Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin’s wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.
But Antonina, who prefers her family’s country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society’s ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can’t help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent. Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice.
A sumptuous nineteenth century read, full of melodrama, misplaced love and heartbreak.
This book isn’t my usual type of read. Unless it’s Shakespeare, I’m not that into historically themed books. I find many different time periods quite interesting, but they can be tedious to read, especially if they’re written poorly. This wasn’t the case with The Beautiful Ones, it was written beautifully, conforming to the time periods style of writing but also discernible.
The Beautiful Ones appears to be set in nineteenth century France, with stunning world building and elegant writing. What intrigued me most about this book was the hint of magic that was involved, this is what influenced me to request it. I enjoyed learning about the telekinetic powers that both Hector and Nina possessed, but it wasn’t enough for me personally. I expected there to be more action involving the powers, but they were merely a snippet of the book, so I was a little disappointed with that.
The book concentrated more on the relationships and romantic side of the story. I am an avid romance fan, so while this pleased me, I didn’t expect the book to be fixated on it and wanted a bit more oomph to the story.
The main three characters were particularly diverse. Nina is such a sweet girl and I was fond of reading her side of the story the most. She is a country girl at heart and doesn’t relish the life of a prim and proper lady, I found her refreshing! I have mixed feelings about Hector, although he is a gentleman, I don’t like the intentions behind his relationship with Nina and wanted to smack him profusely at the beginning! He does however have his reasons, which involves heartbreak, so I do sympathize. Valerie is one of the most vile characters I have ever had the misfortune to read about. She is a vain, malicious, corrupt little worm and should be eradicated from the world! I haven’t despised a character so much in a very long time, bravo Silvia for creating such a superbly wicked creature.
If you know me, then you are aware of my absolute HATE for love triangles! However this is what made the story tick, I despised it but I also couldn’t stop reading it. There is even a square at some point which just irritated me all the more. I don’t like triangles, or squares and don’t get me started on pentagons, just abolish the shapes ok?!
Don’t get me wrong, I did very much enjoy this book! I read it in a day which says a lot, but it was missing that spark, the life force that just didn’t seep through the pages for me. If you enjoy historically themed romance books with just a hint of magic, then you’ll really appreciate what The Beautiful Ones has to offer.
*I want to thank Thomas Dunne Books and Netgalley for sending the book my way in return for an honest review*
WAIT! If you liked the sound of The Beautiful Ones, then keep reading for an excerpt of Chapter one!
Hector was like a castaway who had washed up on a room of velvet
curtains and marble floors. The revelers might as well have been wild
animals ready to tear off a chunk of his flesh.
He felt utterly lost, alien and alone.
As Hector watched from a corner of the room, ladies and gentlemen
partnered to dance, women fanned themselves and smiled, and men
greeted each other with a tilt of the head.
He had attended many glittering balls, but none in this city. He knew
no one here except for Étienne and Luc, and he was waiting with breathless
expectation for the arrival of Valérie Beaulieu.
The first thing he’d done upon disembarking was to make discreet
inquiries about the whereabouts of the lady. He was glad to discover she
was in Loisail and, moreover, that she would be at the ball thrown by
the De Villiers. He had no direct connection to the De Villiers—or
hardly anyone else in Loisail, for that matter, having spent the past ten
years abroad—but he did know Étienne Lémy, who was able to secure
him an invitation.
Hector had dressed according to the weight of the occasion in a new
double-breasted black dress coat, white shirt, and a white bow tie. White
gloves and mother-of-pearl studs completed the ensemble. In his
excitement, he arrived unfashionably early, not wishing to miss Valérie,
and after greeting his host had positioned himself strategically so that he
could watch every elegant guest who entered the vast ballroom. But Hector
had not been long at his post when he heard a couple of ladies commenting
that Mrs. Beaulieu had been taken ill and would not be in attendance,
which came as a shock to the women since Valérie Beaulieu’s missing
the opening of the season seemed unthinkable.
All his plans in tatters, the whole reason for his attendance at the ball
suddenly vanishing, Hector did not know what to do with himself. Unable
to stand the music and the noise, he escaped to the library, which
was gloriously empty, its furniture decorated with a profusion of brass
inlays, the bookcases primly protected with glass doors. The only reasonable
course of action at this point was to wait there until he could
perform a proper exit without seeming rude. He could not possibly retire
until nine o’clock.
Hector consulted his watch, and after deliberating, he decided he’d
brush up on his history. He wound up flipping through the pages of a
book without touching them, having dragged a chair closer to him with
a motion of his left hand, his talent at work. He did not read a single line,
too troubled by thoughts of Valérie Beaulieu to make heads or tails of the
When they last saw each other, they’d both been nineteen, nothing
but children, really. But he’d loved her. She had been beautiful, sophisticated,
captivating. A perverse part of him hoped that time had somewhat
washed away the colors from her face, but in his heart he knew
this was impossible and that Valérie Beaulieu must remain as he remembered
her: the most devastating woman in the room.
And he would not be seeing her that night.
The clock on the wall struck nine and the door opened. In walked a
young woman in a blue pastel silk and velvet dress with appliquéd flowers
along the bodice and skirt, the sleeves rather puffed out, as was in
She closed the door, taking several steps into the room before she
raised her head and caught sight of him. “Sir,” she said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t
realize there was anybody here.”
“It’s no matter,” he replied, closing the book with his hands rather
than with his mind; he reserved displays of his talent for the stage. He
did not add anything else. He was hardly in the mood for polite conversation.
The De Villiers prided themselves on attracting the cream of the
crop to their functions—the Beautiful Ones, rather than the New People.
The barons of barely minted empires of telegraph wires and fresh steel
could socialize elsewhere. Hector had been offered an invitation, proof
of Étienne’s charm and his connections, but he knew he was, at best, a
novelty for these aristocrats; at worst, an intruder. He did not wish to
befriend any of them and threw the young woman a frosty look. The
girl did not take his cue.
She looked at him carefully, her lips curving into a smile as she moved
closer. “I know you. You are Hector Auvray.”
“Pardon me, were we introduced?” he asked, frowning. He was sure
he had not seen this girl before. He had been presented to the hosts,
and Étienne had pointed out a few people, but not her.
“I recognize your face from the posters around town. You are performing
at the Royal. Phantasmagoric: Feats of Wonder, isn’t it? I was hoping
to meet you,” she said.
“Oh?” he replied, a noncommittal sound, even if his interest had been
piqued. Few aristocrats would admit to knowing the name of a vulgar
entertainer. Instead, they nodded their heads politely and either assumed
or pretended he was a slightly more elevated type of person.
“What were you reading?” she asked, pointing at the book he was
clutching between his hands.
“Nina,” she said, stretching out her hand. “Antonina, really, but I
rather hate it. I’m named after a witch of a great-aunt, the most awful
wretch who ever lived. Well, not quite, but I resent the association, and
therefore it is Nina.”
“Hector, though you already know that part.” He shook her hand.
“It’s probably best if we exit this room now. A bachelor such as myself,
a young lady such as yourself—we wouldn’t want to cause a scandal.”
Truly, he wanted only to get rid of her and could not have cared what
anyone thought. If the girl wished to walk around the house without an
escort, then let it be. He had come to speak to one woman and one
woman alone. If she was not there, then Hector would wallow in his
“I can’t possibly leave now,” she replied.
“Why not?” he asked, annoyed.
She did not notice his tone of voice or did not care. Instead, she took
off the dance card dangling by her wrist and held it up for him to look at.
“If I go out there now, Didier Dompierre is going to ask me for a
dance, and if you’d ever danced with Didier, you would know he is the
most terrible dancer. I have been told he’ll put his name down for two
dances, and you must be aware a lady cannot refuse a dance from a
gentleman. It would be uncivil.”
Hector did not understand why a man might want to corral this particular
girl for two dances in a row. She was not an enviable beauty—
somewhat run-of-the-mill, to be frank—and her square jaw, black hair, and
thin lips were rather unstylish. She possessed eyes of a pretty shade of
hazel, though, and her dress was very fine; perhaps that was enough for
a young chap with poor dance skills such as this Didier Dompierre.
“Then your thought is to spend the rest of the evening here, avoiding
“Not the rest of the evening, but, say, a half an hour, and by then he
will have found some other girl he can stomp on,” she replied, sitting in
the chair in front of him and stretching her legs.
“This does not seem the best-conceived plan.”
“It is a plan, which is what matters. Whom are you hiding from?”
she asked. If she were another woman, this might have been mistaken
for an attempt at flirting. Valérie would have taken the opportunity to
lace her voice with honey, but the girl was plain and spoke plainly.
“I am not hiding from anyone,” he said.
“Do you make it a habit to go to balls, then, and creep into the library
to brush up on your history?”
“Do you talk to all men in this manner?” he replied, growing more
curious than irritated.
She toyed with her dance card, putting it again on her wrist, and gave
him a mortified look. “I apologize. This is only the second dance I’ve
attended, and I can see it will end catastrophically already.”
“This is the second party of the De Villiers’ you’ve attended?” he
“The second party in the city I’ve ever attended, and this is the beginning
of the Grand Season, the true test of a lady’s mettle. You must
not think me a complete fool. I went to a couple of dances in Monti-
pouret, but it was different. Small affairs. Loisail is large and there are
many people and the rules are different.”
He was talking to a country girl, for clearly the designation of
“woman” would have been misplaced on her. Worse than that, a country
rube. But Hector could not help but feel more sympathy than
distaste. He had, after all, been a country nothing at one time and less
polished than this girl.
He smiled despite himself, to assuage her. “No doubt you’ll learn
them soon. You seem quick-witted.”
“Thank you,” she replied, appearing rather pleased with his words.
She looked at him curiously and another smile crossed her face. “I
must confess, I know more about you than your name from looking at
the posters. I read about you in The Gazette for Physical Research. Alexander
Nicolay has been investigating your telekinetic abilities.”
“Are you a fan of The Gazette?” he asked, surprised that she’d be informed
about Nicolay’s research. He’d bumped into the man a couple of
years back. He was attempting to measure and classify all psychokinetic
talents and convinced Hector to let him take his pulse while he manipulated
objects with the force of his mind. It was the sort of thing people
did not think to bring up in casual conversation.
“Not particularly. But I am interested in the phenomena. They say
you are one of the great psychokinetics of our era.”
“I’m a decent performer,” he replied.
She was a curious girl, and now he reassessed her again. Not an aristocrat
and not a country rube and—what exactly? He didn’t like it when
he couldn’t classify people.
He gestured toward the door. “Shall I escort you to the ballroom?”
She looked down at her dance card, carefully running her fingers
around its edge. “Yes. If you feel inclined, you might partner with me
for a dance. I would be really thankful. I was not exaggerating when I
said Didier Dompierre is the worst dancer you’ve ever seen. Is that a terrible
request? It’s not, is it?”
He was somewhat amused by the question and her tone of voice, and
though the girl’s nervous energy at first did not sit too well with him, he
had to admit he felt a bit relieved by her intrusion. He was full to bursting
with thoughts of Valérie and could do with a few minutes more of
light chatter. It would also satisfy the practical necessity of actually showing
himself at the ball, which he ought to do at one point. He could not
spend every single minute in the library. He could wallow later, in the
privacy of his apartment.
She took his arm before he offered it to her as they exited the library,
which was presumptuous.
The owners of the house had placed mirrors on the walls of the corridor
that led to the ballroom, an ostentatious touch, but this was a new
trend that was sweeping the capital and soon the nation. Whatever took
the fancy of Loisail would take the fancy of the whole of Levrene; this
was a known fact.
The ballroom was huge, with tall gilded mirrors reflecting the attendees,
magnifying the space: the party seemed to go on forever. Above them
hung monstrous chandeliers that sparkled with all their might, and all
around them there were ladies with their shoulders bare, in their fine silks,
while the gentlemen stood sober and proud, creating a glorious rainbow
of colors, from the restrained browns of the matriarchs to the pale
pinks of the unmarried women.
Hector carefully took hold of Antonina’s hand and they joined the
dance. He did not consider himself an excellent dancer, though he could
manage. His partner fared poorly, but gave the feeling of being entertained.
“Do you know Loisail well, Mr. Auvray? Or is this your first time
here? It wouldn’t be, would it?”
“I don’t know it well, no. I’ve spent only a few days in Loisail before
my move here.”
“How do you find it? Is it different from the cities where you’ve
lived?” she asked.
He thought of the myriad countries and stages where he’d toured.
To be back in his country of birth, in Levrene, was to be back home,
though not due to a quirk of geography but because this was where Valérie
resided. Here, in Loisail, even if she was hidden away at this moment.
She existed and colored the city for him, lit it brighter than the elegant
“Interesting. I have yet to form a strong opinion of it,” he said politely.
“Then you intend to remain for a while?”
“I will be performing for a few months here, yes. As to whether I
intend to make it my permanent base of operations, we shall see. And
He did not expect her to launch into a complete and honest answer.
A touch of coquetry, the outline of a smile, those would have been suitable.
This had been Valérie’s way.
The girl clutched his hand excitedly. “I’ll most definitely be here
until the summer. I am spending all of the spring with my cousin. My
mother thinks a time in the city would do me good. Where are you lodging?
My cousin’s house is in Saint Illare.”
“I think you’ve asked another bold question,” he informed her.
“Is it, really?”
Her words were candid and he found himself amused by the naivety.
Rather than schooling her with a scowl and a clipped yes, which normally
suited him magnificently, he gave her a proper answer.
“To the east. Boniface. Not as smart as your cousin’s house, I would
wager,” he said.
“Boniface. Is that so you can remain near the theater?”
“I’m sure it’s smart enough. Boniface.”
As the dance ended, a young man moved in their direction, his eyes
on Antonina. Hector was going to incline his head and release the girl,
but on contemplating the look of pure panic that crossed her face, he did
his best to suppress a chuckle and instead asked her for a second dance.
She accepted and told him the man who had been moving toward them
was poor Didier. In the end, he danced a total of three dances with Nina,
but since two of the three were lively stevkas, they did not speak more
than a few words.
After he had thanked her for the dances and strolled away, Étienne
Lémy and his little brother, Luc, wandered over. Étienne was Hector’s age
and Luc a handful of years younger, though looking at them, people always
swore they were twins, so alike were they, both possessing the same
blond hair and stylish mustache. They furthered the illusion that evening
by wearing matching gray vests.
“There you are, you devil. I couldn’t find you anywhere,” Étienne
said, clasping his shoulder. “For a moment I thought you’d left.”