So first off, The Beautiful Ones wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought Silvia Moreno-Garcia was a horror writer. Doing a quick online check, I see that she’s written a previous book featuring vampires and has been involved in several Lovecraftian anthologies, so I think I’m right about her horror roots. This book, however, isn’t horror. It’s a romance.
There’s nothing wrong with a writer trying out different genres, of course. I don’t stick to a single genre in my own writing, so I can’t criticize Moreno-Garcia for doing the same. I just mention this because I don’t usually read romance. Not being the intended audience for this book, I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as others will.
The setting of The Beautiful Ones is reminiscent of 19th century France. Victorian etiquette and manners are of supreme importance. There’s a lot of dancing and gossiping. Much detail is given to what people are wearing.
The story is told from the point of view of three different characters: Nina, Hector, and Valerie. Nina is a naive girl from the country who is being trained in the proper way a lady should dress and act by her cousin’s wife Valerie. We’re told her facial features are considered unattractive by the sophisticated city folk and she also doesn’t behave properly. Nina is searching for a perfect story book romance and thinks she finds it in the person of Hector.
Hector was once secretly engaged to Valerie and has been pining after her for the last ten years. In an effort to get closer to Valerie, he pretends to be interested in Nina and starts courting her. Valerie, who is a bit of a mean girl, is terrified her husband will find out she was once engaged to Hector since the scandal could ruin her. Thus the stage is set. In the end, Nina ends up discovering that love in real life isn’t the way it’s portrayed in stories.
I personally found the story to be slow moving. There’s a lot of description of food, doilies, gardening, ballroom dances, and explanations of manners. There’s a speculative fiction element in that both Nina and Hector are telekinetic, however it’s largely unnecessary to the plot until we get to the end. We’re told what the characters are thinking, but I felt hearing their thoughts was often redundant since the reader would already know what they’re thinking most of the time.
In the same way Pride and Prejudice contains not just the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but also the stories of her sisters, I think this book could have benefited from a subplot or two to keep things interesting. By focusing on a single story throughout, there’s less to keep the reader’s attention. I was bored often while reading this book, however, to be fair, this isn’t my type of thing.
On the plus side, I did like that the villain of the book was sympathetic and I felt the action did pick up towards the end. It’s well written, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
The Beautiful Ones will be published on October 24th.