Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
I'm just trying to light up the world as much as I can one SciFi/paranormal/fantasy/space opera/time travel book at a time.
Here's a little backstory before I jump right into the review: I like to think of myself as a malleable reader. I love many genres and I don't shy away from sojourning in reads that are not typically in my comfort zone. In the past, reading books about Vampires and other dark beings was a heady and thrilling endeavour but this subgenre lost its appeal quite some time ago, somewhere around the time that Vampires became mainstream and were EVERYWHERE. When Vampires became trendy, the market was saturated with many an author trying, and more often than not failing, to successfully hitch a ride on the bloodsucking craze train. It has been a long time since I've even wanted to peek inside the dust jacket of a Vamp story. Now, did the synopsis of The Beautiful completely sell me on this read? No. Did the synopsis sound utterly unique? Again, no BUT the book did sound promising and a few of my Good Reads friends spoke highly of it so I relented and eventually gave it a whirl and I'm pretty glad I did.
The Beautiful is a period piece that revolves around our MC Celine, our second (mystery) MC - the serial killer- and New Orleans' gritty, glitzy, oft times seedy underground world. The seediest and most nefarious of the bunch is a group known as La Cour des Liones... but more about them in a bit. Back to Celine. This new world, in the New World, becomes her new home after leaving (fleeing??) Paris... sorry for the repetition, it's late, I'm sleepy and words are mushy at the moment... please just roll with it?
Anyway, Celine finds New Orleans' dangerous side to be sexy and alluring. It is the impetus for her budding obsession with the town and its locals. It is also a catalyst for the emergence of something deep within her... something dark and suppressed... something she never knew existed until recently... awakening... stretching... wriggling to the surface... taking her firmly in its grasp as it both scares and thrills her in equal measure. While Celine is trying to get to know, and come to terms with, her "true" self there are things going bump, nibble, chew chew in the night... things not completely Human. There is an age old feud between the Brotherhood and the Creatures of the Night and Celine finds herself dragged into this conflict, put squarely in the center, and doesn't know for sure if she even wants to break free and run to safety. Why not?? Well safety isn't really her thing but also because safety might only be an illusion here in 1870's New Orleans. There's a serial killer on the loose and anyone can be the culprit... It could easily be Sebastien or Michael- both men vying for her affection. There are many other possible suspects but the beauty is the twisty twist way the killer is revealed. I won't spoil things for you but let me say this, you most likely will not have sussed out who is behind the killings and what their motivations are ahead of time AND if you somehow do know who is behind the killings early on, I implore you to write a review telling how you got there.... I need to know!!
::: GASP :::
end runon sentence!
Back to Celine... again. Celine is a strong willed, opinionated, sassy heroine. She never lets her fears (or ignorance) about a person (or situation) stop her from doing what she feels is right and from achieving whatever goal she has set her mind to. She is persistent and stubborn and does whatever it takes to catch a killer, a lover and/or her idyllic Life.
Who will she be sharing that idyllic life with? Well, there are of course 3 legs to any blossoming love triangle, this one consists of Celine, Sebastien and Michael. I normally loathe love triangles but this one was rather tame and didn't rankle and tap dance on my very last nerve so there's that.
You've heard about Celine so here's a little bit about both men:
Sebastien is the brooding lothario, who loves his family and money above all else. He is the heir to the fortune of the whole of New Orleans it seems. He is the scion to his uncle's legacy and the leader of the Cour des Liones.
Michael is the Detective on the serial killer case. It just so happens that he crosses paths with our MC, Celine, because she is aquainted with some of the victims and therefore implicitly connected to the cases. Just how and to what end you'll have to read for yourself but it is the beginning of a connection between the two AND (even though he has yet to figure out how he himself feels about her) Sebastien is not at all happy about it. Michael and he have a history together, one we are not privy to in detail... one that apparently saw the two pitted against one another while vying for the same girl... again.. they seem destined to be forever locked in love drama BUT we are kept from the extent of the previous love tangle. We wander around and scavenge in the dark, grasping for clues... but alas, we are kept from the crux of the matter. While the two bumble and try to vy for Celine's attention, we get a glimpse at how witty and spunky she is. She matches her paramore perfectly. They play nicely off each other and go from lust-loathing to lust-loving to who knows what's next?? They seem to be star crossed lovers but we'll have to wait and see. I won't reveal which suitor she falls for and possibly ends up with but I will say that, in the end, I was left feeling extremely frustrated and cheated.
Enough about the characters though... how are the technical aspects of the book, you might wonder?? Well, glad you asked (mentally). The Beautiful is a well written book with a yummy slooow burning hate --> mutually amorous--> ??? percolating relationship(s). It is (almost) entirely set in New Orleans... a fabulous, flamboyant, high octane city that bubbles over with... je ne sais quoi. Sinning is easy in this city... here amongst the revelers, the city's glitzy underground... and especially when cavorting with those who hold Court in the wee hours of night. La Cour des Liones is populated with all manner of scaries that go bump or boo or just slurp in the night and we are never completely sure what sort of dark Thing each character is... that is until they want us to know and by then it's too late.
This book is an amalgamation of mixed genres. It is a thrilling, Murder Mystery with a sprinkle of Romance that contains a pinch of a PG (13?) rated love triangle. The world building is dark, sultry and rich. The character development is well rounded, fleshed out nicely and rather satisfying. AND the twists?? Well, there were few twists but what they lacked in quantity they made up for with quality. It had my rapt attention. I spent a whole sleepless night, bleary eyed and sore from all of the different reading contortions that go hand in hand with a marathon read. Now, was it AMAZING?? Was it the pinnacle of this genre, the best I have ever read? No! Was it a master piece? Also, No BUT it was entertaining and worth the evening I devoted toward it. Really, what more could you want out of a handful of quiet (if the spouse's snoring is discounted) hours alone? Being satisfied with the time spent, lost within its pages, wishing there was...more... more time... more pages... more story to keep me held captive a little while longer. The simple fact that I wanted more of its world and more of its morally grey characters speaks louder than any flowery wording and zealotry ever could.
Currently it is night again and as I prepare to unwind, I find myself a little sad, wistfully wishing that I was settling back down and heading off to witness the drama unfolding in the world of The Beautiful once again and THAT speaks volumes!... at least to me. Was it perfection? No, but I'll most likely be on the lookout for book #2. If you're into books about the Things in the night that scare the crap out of grown men and can possibly leave you with disturbing mental imagery you might wish exorcised then I say "give this one a go", you just might enjoy the next few quiet hours of Me Time.