Summary: 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.
Sometimes all you need is a dramatic, historical romance novel that reads like a period drama to think all is right in the world. And well Silvia Moreno-Garcia did just that with The Beautiful Ones.
Having not read any of Moreno-Garcia’s books and unclear understanding of the plot from the summary, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But this book defied my expectations and I found myself enjoying it so much. I immediately fell in love with the writing style and the emotions she weaves with the beauty of her sentences. The atmospheric setting of balls, carriages, social etiquettes pulls you into the narratives.
The story follows Antonina, who arrives in Loisail to live with her cousin Gaétan and his wife Valérie for the Grand Season, where she is expected mingle with the notable socialites called ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and find a suitor. But because of her free sprit and her uncontrolled ‘talent’ of telekinesis, she doesn’t really fit in. Enter Hector Auvrey, who has mastery over his telekinesis powers. The two bond over that and Nina falls for him, only to find out he hasn’t been pursuing her for the sole reason of pursuing her. (Spoiler alert, its because of Valérie).
Cue the classic heartbreak scene. These three characters collide through a series of chaotic events.
❛She could not wash this so easily, and the memory remained in the dawn; it stained her heart, like the sap of trees, which clings to clothes, to skin, to everything.❜
What, I dreaded, would proceed into a messy love triangle was surprisingly handled well to my delight. It played out as I thought it would, with trivial misunderstandings and frustrations between the characters. Including three POVs was truly effective in terms of character development, pacing and commentary on societal pressure. Nina does not fit with the people despite coming from a rich family; Hector an entertainer and thus a public figure of sorts; Valérie epitome of society’s “ideal” lady.
Possessive but beautiful Valérie made for a sympathetic antagonist. We see glimpses of the effects of internalised misogyny and patriarchal societies in her which made me understand the motives behind her actions even though she frustrated me at times. But then again, I love to hate antagonists.
Nina is a spectacular character. Her interest in beetles and butterflies is honestly so cute. I love that she always embraced her erratic telekinetic abilities, even though the society deemed her as rogue for it. She was just so her throughout the book, not afraid to go against the norms. And Hector, I don’t really have an opinion of him. He was a good love interest, who took time to come to his senses. Both of them are very flawed and distantly relatable.
❛She’d been, until that moment, an abstract concept, a bunch of jumbled lines that did not amount to a clean figure.❜
Hector and Nina’s romance was a slow build-up with a whole lot of drama and conflicts. It also showed the consequences of falling in love quickly and the pain and longing that follows. They kept me entertained to say the least. There’s sadness to it but also the passion that kept them going. Moreno-Garcia knows how to twist readers hearts with emotional writing as my heart went out for them so many times.
The fantasy element is only an addition to the story. We get to see Hector and Nina use their talent only in some relevant scenes but I wish we’d gotten some more depth into it. Because reading about it made me want to have telekinetic powers.
Like Pride and Prejudice? Or regency era settings? Then you should absolutely not miss out on this one!
Thank you Netgalley and Quercus Books for the ARC!