraits of a naive and quirky young woman, a sullen rejected gentleman, and the most scorpio female character I have ever encountered in fiction. This fictional French society and the world and characters built in it felt like a lush romance novel, but much better written. I thoroughly enjoyed this in a way I totally did not expect. The middle of the book absolutely broke my heart and also healed me!!!!
This author is versatile! The previous book of hers I read was a very original vampire story. It was so good that I kept an eye out for what she wrote next. I had to wait a long time for the gap between the hard cover release and it’s kindle release of this book, but it was so worth the wait! This is the love child of The Age of Innocence and The Illusionist. I was in the edge of my seat from about 60% wondering how it would turn out. I feared the worst and hoped for the best. Recommended.
This was a wonderful, well paced, slightly paranormal romance. It’s so well written that I could feel myself being pulled into and through the story as all the problems and schemes kept the couple apart. The beautiful ones in the title refers to the nobles and high society, old names, old wealth and all the gossip, intrigue and constraints that follow from that especially when it comes to women’s behaviour. The main characters in the story are the beautiful Valerie (old family name, no money), who once loved Hector, a performer (in this world some people have “talents”, his is telekinesis and he puts on shows like a magician). Pushed by her family Valerie married Gaetan (name and wealth), Hector ten years later has become successful and decides to court Gaetan’s young cousin Nina to spite Valerie. Nina also has a telekinetic ability but it’s poorly controlled, so accidents happen when she’s angry. That’s the setup and I really enjoyed it particularly as . I liked this more than Mexican Gothic! An excellent read.
The Beautiful Ones are Losail's wealthiest and most elite social figures. They are the ones of old money, notable names, and good breeding. Anyone outside of their circles might wear the same clothing labels or dine in the same establishments but they will always lack that certain something that allows them into the inner-circle.
Country girl, Nina, might also come from wealth, but she cares little for the pomp and fakery of city life. She is determined to make a good impression, if only for her cousin's sake. Nina is entering into her first Grand Season and is displayed at a host of parties for the eligible males to admire. Few do, however, not with the nickname of 'Witch of Oldhouse' that still haunts her, and not with the objects that fly in the air around her with every change in emotion.
This was such an enjoyable read, blending together magic, romance, treachery, and high society. Without the magical realist elements, the focus was not dissimilar to a classic Jane Austen novel, complete with a large host of characters, an insight to the intricacies of the lives of socialites, and as much humour and wit as swoon-worthy romance to be found within the pages. The magic that also featured here played but a bit part in the lives of the wealthy, but it dominated this storyline and altered the trajectory of the lives of the characters within it. I was engaged throughout and have loved witnessing Moreno-Garcia excel in yet another genre.