In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.
When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.
At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful
What is The Beautiful about?
The first major plotline of this novel is that of Celine’s escape from Paris. She committed a terrible act there and has fled to New Orleans, ostensibly to find a suitable husband. While in New Orleans, Celine comes to terms with herself and her feelings, as well as discovers the dark world of the Court of Lions. Befriending the members of the Court brings Celine into the orbit of one young man named Bastien, whose attractive and dangerous aura is hard to resist. Even in the face of the deaths of young ladies that seem to be following Celine through the city.
Genre: Historical Urban Fantasy
You could also throw this book into the paranormal romance category, since a significant amount of the plot is dedicated to Celine’s romantic feelings towards Bastien, who is within the paranormal underbelly of New Orleans.
Tropes: Enemies to Lovers
Yes, we get some of that sweet, sweet tension that comes from a pairing that don’t start out too keen on one another.
Plot: The vampires of New Orleans get political
I feel like in all the vampire stories I’ve read or watched with vampires in New Orleans (I haven’t watched The Originals, though) the setting of New Orleans is more about the social climate there. New Orleans functions as a great place for night dwelling vampires. The Court of Lions, though, is openly known to be a little unusual and highly politically motivated.
I ended up rather liking Celine as a character. She’s a little bit wicked, and as she decides during the course of the story, she’s okay with that. I enjoyed that she was smart and good at manipulation, even when she was thwarted by others in her plans. I also enjoyed her relationships with most of the characters, even with the detective. I especially enjoyed the way her two big secrets were handled. To avoid spoilers, I’ll be vague, but I liked that she somewhat cushions her worse of the two secrets and is absolutely correct in her priorities of keeping information under wraps. I loved the way the Court of Lions was portrayed, from the general knowledge of them in New Orleans society to the individual members of it. And I did not see the twist coming at the end of the story.
The plot starts off slow and confusing. I wasn’t quite sure what direction it was heading in for a while, and I don’t think there was enough foreshadowing for the twist. I’m putting these criticisms in “the okay” instead of “the bad” only because neither of these jarred me enough to consider not finishing the book nor did they really stand out while I was actually reading; they’re things that stand out in my memory of the reading now.
Something I didn’t enjoy much was the introduction of an unnecessary love triangle. I’m sure it’ll be more fleshed out as the series goes on, but in all honesty I don’t enjoy triangles where it’s clear from the start that one of the two love interests doesn’t stand a chance. That’s very much how things went in this book. I also wasn’t immensely impressed by how the twist villain came about. It was already mysterious enough that there was all this foreshadowing and we got their perspective regularly. I liked the final identity of them, but I felt there wasn’t enough build up to who they were.
Yeah, I’m a fan of the addition of this book and its series to the world of vampire fiction. I think that the characters were all interesting, the story (once it picked up) was engaging, and the romance appropriately steamy for a vampiric tale. My few qualms were I just wish the twist had been built up to better, with more foreshadowing and exposition given before the reveal, and I wish more time had been spent making the love triangle an actual viable triangle. I can’t wait to pick up the next installment in the series!