Blurb from Goodreads
New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.
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 Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’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.
The Beautiful is the latest novel by Renee Ahdieh. I had previously read her book ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ but wasn’t compelled to continue on with that series. And I’m feeling somewhat similarly about this. Don’t get me wrong, I quite liked it. But I also found it difficult to really get to grasps with.
The premise of the book is that Celine arrives in New Orleans looking for a new life as she has a secret from her past life in Paris that weighs heavily on her shoulders. She soon finds herself involved with the heady underworld of New Orleans’ society and in particular with the mysterious group known as La Cour des Lions. Celine then somehow becomes a witness to a number of crime scenes as murder seems to follow her at every turn. The book follows Celine’s interactions with the members of La Cour des Lions, in particular the dashing Sebastien Saint Germain (Bastien) and also follows her endeavours to reveal the identity of the murderer who seems to be demonic in origin.
‘The Beautiful’ feels very intoxicating in its writing style. I think Ahdieh’s strengths lie in her abilities to make the reader truly feel as though the sights and sounds of the world she creates in her novels are 100% real. There was something incredibly atmospheric about the New Orleans that she painted in this book. I very much could visualise all that the characters were seeing and experiencing; from the descriptions of the clothing to the foods consumed, everything felt tangible and really made me feel like I was a part of this world.
However, I think the fault in this book lies with the characters. Too frequently I felt the characters were not described as authentically as the scenery. I found myself struggling to discern unique personalities and individual identities among the cast of supporting characters.
I did however very much like the main character of Celine Rousseau. She was incredibly interesting to read about as I particularly enjoyed her back story and how it moulded her into this strong willed woman.
On the other hand I felt utterly ambivalent about Bastien as a male lead. I never felt the chemistry between him and Celine and to me their burgeoning relationship felt entirely forced.
Bastien was all gloss but no substance.
This perhaps stemmed from the fact that so much of Bastien and his Saint Germain family were shrouded in mystery for 90+% of the novel and this therefore meant that he felt underdeveloped as a character. I just think I would have liked more detailed scenes between him and Celine. I needed to feel their connection in a much more tangible fashion.
One of the characters that I did enjoy reading about was Detective Michael Grimaldi. I very much liked the tête-à-tête that he and Celine shared on occasion. To me he and Celine had a much more readable dynamic than the one between Celine and Bastien.
And my last quibble with this book is that I needed more vampires!
I guess when I read a book about vampires I have some preconceived ideas about what the book should deliver. And to me I didn’t enjoy the vampire aspect to this book. I felt that the search for the vampiric murderer was too detached from the main plot of the book. I think the book would have been better served if the identity of the vampire had been revealed earlier and as a reader I could have been more invested in the story of how this vampire was toying with Celine. Ultimately I felt disappointed by the vampire reveal at the end of the story and thought that the book didn’t give a *bad guy* that I could truly love-to-hate.
This was a book of both hits and misses and therefore I am rating it three stars.
An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review