Reading The Beautiful feels a bit like emerging from a deep dream. You know you are asleep, and your body is heavy, sluggish and can’t be moved. Your mind is still trying to catch up with your body, to tell it to move, but instead you are mired down and tangled in your sheets.
Title: The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publication Date: 8th October 2019
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
For large parts of this story, I felt as though I was drowning in some kind of sticky morass. That certainly doesn’t mean that it was bad, but I was wading through a thick, deep and clinging story.
The novel is set in New Orleans in 1872. I loved the setting, the illusion of busy streets, dark deeds and creeping fog, whilst indoors the people of New Orleans reveled like it was 1799. It is a rich and luxurious tableaux but, much like dark chocolate or a hot radiator, there is such a thing as too much.
New Orleans is a city of secrets and Celine Rousseau arrives from France, harbouring a dark secret of her own. But, much like the stays of her heaving corset, she has her own strength and backbone and she will not bend. Not to any man, not even one as frighteningly beautiful as Bastien Saint Germain, Le Phatome and leader of the Cours de Lions.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel the attraction between Celine and Bastien, only the lust. And all the characters that weren’t Celine felt somewhat … empty. Like pies with rich, buttery pastry but a bland filling.
I did appreciate the way that Ahdieh hid her French and Italian in the story – words and phrases weren’t always translated directly and instead the reader had to translate for themselves, either by the response of another character, or in context. That was artfully done.
But if a story ends in a way that is completely surprising, with unexpected characters in an inexplicable way, then there weren’t enough hints for the reader as to what the ending could be. I can handle vampires, but I need something more than a soliloquy-ing villain and untied ends. I need something substantial, not just dark chocolate.
(Although that might be the post-Christmas fug speaking. Pass me an orange.)
This novel has caused me to fall into food analogies, and for that I can’t go higher than 3 stars.