Silvia Moreno Garcia's The Beautiful Ones is a difficult book to categorize, blending fantasy, historical fiction, and romance into one complicated, character-driven novel. On the whole, I can't say that it made me "happy," but I did enjoy reading it. Fluff this is not.
The story is told is third person, but shifts perspective between Hector Auvray, Antonina (Nina) Beaulieu, and Valerie Beaulieu. Hector and Valerie were in love and privately engaged when they were young, but when Hector set out to make his fortune and left, Valerie's family set her up with a wealthy man, Nina's uncle.
Valerie is cold, calculating, and perfect. She's beautiful, manipulative and is very much society's creation. When Hector returns, a wealthy man, he's intent on winning her back, but he doesn't realize that the girl he once loved is either gone or never truly existed. In order to spend time with her, he begins courting Nina.
Nina is young, fifteen? years or so younger than Valerie. She's in her first season our in society, and she's not much interested in the manners and pretenses the role requires. She'd rather be studying butterflies and beetles, but Valerie is tasked with guiding her through society and proves a rather cruel mistress.
As the story continues, Nina falls in love with Hector, for they have very compatible interests and dispositions... plus they're both telekinetic. Yes, this is a fantasy novel, but it's also not. Other than these gifts, the novel is much like other historicals you might read. Power and position and marrying for wealth rather than love. Politics and poverty and people trying to rise above or maintain their circumstances.
Hector is something of a hopeless romantic, however, and doesn't fall out of love with Valerie until much too late. Rest assured, there's a happily ever after, but I wanted to throttle the man for a solid half of the book. I'm quite glad that the author puts him through his paces before he's able to have his happy ending.
This isn't a book crackling with sexual tension, but there's so much angst and a villain you'll love to hate (even though you might sympathize with her at times). There is one closed-door sexual encounter, but only a couple of stolen kisses otherwise. Everything ends very satisfactorily, but I was compelled to keep reading because I wasn't sure how the author could possibly wrap things up in a way that would feel fair to all of the characters.
All in all, it's a subtly fantastical, angsty, complicated work. I'm not sure it's a "happy" read, but it's definitely enjoyable.
Suzanne purchased a physical copy of this book and listened to it on Hoopla courtesy of her public library.