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.
ARC provided by Hodderscape at YALC. This is a spoiler free review!
I’ve loved Renée’s previous work so was so excited when I heard she was writing a vampire book! The Beautiful is set in historical New Orleans, where our main character Celine has fled after needing to escape Paris. Despite living in the convent, Celine is soon drawn to the darker side of the city, especially the members of La Cour des Lions, a mysterious society involving Sébastien Saint Germain, who Celine just can’t seem to stop bumping into.
The Beautiful certainly had its twists and thrills, as well as its mysteries, however I did feel like there could’ve been a bit more world building – although the character development almost made up for this. Celine was a strong main character and proved herself in her actions rather than just her words. There is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding her character, especially in relation to the inner demon she often references, so it’d be interesting to see if this is expanded upon in the sequel. She mentions having an Asian mother who’s now dead, and how her French father instructed her to hide her heritage to avoid any prejudice and make sure she could get into higher ranks of society. A lot of Celine’s character development does revolve around her rediscovering her identity now that she’s in a city where she feels freer now that her father and his expectations of her are across the Atlantic Ocean, and I did love this side of her development.
“I am not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, nor am I the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
Celine’s New Orleans is definitely portrayed as decadent and beautiful, as well as having its seedier hidden side, and we do get a glimpse of this, however I did struggle to picture it. I’m hopeful that this is something that will be expanded upon in the sequel though!
The romance was very much a slow burn and I was definitely here for it. At one point, the start of a love triangle does start to appear which I don’t think was necessary since I’m almost sure that no one’s shipping Celine with the other man pursuing her.
The Beautiful has very much been marketed as vampires making a comeback in YA – however, I will say that although they’re hinted at often throughout the book, they’re not explicitly mentioned much, just lots of mentions of seemingly supernatural activity. As with a few other things I’ve mentioned, I’m sure this will be expanded upon in book two and I’m so excited to learn more about the vampires of Celine’s world.
No matter where she went, danger followed.
And it horrified her. Just as it thrilled her.
Overall, I feel like The Beautiful felt very much like the start of the series that it was. It laid down some good foundations which I hope are expanded upon more in the second book! Celine is a strong, brilliant main character and I can’t wait to see what happens next in her story.