Was this finally going to be the book of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s that I didn’t like? … Absolutely not. There is something captivating and raw about the characters that she writes, particularly her female protagonists, that I could read these characters endlessly.
As a fan of Moreno-Garcia’s work, I’m also delighted to be taking part in the social media blast for the book from Jo Fletcher books.
Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus)
Publication Date: 27th April 2021
Ownership: ARC provided by the publisher
Rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5 stars
About the Book
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.
The story is passionate, impassioned and trapped within the barriers and norms of society. There’s something slow, sedate and utterly entrancing about the way that it’s told, and the steady development of the three characters around whom it revolves:
Nina, new to Loisail (a kind of Golden Era Paris) and under the watchful gaze of her cousin by marriage Valérie. Valérie is the epitome of the Beautiful Ones; alabaster skin, completely in control of herself and her actions, and wealthy within the realms of her husband. It wasn’t always like this for her – her own family had lost their fortune, even if they hadn’t lost their status, and marrying within the nobility was supposed to secure her family’s fortunes. So when Nina arrives, green and young and incapable of the coy and controlled behaviour expected of a woman of her class, Valérie is already set to hate her as Nina is allowed the freedoms that Valérie herself was never permitted at her age.
When Hector Auvray arrives in Loisail after a self-imposed exile of ten years, he arrives as a wealthy entertainer, but without status. Nina knows him by his reputation and is delighted to meet him during her first Grand Season. She doesn’t have the tact or poise of others of her station and, although Hector is faintly irritated and bemused by her, he begins to find her charming. But her charms are overshadowed when he realises that she is Valérie’s cousin. The woman to whom he was engaged ten years ago, before she chose to marry money, rather than a penniless entertainer. The woman for whom he has vowed to return, and to show what he has now become. Hector sees Nina as an opportunity to get closer to Valérie, whilst Nina has only eyes for Hector.
The Beautiful Ones is a love triangle that is told well. Because love can fluctuate and it can burn and it can consume. And each of the main characters are burnt by it, but can choose to emerge or to be consumed by their own passions.
We see one emerge stronger, another learn a new kind of love, a third become so embittered by the need to possess and to own that they will risk everything. Each character grows into their final form, bit by bit, until it’s clear what the only outcome can be. It’s just told so well.
For me, the ‘talent’ portion of the story is very lightly done. There are references to other rare talents, but the main focus is on Hector Auvray’s performances and Nina’s developing abilities. This meant that I knew how the book should resolve (and it did) but also meant that I would have liked more of this light fantasy element. It didn’t require this to be developed further to be good, and would have been less of a character-driven story if it had, but I still wanted a little more.
There were some discussion questions at the end of my copy of the book. One was ‘What is unique about her [Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s] approach to love?’ I would say that, in all of her books, she creates a very equalising love. The heroine learns the strength of her own power, decisions and autonomy, whilst her partner learns to appreciate her for everything that she is, and everything that she has to offer, without compromising anything about herself.
Which makes books like this, with a well-told, equalising love story, a beautiful pleasure to read.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.