Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the belle époque.

In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a new-to-me author, and I look forward to reading more by her in the future. I wasn't sure what to expect from The Beautiful Ones. Reading the blurb, it had a young adult fantasy/dystopian vibe, so I was surprised yet delighted to discover it was actually a historical romance, with a very – and I mean very – slight paranormal element of telekinesis. While it does add another dimension to the overall story, it's riding just below the surface, with the romance front and center.

Nina is from a huge family, her father gone, and her cousin taking the active role as her guardian. She's nineteen, on the cusp of being twenty, and about to attend her first season. Her doting cousin's wife is her chaperone of sorts, offering advice and whatnot.

Nina isn't into the balls, parties, and fancy gowns. She enjoys entomology and likes to flex her talent. She's a societal outcast, bullied and scorned for using her telekinesis. But she is also seen as being no great beauty, because in this era that is the only value/worth a woman has.

Hector is a broken man, with no family, and only a singular friend. A telekinetic, he's a performer in a theater – he enjoys his job and little else out of life. He's been hanging onto the 'fantasy' of a lost love, mind spinning it into more than it was at the time, and it's stunted his growth in life and removed the possibility of happiness from his vocabulary.

I don't wish to spoil the angst-riddled story, so I won't get overly detailed on plot points. The Beautiful Ones takes place in an era where manipulation is easy because only appearances matter. Words are twisted, people are easily brainwashed or blackmailed. If there was a moral to the story, I'd say it was to be courageous and go after what will make you happy, not what is expected of you.

There is a character in the book, and usually I'm not a violent reader (snorts). This character left me wringing my Kindle as if it were a neck, out of pure frustration. I don't believe this person was inherently evil, but a product of society. Vapid, having most of the darker emotions associated with the human condition, this person's 'got what's coming to them' made me feel sad in a way. It was the juxtaposition of being a coward and thinking yourself powerful, while thinking others who are brave are weak. This character is a moral unto itself.

Nina and Hector take the reader on a head-spinning angsty journey. Nina isn't a damsel in distress. She does make some rock-meets-hard-place choices, but given her age and the era, she didn't have much of a choice in the matter at the time. So I will definitely say Nina is not the vapid, simpering, weak, flighty heroines one generally finds in Historical Romance. As long as the author writes a strong heroine, I'll suck up every word of the book.

There were times I didn't like Hector, but his mind was altered, similar to an addict's, and it took the course of the novel for Hector to deprogram himself and start the healing process. Near the end of the novel, I was rooting for Hector.

I read The Beautiful Ones in a single sitting, having been hooked from the start. I will admit the pacing is rather slow, and the will-they-won't-they did become rather tedious, but the depth of the characterization kept me engaged from start to finish.

SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Signal to Noise and Certain Dark Things and the short story collection This Strange Way of Dying, which was a finalist for the Sunburst Award in Canada. She was a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize and a recipient of the Gloria Vanderbilt/Exile Award for Best Emerging Writer. She lives in Canada.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia to read and review.

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