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.
*I was sent an ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review – thank you so much to Quercus Books for approving me*
The Beautiful Ones is a gorgeous and romantic story which is so quietly sincere and I loved every moment. I’ve realised after reading three of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books and absolutely adoring them that she’s definitely an auto buy / auto read author for me now because for me, she never misses. I truly appreciate this authors craft and how truly versatile she is as a writer, every book is like a unique little gem to uncover and enjoy and I’m more than happy to do so.
The author describes this as a novel of ‘manners and a romance’ and I think that’s definitely an apt way to describe it. The whole setting and time gave me what I typically enjoy in a good historical fiction book / period drama, which is lavish balls, awkward social faux pas, misunderstandings and the yearning, oh the yearning (!!!) and more. Moreno-Garcia also uses this setting to explore ideas of tradition, individuality and empowerment, and of restrictive social norms. I don’t know about you but there’s just something about historical fiction which allows for some really great moments of drama and tension, especially in regards to romance as a genre.
The story follows Antonina aka Nina as she embarks on her first ‘great season’ in the buzzing town of Loisail and the triumphs and trials which follow once she forms a budding friendship with Hector Auvray, a showman who has plenty of secrets and is nursing a long broken heart. I really enjoyed how Moreno-Garcia has taken a pretty classic story format per se and made it her own by charging her narrative with the romance, minor elements of fantasy and really allowing the characters to shine, through the use of multiple perspectives and their distinct personalities – even when I hated some of them I was still hooked.
I will say that this was a slow burn if I ever read one, the novel isn’t particularly long but it is a slower paced one for sure. I tend to love stories like this so despite the fact that it took a while to get going and for the central romance to really kick in, I was still captivated. I relished the fact that it took Nina and Hector some time to get to know one another, from a chance meeting at a party to forming a tentative friendship to then developing feelings for each other. I feel like the romantic element was done really well to make their affection for each other believable and that it was earned, rather than just given to us as readers.
I really liked Nina as a protagonist and I appreciated her lack of guile and how earnest and down to earth she was. I know the whole point was that she’s meant to be innocent or naive in some ways and she definitely is, to her detriment at certain moments but I think it was more endearing than annoying for me. There were definitely times where I wished she was a little more world wise but I liked that this was a coming of age story of sorts and we got to see her development and journey demonstrated on the page. I enjoyed how she was very much her own person, despite what others have to say and pursues her passions for seeking knowledge, collecting her various insect specimens and furthering her abilities for telekinesis.
I also liked Hector, our love interest and other main pov’ character. It’s no real secret that I like Gatsby and Hector struck me as such a Gatsby like figure, kind of tragic and tortured but hiding it all behind a veneer of success and wealth which was hard won. And of course engaging in a doomed relationship which has left him with nothing but heartbreak and longing. I disliked him at times due to how he was kind of duping Nina but I do think he is redeemed somewhat and I think his whole lovelorn persona for parts of the novel makes his latter arc even more satisfying. Plus he’s kind, supportive and encouraging of Nina’s passions when nobody else is and I just really adored that.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Valerie, our other main pov’ character, she’s an utterly beautiful and aloof socialite who is married to Nina’s cousin. So listen, I totally got the fact that Valerie wasn’t given many choices in life and this has kind of made her bitter and cruel. She was always made aware that she had to marry well in order to preserve the family name and fortune so I had a certain degree of empathy for her because of this lack of freedom but oh my god did I hate her too! I liked that she wasn’t a one dimensional character, like you clearly see that she is a product of her environment and trapped as a result, but the things she does? Absolute definition of bad vibes and I loved to hate her.
If you’re into slow burn romance, period dramas and love stories where the characters go through bucket loads of angst for their happy ending then you definitely have to pick The Beautiful Ones up. And if you do, let’s talk about it!
Until next time,
I’m also a part of a little campaign for this novel with a whole host of brilliant readers and reviewers – do check out the visual below for their names and go check out their thoughts on this book too!!