by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin’s wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.
Antonina, who prefers her family's country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society’s ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can't help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent.
Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she's willing to sacrifice.
I received an eARC of The Beautiful Ones from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Check out my reviews of Signal to Noise and Certain Dark Things here and here!
Those of you who've been following my blog for a while know by now that I will read anything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes after her debut novel, Signal to Noise, became one of my favourite novels of all time. The big lover of historical fiction that I am, you can imagine my excitement when I realised Moreno-Garcia's latest novel would be returning to a time of calling cards and ballgowns.
I'll admit that it took me a while to get into this one, and I think that's because this isn't quite the book I was expecting it to be. With the mention of our heroine's telekinetic powers and her being taught to hone them by a man who also has this skill, I thought more of the novel was going to be taken up by lessons and that Nina was going to end up assisting Hector with his performances. Instead this Fantasy of Manners has more to do with the manners than the fantasy, like a Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen novel with a splash of telekinesis thrown in, which isn't a bad thing at all, it just wasn't what I expected when I read the blurb.
I was also a little unsure of the setting. I couldn't work out if this was France with a dash of magic thrown in, or if this was an alternate France in an alternate world a little different from ours. It didn't throw me too much, and in all honesty this isn't the kind of book that needed a lore dump, but I would have liked to know a little more about the world and more about how society functioned outside of these wealthy families.
Ultimately this was more of a character-driven novel than anything else, and while I always choose character over plot I would have liked a wider plot outside of these characters that I could sink my teeth into. Having said that, the characters and the character development were fantastic. Perhaps it says something about me that my favourite character in this book was the villainous Valérie, who was so deliciously messed up. I'm not the biggest fan of villain stories because I don't like it when authors try to excuse villainy with a tragic past, but what I loved about Valérie is that while Moreno-Garcia tells us why she is the way she is, she never uses it to excuse her actions which, by the end of the book, are downright evil.
It's also a testament to Moreno-Garcia's skill as an author that I initially disliked Hector and the way he used Nina, only to later root for him once we'd learned more about him. He's a character that grew on me, much like Nina grew on him.
If you're in the mood for a Fantasy of Manners/Romance novel, then this is the novel you should pick up. It's a story written with such affection and while it isn't my favourite of Moreno-Garcia's, I still think it's worth checking out.