The Beautiful Ones

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

The question that held me in suspense almost throughout this book was, "What genre is this?" It has elements of literary (particularly the focus on the interiority of the characters); elements of romance (the focus on the characters' relationships); and a relatively small, but in the end significant, speculative element, in that the two main characters are both telekinetics in a society where this is not common, but also far from unheard of. 

The main reason I wondered about the genre is that if it was pure literary, it might turn into a tragedy in which the characters spiralled downwards through helplessness into hopelessness and everyone ended up miserable. There was definitely potential for that to happen, given the premise: Hector, a stage performer with a powerful telekinetic ability, has returned to the capital city of Not!19th-century Not!France after a long time touring out of the country, and is now a wealthy man. He meets a young woman, Nina, who happens to be the cousin of the man his first love married instead of him. He's never got over that youthful love, or the disappointment of losing her, and he uses the pretence of courting Nina to get back in to see her cousin's wife. 

There are all kinds of ways in which that could go bad, of course, and for a long time it looked like all of them were going to happen, intensifying the question: is this a literary novel where everything falls apart while the author describes it beautifully, or a romance, in which the characters manage to make a happy ending? And is the fantasy element (the telekinesis) merely decorative or symbolic, something that Nina can do but is discouraged from doing because of her social status and her gender, or will it end up being significant to the plot? Answers inside the spoiler tag. 

It turns out to be a romance, and the telekinesis is important, so I will declare this to be a fantasy romance with strong literary sensibilities.

The characters are wonderfully drawn, their desires and decisions believable. The setting is lightly sketched, in the sense that there's no in-depth exploration of the speculative element, but the places and the society are beautifully evoked, no less so for being closely based on historical models. The language occasionally shows hints in an odd phrasing or two that the author may not speak English as a first language, but it's generally elegant and capable without being overly obtrusive. 

Overall, I enjoyed it very much and looked forward to each time I had the opportunity to read it. 

I received a copy from Netgalley at no charge for the purposes of review.
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of course, this isn't a grand piece of literature, so I won't judge it with the same ruler as those intense pieces of work, however, as a free novel I was very impressed and found that I quite liked this novel. In fact, I could say I loved it as a simple, casual read
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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.
I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. I always enjoy books that take place during the Grand Season. I enjoy the idea of glamorous balls and beautiful dresses, that whole period of society. But this pacing in this book was just so slow for me. I understand world building and set up but for me things took way too long to get moving. 
The writing itself is very well done, and the descriptions are beautiful and characters are well developed.   
For me this was mostly based on pacing, I need things to move a little quicker, so I am unable to put the book down. For me once I started the book I was reluctant to put it down, but then I found it hard to pick up again to fall back into.
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AMAZING! The beautiful ones is a must read! You will feel transported back in time, to a time that seems so foreign to us now. Where woman and men cannot be alone together, and marriage is expected at a young age, everyone must be on best behavior..  Woman must act cordial and dutiful while men must act gentlemanly and take care of their wives in all aspects. You will fall in love with Nina and Hector as you watch heartbreak, love and passion ignite throughout the story. This book truly has it all, and does not lack in any area !
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When Hector Auvray and Valérie Beaulieu were both nineteen, they had a passionate summer romance, but after Hector left to try to gain the income and status to be worthy of Valérie, she succumbed to her own greed as well as that of her family, and married a wealthy but boring man, Gaetan Beaulieu.  She sent Hector a “dear John” letter, and they did not see each other since.  Now, ten years later, Hector is a well-known telekinetic performer, and Valérie is one of the “beautiful people” in Loisail, France.

They meet up again because of a chance meeting between Hector and Valérie’s cousin by marriage, Antonina (Nina) Beaulieu.  Nina is staying with Gaetan and Valérie for the summer, and is attending parties in hopes of having an epic romance, like in the books she loves.  For Valérie, taking Nina around was torture: 

“She, Valérie Beaulieu, chained to this lump of a child who…. after three weeks in Loisail … had not [even] memorized the names, ranks, and particularities of the most important men and women of the city…. “

She calls Nina Gaetan’s “nitwit cousin.”  She also resents Gaetan’s affection for Nina.  Why should he have devotion to anyone but her, and furthermore, provide for his family when he was not nearly as generous with Valérie’s  family?  The author writes:  “The limits of Valérie’s power and influence chafed her.  She begrudged Antonina for this reason and also because she was by nature a jealous, possessive creature.”

And Valérie is not alone in her distaste for Nina.  Nina was also spurned by “the beautiful ones” of society:

 “They saw a determined spark lurking behind those hazel eyes that they classified as insolence, a lack of artifice that struck them as boorish, a capacity to remain unimpressed by the bric-a-brac on display that they deemed stupidity.”

Hector asks for and receives permission from Gaetan to court Nina, but only so that he could see Valérie; he has remained obsessed with her.  “His love of Valérie was vicious.  It gripped him utterly.”  But when Hector confronted her about ending their relationship and marrying Gaetan, she basically dismisses him by declaring they were just young and foolish, and her family would never have allowed her to wed (a nobody) like him.  They needed Beaulieu’s money.

Still, Hector confessed, “I have not forgotten you, Valérie.”  Valérie, even while spurning him, said if he wanted to make a fool of himself courting Nina he could be her guest.  But secretly, she relished that he still wanted *her*.

Surprisingly, Hector found he was not entirely unhappy in the company of Nina.  They shared a talent for telekinesis;  Nina asked Hector to help her gain mastery of her ability, and he enjoyed teaching her. He also liked her lack of pretension and her honesty and optimism.

Gaetan finally sees the light about Valérie, as do the rest of the characters.  But they also learn the truth of the past relationship between Valérie and Hector.  It sounds predictable, but the story was full of surprises and I had no idea how it would end until the end was upon me.  

Discussion:  There are for the most part just three main characters, and one seemed mainly to serve (1) to highlight the basic emptiness of “the beautiful ones” (i.e., effete upper class) and (2) to act as a catalyst for the other characters to grow.

There is magic in this book (i.e., with respect to the telekinesis), but it was woven into the story almost as an aside.  In any event, the magic seemed to be metaphorical, for the way people with determination can affect the world.

Evaluation:  The appeal of this story crept up on me, crescendoing to an ending that was just lovely.  I felt inspired to seek out the author’s back list.
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This book was beautiful! It does have a slow pace and very character driven, but I was never bored at all. I kept wanting to turn each page! There is heartbreak and moments where I wanted to slap a certain character. Hector... Hector... Hector... I wanted to shake you so much in the beginning, but I still love you. The atmosphere was breathtaking and the prose was awesome! Also, loved Antonina's love of insects!
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I thoroughly enjoyed The Beautiful Ones. The story was not entirely unique, but the author did have a unique way of telling it. 

Nina had a naiveté but grew to be an assertive young woman as the story progressed. It was refreshing to see Hector open his eyes to the truth of the situation. Valerie was a delightful villain, and all of the secondary characters was interesting. It was a fun read with a great message.

I will recommend the book to my students. Thank you for the advanced copy.
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I wasn't planning on reading this book in a single sitting, but once I started, I was powerless to stop.

This stand-alone novel had the romantic feel of a classic, giving me the same feeling I had when I first read Love in the Time of Cholera or Anna Karenina. The characters are flawed and relatable; I even found myself sympathetic for the villain.
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The Beautiful Ones felt completely different from the author's last novel, Certain Dark Things, but both are strong, satisfying novels. The difference in tone between the two shows the author's talent and breadth, and I look forward to reading anything else she puts forth.
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Society, manners, relationships, and telekinetic gifts shape the lives of those within the pages of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's The Beautiful Ones.

Antonina, who prefers to be called Nina, comes from a well-respected family and is going to spend some time in Loisail for the first time with her cousin and his wife Valerie, who is meant to teach her how to be a lady and be a part of their society. Nina, however, is highly strong-headed and keen to learn about her telekinetic ability and how to control it. After meeting a famous performer, Hector, with abilities such as her own, Nina and Hector form a friendship, which seems it's leading to something more; however, Nina isn't aware that Hector has a tumultuous history with Valerie, which creates complications for all three of them as they are continually thrown into each others' company. 

This was an entertaining tale told from three perspectives that was highly reminiscent of Victorian literature, as it featured the familiar character types (read many stubborn and spirited characters) and a lack of communication serving as the basis for issues that arise in personal relationships. I was intrigued by the concept of Nina and Hector's telekinetic gift and what the status of a Beautiful One entailed, but they weren't really fully explored or explained, which was disappointing despite it not being essential to the themes explored within the narrative. Along these same lines, the world the story takes place in isn't fully developed either as it pulls from aspects of European nations, but also seems to try to be creating something all its own. 

Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.
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Really enjoyed this tale. Valerie was the absolute worst! I haven't hated a book character that much in a long time. I would love to read more about these characters.
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This is not a happy story. It is more melancholy than anything; in truth, it would be better titled The Broken Ones. But it is beautiful. It brought to mind the characters and atmosphere of The Night Circus, one of my all-time favorite books.

This book is literary fiction at its finest. Stirring, with incredible depth, and impossibly real characters. I was blown away again and again by themes in this book:

Love, both lost and found
Betrayal
Bitterness
Idolatry
Self-centeredness
Forgiveness

These are only a few of the themes it explores. In fact, if I had to pick just one overarching theme, it would be "human nature." This book bares the human soul, in all of its grittiness. It shows people as they truly are, and reveals how that differs from who they think they are. It shows life--real, true life. 

Since this is literary fiction, the characters are the driving force.

Antonina, better known as Nina, is a young woman who is on the brink of learning hard truths about society, life, and true love. She is being stretched thin between her innocent childhood, and an adulthood that she did not envision.

Valérie is faced with someone she never thought she'd see again. She was denied her chance at a happy ending, and she's determined to ruin everyone else's. No one stands in the way of what she wants.

Hector, whose whole life has been consumed by one driving passion, has to come to terms with the death of his dreams. Everything he'd hoped for and counted on, was nothing but a vapor.

It was amazing how much I connected with each and every one of the characters, good and bad. The good characters were not as pure or innocent as they first seemed. None of them is without fault. Likewise, none of the evil characters were unsympathetic. No one is born completely evil--rather, it's their choices (the ones they're forced to, and the ones they willfully make) that lead to such an outcome. It's a broken world these characters live in, and their lives reflect that.

A small comment on setting: yes, the setting is fantasy. Yes, there is an element of magic. But neither of these factors I felt to be main element of the plot. They contributed to it a small bit, but it was primarily the characters that won the day. The book could have just as easily been set in England at the beginning of the 19th century (without magic, of course).

As for plot, there isn't much to discuss. Since this is literary fiction, the characters and the exploration of human nature take center stage. The plot is driven by the characters, and without this specific cast, there wouldn't have been any plot to speak of.

Like I mentioned above, these characters live in a broken, sinful world. Their lives are a product of that, and their choices contribute to it. They are by no means models of how to live. But they do teach us important lessons. The one that stood out the most to me was "Do not put your hope and trust in a fallible human." I would even go a step further than that: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." (Psalm 118:8)

With that being said, I'd like to leave you with one more passage of Scripture that I feel expresses my feelings about this book:

Micah 7:5-8 
"Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me."

Rating: 4 stars--5 stars, minus 1 star for content issues

Recommended: Yes. 17 and up, due to mature content.

Content guide:
Violence: 2/10 (some minor injuries, not overly detailed.)
Sexual Content: 9/10 (kisses, embracing, touching, thinly veiled references to adultery, marital duties, and fornification. it is clear that characters have sex several times (before marriage), sometimes on page, though very few details are given.)
Language: 6/10 (several obscene words scattered through the pages. references to fornification and suggestions of adultery)

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review*

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A Jane Austen-esque romance riddled with the darker realities of the world and heavy with its vices. A glowing and pure thread of romance is strung throughout the story as others attack it with greed, money, desire, and selfishness. THE BEAUTIFUL ONES is a tale of innocence and selfishness and the haphazard navigations of true love. Love can strengthen, love can blind, and love can destroy. Read as these characters learn the deep costs of chasing the madness of their desires.
-pooled ink Reviews
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Delightful historical romance. Nina is a wonderfully well developed main character. There is the perfect balance of romance, drama, and the intrigue of the paranormal makes this book very engaging.
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The Beautiful Ones,  Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy

I really wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but it sounded so intriguing I wanted to read it - and what a gorgeous treat it was.

Its kind of curious world setting, one that feels historical with its emphasis on The Season, Elegance and Society, but which also accepts that some people have magical powers, although its supposed to be scientifically explained...
I'm not sure if there are other types of magic in this world, we only meet her and Hector who also is telekinetic.
I'd have liked a little more background about the world setting and the magics within it. 

Anyway, Antonina (Nina) is staying with her cousin and his wife for her first Season. Telekinesis is not something one does in polite society, and poor  Nina struggles to control her telekinesis. She's got no one to guide her, and back home was called names and ridiculed for it, but when she's emotional it flames out of her control. She's not really suited for society life anyway, she's intelligent, asks questions where Ladies should be silent, doesn't like frills and fripperies, dressing up, wasting time on tea parties when she could be out collecting beetles and butterflies, reading science papers etc. 

Valerie, her cousins wife is quite the cold b itch. She's very much a person of Society, very much admired as the most beautiful woman in the city. She likes being admired, being rich, likes the power it gives her, likes her position in society. She's very calculating. 
She's bitter, acts the loving wife but secretly despises Gaelan having married him for money and position, she resents the close relationship he has with his family. 
She's not happy at Nina staying with them, at the money being spent on her, the attention paid to her and takes every opportunity to politely belittle her, under the guise of helping, instructing her in the ways of Society. 

Then Nina meets Hector. She's a sweet girl, he enjoys her company and  conversation, and is teaching her about her telekinesis. 
Nina of course assumes he's someone that accepts her for what she is, and not like the rest of society who ridicule her, call her names, and aren't lining up to marry her despite her rich dowry. Of course she can't help falling in love, Hector is a good-looking, charming and a courteous man. She thinks her feelings may be reciprocated, as he's happy to converse with her about nature, science, and of course the telekinesis that others want her to keep hidden, spends time with her and gives every appearance of being interested in her. There are other things at play though, things from the past she doesn't know about and all is not as it seems. 

I love Nina, such a genuine, kind and intelligent girl. When things went wrong between her and Hector I so felt for her, convinced they were a good match, that Hector felt more than he would admit, even to himself. I wanted them back together but then someone else comes into the picture.....has Hector left it too late? 

Its a fun read, I would have likes to know more about the world setting and the magics in it. The supernatural part is very much Nina and Hector only, we don't meet anyone else even though clearly there are more people. Do they all only have telekinesis or are there other types of magic? How do people get it? Is it some kind of genetic link or just random. There's no talk of Nina's family having anyone else who could do things ( that I recall) but Hector had been performing in a troupe as a child, presumably with his parents who must have had some abilities to work in the group. I'd like to have those sort of questions answered. 
 
Stars: Four, its an enjoyable read, a little light escapism for a few hours. I don't think its one I'll reread, but is one that will appeal to younger and older readers. Some book suit all ages and this is one. 

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
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The Beautiful Ones is the first novel I have read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia but I'm really glad I decided to give it a try. 

Hauntingly beautiful this novel tells the story of unrequited love from the perspective of the lover and the loved. 


Set in what is presumably based on historical France (although the time period isn't clear). Antonina (Nina) is a naive girl from the countryside taking part in her first grand season in the city of Loisail. Nina is staying with her favourite cousin and his wife who seems to inexplicably dislike her. Nina is used to dislike though, her telekinetic powers are why she couldn't find a suitable husband at home and her less than perfect manners and lack of ability to be ladylike in public just seem to make things worse. 


But Nina's attention and affection are captured by the enigmatic if slightly distracted Hector Auvray a telekinetic performer, as they become closer she is certain that a marriage proposal is imminent but there are other things at play that Nina knows nothing about. She has become a bit player in a game that goes back more than a decade. 


I found this book to be very engaging. It was an interesting take on a historical novel with the addition of the characters telekinetic powers. It sssms to be more of a play on the usual historical novel, while some things remain true to the times, others show a decided change. Valérie's spite and malice make her an excellent villain against the naive and yet lovable Nina. This novel highlights the saying 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. 


I really liked the characters of both Nina and Hector and I was rooting for them the whole way through, I won't say if they had a happy ending though, as always I won't give any spoilers! 

I'll definitely look into reading more from this author in the future!
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Damn, I knew I was right to be excited about this book. It wasn't what I expected at all, but I was utterly enchanted, like, reading-on-the-subway-with-a-stupid-smile-on-my-face enchanted. I actually read half of this book in one day, reading into the night, so enamored I was. Moreno-Garcia has created captivating, vibrant characters in a novel written with grace and elegance. 

Immediately upon beginning this book, I felt like I was reading a Jane Austen novel (well...I've only ever read a single Jane Austen novel, Pride & Prejudice, but you get the idea). This is fitting, considering the author, on her blog, describes this book as a novel of manners. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a novel of manners is "work of fiction that re-creates a social world, conveying with finely detailed observation the customs, values, and mores of a highly developed and complex society. The conventions of the society dominate the story, and characters are differentiated by the degree to which they measure up to the uniform standard, or ideal, of behaviour or fall below it."

To that end, the story is told from the perspectives of three very different characters: Hector, Nina, and Valerie. Hector is a telekinetic "talent" who has clawed his way out of poverty by becoming a stage performer. He is also, despite his aloof exterior, a shy romantic who has spent a decade pining for his first love, Valerie, who left him for a wealthier man. Valerie, the antagonist of the novel, is a bitter, jealous woman, shaped by her upbringing as the daughter of a family that has lost its former glory. Essentially guilted into marriage to a wealthy man who could uplift her family, Valerie is utterly resentful of Nina, who has a world of choices ahead of her. Nina, Valerie's cousin by marriage, is a budding entomologist who seems to have little regard for the social mores of the world she lives in. She is honest and straightforward, naive and somewhat impulsive, and she is, like Hector, a telekinetic who resents being told her powers are not "ladylike." 

The story begins with Hector and Nina, in what I'm tempted to call a "meet cute." Soon after, Hector realizes that Nina is related to the woman he is still pining over, and he begins courting Nina as an excuse to see Valerie. However, eventually, in a beautifully written-slow burn romance, Hector begins to fall for Nina instead. With excellent craft and technique, Moreno-Garcia traces significant character development for all three of her main characters. Hector comes to see the error of his ways as he slowly opens up and allows himself to care for someone again. Nina sheds some of her gullibility and youth, yet retains the open-eyed wonder of an ingenue. Valerie grows more bitter and cruel by the chapter, yet the reader is not totally unsympathetic towards her fall from grace as she elucidates her disappointment with the turn her life has taken (she reminds me quite a bit of Cersei Lannister, actually...make of that what you will).

As I said, this novel was not what I expected. I thought I was going to read something heavy on the fantasy, and I was definitely left wanting in that arena. I would have liked more emphasis on world-building; it's not super clear whether this is meant to be a straight-up second world fantasy or some kind of alternate European country. In that same vein, I wish the existence of powers in this society had been expounded upon more, because for me it was fascinating to see telekinetics existing openly in a society that very closely resembled a mixture of early 20th century England and France. However, I do think that none of that was really the "point" of the novel; it's a story about love and relationships, with a touch of the fantasy element to add some color. I was reminded, in a way, of the film Another Earth, in which the fantastical (or sci-fi, in that case) elements were really only window-dressing to the overarching story of love, regret, and redemption. 

Despite its underdevelopment, the touch of the fantastical definitely added to the story. Nina is made even more of an outsider because of it, having grown up under the epithet of "the Witch of Oldehouse." It has certainly shaped her character, perhaps even spurring her various acts of rebellion. In Hector I think she meets a kindred soul, a fellow telekinetic who has made something of himself because of his talent and not despite it. It is significant that Hector, I think, is the only person who never admonishes Nina for using her talent in public and being "unladylike." For all his flaws (and there are many, which is what makes him such a fascinating and likable character!), he respects Nina's autonomy and he loves her for who she is: an excitable, enthusiastic, and forthright young woman.

Minor characters were similarly endearing. Etienne, Hector's only friend, somehow manages to read him like a book, commenting wryly on Hector's various subtle changes of emotion throughout. Nina's sister, Marlena, is only around in a few scenes, but her love for her sister in those moments is clear and shining. Luc, Etienne's younger brother and would-be suitor for Nina at one point, is capricious and impetuous, but also childish in his innocence. Gaetan, Valerie's husband and Nina's beloved cousin, is seen as weak-willed and pathetic in his wife Valerie's eyes, but is shown to be a kind, indulgent, and forgiving man. Garcia-Moreno brings all of these characters to life in a narrative style that straddles third-person limited and third-person omniscient. 

If it hasn't been clear amidst all this ebullient praise, I absolutely loved this book. I can see it as the kind of book to be read in schools one day as a classic, and I will definitely be recommending it for my library. More importantly, it has also inspired me as a writer. The vibrant characters, the deftly elegant writing style, the simple yet engaging plot - it has made me want to write my own novel of manners someday, in homage to this lovely book. 4.5 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book! (less)
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It's a well written story. However, I was disappointed there wasn't more telekinesis in it.
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