Having really loved Mexican Gothic, I knew in 2021 I had to read another of Moreno-Garcia’s books. I’ve come to associate Moreno-Garcia with atmosphere, plots which will shock me, and a generally captivating read. The Beautiful Ones was no different, except what got me were the characters and their dynamics. Keep reading this book review to find out what I mean.
They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.
But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina — and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Beautiful Ones is intensely character driven. Balancing fantasy and romance, it’s a story which asks us if we can make peace with the past. When we’re confronted with the ghosts of our past, do they have a hold on us? How can we break their hold? Do you ever have a character that infuriates you so much, but the author writes them so well you understand them? That was me and The Beautiful Ones. If you’re a fan of love triangles, yearning, and forgiveness, you have to read this one!
The Beautiful Ones is a fabulous example of character work. Throughout the book we’re pulled between Hector, Nina, and Valerie. Their individual POVs allow us to see the world from their perspective. We can make our own assumptions and decisions about the ‘right thing’ to do. But at the same time, we are drawn into the way each of them see the world. Hector’s lingering feelings and fascination with the past. Valerie’s devotion to appearances and what the family has demanded. And even if we don’t understand their choices, we can see their opinions, their rationale.
My favorite character was Nina – maybe predictably so – because not only is she an Outsider to this world, but she’s struggling against the mold of society. Talented and unafraid to speak her mind, society keeps telling her she shouldn’t use her powers, shouldn’t speak up. And yet here I am in the corner screaming, “You do you Nina!” The Beautiful Ones is a story about agency. Agency to decide what our future holds, to navigate our relationship with the past, and to decide who we want to be.