I love a great love story. The meet-cute. The falling in love. The happily ever after especially. I got all of that in The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, along with the epiphany that I probably never want to be in a great love story. I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. The emotions are too high. The stakes are enormous. That said, I was swept away by the incredible characters and the fantastically tangled plot of this book. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books just keep getting better and better.
Hector Auvrey has returned to Loisail after a decade away, making his fortune to win back his great love, Valerie. Except, at the first social engagement where they might meet, Valerie doesn’t show. Hector then retreats to the great house’s library until he can leave without insulting anyone. But instead of slinking off to formulate a new plan, Nina ducks into the library to hide, too. (I love it when characters meet in a library.) To both their surprise, Hector and Nina can talk to each other without any artifice or shyness. When Hector learns that Nina is Valerie’s cousin-by-marriage, he realizes that he might have his plan B…except that their budding connection seems to be more real than Hector and Valerie’s remembered love.
The characters grow against the backdrop of a high-drama plot, so much so that I had to read The Beautiful Ones as fast as I could to see if Moreno-Garcia was going for a happily ever after or for tragedy. Hector’s broken heart slowly heals as he realizes what really matters in a partner. Nina comes out of her shell after finding someone who doesn’t judge her for her lack of social graces. Valerie fascinated me the most. She is one of the glittering Beautiful Ones of the title. It didn’t take me long, however, to see that Valerie’s beauty was only skin deep. Valerie was pushed into marriage to a rich man to repair the family fortunes; she only survives her unhappiness by transforming herself into the perfect society lady. Her disappointments and transformation have made her cruel. She became one of the most spectacular villains I’ve ever read.
There is a fantasy element to The Beautiful Ones. Both Hector and Nina can move things with their minds. While this ability gives the characters an excuse to meet repeatedly, I don’t know that it was necessary. There was enough going on in this fin de siècle French-flavored novel. I was enchanted by the setting and Loisail society. The setting was the perfect venue, rich enough to support all the drama. The setting, together with the plot and the characters, made for a banquet of a book. There is so much wonderful stuff in The Beautiful Book that my tiny quibble about the possible superfluity of the telekinesis doesn’t matter at all. Read this gorgeous book immediately!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.