By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This latest offering from Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a historical fantasy romance, set in post-Industrial France (I could be wrong!). The Beautiful Ones are Loisail’s wealthiest socialites. These are the people with old money, good breeding, and notable names. The story focuses on one Nina Beaulieu, a nineteen year old young woman who comes from the same wealth, but without the pomp and grace that is bestowed on the city folks. She is sent from the country to live in the city with her cousin and his wife Valerie, where she is to make her debut into society.
Despite her status, Nina has a special telekinetic skill that very few people have. In her society, this skill is considered vulgar and a shame. Given her young age and her inability to control her skill, Nina struggles to conform to society’s expectation of her. Her cousin Gaetan is unaffected by her skill and indulges Nina, while Valerie is constantly dismayed by her. When she meets Hector Auvray at a party, she finds out he also has telekinetic skill. Hector works as a successful entertainer. He is new money and has connections to the society Valerie and Gaetan belong to. He is generally accepted, though Valerie seems to look down on him.
When Hector befriends Nina and help her control her skill, Nina falls in love. Upon learning about the two, Valerie tries to do everything in her power to stop this courtship. When Nina learns of Valerie and Hector’s past connection, she sees Valerie’s true colours.
Throughout the novel we see contrast between Nina and Valerie. Where Valerie exudes grace, Nina is tomboyishly clumsy. Where Valerie is quietly calculating, Nina wears her heart on her sleeves. Where Valerie enjoys a suitable hobby of maintaining floral display in her conservatory, Nina loves collecting and studying beetles. Valerie’s dislike for Nina gradually becomes stronger through the course of the novel, when Hector Auvray comes into the scene.
The novel is filled with old worldly charms and a love story between three people. It is not exactly an active triangular love story. It is much more complex, as one is driven by old money and status, and the other, by passion. At the start of the story, Nina struggled to conform to a society’s expectation of how a socialite should behave. As she gained confidence with managing her skill, she started to become her own person and in this way, defied the society and Valerie’s expectations of her. In the end, she rejected conformity completely and found her own happy ever after.