Silvia Moreno-Garcia is quickly becoming an auto buy author for me. I was lucky to be part of the blog tour last year for Mexican Gothic and I’m still reeling from how much the book added to my absolute hate of mushrooms. The Beautiful Ones is a totally different mood and an absolutely fabulous story.
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.
What an engrossing story this was! Even though I don’t commonly gravitate towards romance novels or books that focus primarily on these kind of plots, the fact this was a novel of manners with telekenetic hijinks and was written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia had me hooked.
I recently read Sorcerer to the Crown which completely captured my heart so the high society vibes had me hooked. We start off in the country of Loisail, a city comparable to London in the 19th century and here, the young socialites are referred to in society as the ‘Beautiful Ones’. The emphasis on reputation, social standing and wealth is very clear from the beginning. The first point of view we get into this world is via Hector Auvray. We do learn very quickly that Hector is a self made made, having no fortune or family standing, all of his wealth earned from his years performing and his distaste for the large party he’s attending.
I love how Moreno-Garcia uses descriptive language to build tension and set moods. In Mexican Gothic, it was a kind of murky dread and feel that something like a layer of grime is hanging over a lot of false opulence. The same is clear here, these large houses and larger fortunes, described through the beautiful gowns, the large imposing homes and the tightly managed codes of the Grand Season. I appreciate the way as well the author handles the presence of a home or house. Later on in the story see’s the characters spend the summer at Nina’s home, Old House. Where High Place from Mexican Gothic just made your skin crawl, Old House is wild and almost unkempt compared to some of the houses in Loisail. But there is a natural joy there that can only come from a happy, large family living there with the joy of nature in it’s rooms.
Nina was a character that I felt a lot of kinship with. I don’t have telekinesis (pity) and neither have I ever been a high society lady. I do however come from a family with a huge amount of cousins and kinship. We are a very close family and I really responded to that side of Nina. She also is unapologetically herself and embraces her own eccentricities the majority of the time. She knows she’s pretty, even says so to herself when a man compliments her, and she is honest in her interests. I have to admire how she’s so honestly into Hector as well, approaching him directly at a party alone which is marked as clearly a no no. The romance over all between them is tragic and delightful overall and I can definitely see it was joyful to read.
Now we come to what is undoubtedly, the most insidious villain I’ve read in a while; Valérie Véries. If the Beautiful Ones are the highest crop of society, then Valérie is the height of what it means to be one. She is a tactician and maneuvers everything within her control to suit her plans and her comforts. The sheer toxicity of her and the mildly toxic nature of her relationship with Hector are hard not to react to. The amount of times she infuriated me and made me even more protective of Nina was a real testament to her writing. Women in these societies didn’t have much in the way of autonomy or control, Valérie herself being a pawn of her own great and penniless family name, but it’s impressive the sheer scale she manages to control from such a limited position. The true fear I feel from the authors villains is the fact they are akin to very real people and I think we all know someone like Valérie. A tragic yet toxic figure who never quite recovered from a loss and a family who used her as much as she intends to use Nina.
Slower paced as this is, I challenge you to find a way to put the book down. I found the book to engage me very quickly, keeping me constantly engaged at the romance and the drama. The second half definitely moves at a more brisk pace but by the time we got there, I was already invested in the potential outcomes of the story. I think this clearly shows the range of Silvia Moreno-Garcia as well. This, her last book and both an upcoming reissue of her vampire novel and a mystery novel , both due out this year, are testament to her well deserved applause.
I want to thank Ella for sending me a finished copy of this book for review and having me on the social media blast for the release as well as Jo Fletcher/Quercus books and NetGalley for an ARC of the book for review as well. You can read The Beautiful Ones now and as usual, happy reading to you all!