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Monday, May 24, 2021

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh





The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renée Ahdieh
Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal/Historical Romance)
Date Published: October 8, 2019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

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. 

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh is the first book in The Beautiful series. This was a very hard book to put down. It wasn't your typical vampire story in that you don't really know who's a vampire or who's something else through most of the story. So, that's an added mystery within the mystery. I love the idea of the Lions with their "family" ethics. They hold family, friends, acquaintances, etc. to different levels. Which, i guess we all do that, but in this supernatural world there's a different kind of loyalty standard going on. The romance was one that casually grew in intensity, and how they went about it completely fit both of their personalities. It wasn't rushed, and it wasn't drawn out. There were moments, particularly... that were very beautiful. You get introduced to many different folks, but it's not overwhelming. And, it left me chomping at the bit for more. I'm excited to see where this story leads us. 


1st février, 1872
aboard the CGT Aramis

Not What It Seemed

The Aramis was supposed to arrive at first light, like it did in Celine’s dreams.

She would wake beneath a sunlit sky, the brine of the ocean winding through her nose, the city looming bright on the horizon.

Filled with promise. And absolution.

Instead the brass bell on the bow of the Aramis tolled in the twilight hour, the time of day her friend Pippa called “the gloaming.” It was—in Celine’s mind—a very British thing to say.

She’d begun collecting these phrases not long after she’d met Pippa four weeks ago, when the Aramis had docked for two days in Liverpool. Her favorite so far was “not bloody likely.” Celine didn’t know why they mattered to her at the time. Perhaps it was because she thought Very British Things would serve her better in America than the Very French Things she was apt to say.

The moment Celine heard the bell clang, she made her way portside, Pippa’s light footsteps trailing in her wake. Inky tendrils of darkness fanned out across the sky, a ghostly mist shrouding the Crescent City. The air thickened as the two girls listened to the Aramis sluice through the waters of the Mississippi, drawing closer to New Orleans. Farther from the lives they’d left behind.

Pippa sniffed and rubbed her nose. In that instant, she looked younger than her sixteen years. “For all the stories, it’s not as pretty as I thought it would be.”

“It’s exactly what I thought it would be,” Celine said in a reassuring tone.

“Don’t lie.” Pippa glanced at her sidelong. “It won’t make me feel better.”

A smile curled up Celine’s face. “Maybe I’m lying for me as much as I’m lying for you.”

“In any case, lying is a sin.”

“So is being obnoxious.”

“That’s not in the Bible.”

“But it should be.”

Pippa coughed, trying to mask her amusement. “You’re terrible. The sisters at the Ursuline convent won’t know what to do with you.”

“They’ll do the same thing they do with every unmarried girl who disembarks in New Orleans, carrying with her all her worldly possessions: they’ll find me a husband.” Celine refrained from frowning. This had been her choice. The best of the worst.

“If you strike them as ungodly, they’ll match you with the ugliest fool in Christendom. Definitely someone with a bulbous nose and a paunch.”

“Better an ugly man than a boring one. And a paunch means he eats well, so . . .” Celine canted her head to one side.

“Really, Celine.” Pippa laughed, her Yorkshire accent weaving through the words like fine Chantilly lace. “You’re the most incorrigible French girl I’ve ever met.”

Celine smiled at her friend. “I’d wager you haven’t met many French girls.”

“At least not ones who speak English as well as you do. As if you were born to it.”

“My father thought it was important for me to learn.” Celine lifted one shoulder, as though this were the whole of it, instead of barely half. At the mention of her father—a staid Frenchman who’d studied linguistics at Oxford—a shadow threatened to descend. A sadness with a weight Celine could not yet bear. She fixed a wry grin on her face.

Pippa crossed her arms as though she were hugging herself. Worry gathered beneath the fringe of blond on her forehead as the two girls continued studying the city in the distance. Every young woman on board had heard the whispered accounts. At sea, the myths they’d shared over cups of gritty, bitter coffee had taken on lives of their own. They’d blended with the stories of the Old World to form richer, darker tales. New Orleans was haunted. Cursed by pirates. Prowled by scalawags. A last refuge for those who believed in magic and mysticism. Why, there was even talk of women possessing as much power and influence as that of any man.

Celine had laughed at this. As she’d dared to hope. Perhaps New Orleans was not what it seemed, at first glance. Fittingly, neither was she.

And if anything could be said about the young travelers aboard the Aramis, it was that the possibility of magic like this—a world like this—had become a vital thing. Especially for those who wished to shed the specter of their pasts. To become something better and brighter.

And especially for those who wanted to escape.

Pippa and Celine watched as they drew closer to the unknown. To their futures.

“I’m frightened,” Pippa said softly.

Celine did not respond. Night had seeped through the water, like a dark stain across organza. A scraggly sailor balanced along a wooden beam with all the grace of an aerialist while lighting a lamp on the ship’s prow. As if in response, tongues of fire leapt to life across the water, rendering the city in even more ghoulishly green tones.

The bell of the Aramis pealed once more, telling those along the port how far the ship had left to travel. Other passengers made their way from below deck, coming to stand alongside Celine and Pippa, muttering in Portuguese and Spanish, English and French, German and Dutch. Young women who’d taken leaps of faith and left their homelands for new opportunities. Their words melted into a soft cacophony of sound that would—under normal circumstances—soothe Celine.

Not anymore.

Ever since that fateful night amid the silks in the atelier, Celine had longed for comfortable silence. It had been weeks since she’d felt safe in the presence of others. Safe with the riot of her own thoughts. The closest she’d ever come to wading through calmer waters had been in the presence of Pippa.

When the ship drew near enough to dock, Pippa took sudden hold of Celine’s wrist, as though to steel herself. Celine gasped. Flinched at the unexpected touch. Like a spray of blood had shot across her face, the salt of it staining her lips.

“Celine?” Pippa asked, her blue eyes wide. “What’s wrong?”

Breathing through her nose to steady her pulse, Celine wrapped both hands around Pippa’s cold fingers. “I’m frightened, too.” 

author
I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. In my spare time, I like to cook, mess with makeup, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.

To learn more about Renée Ahdieh and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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