I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Romance Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone
They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbours call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.
But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina—and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
I should probably caveat this with two notes. First, I was exceedingly tired when reading this on trains and in waiting rooms, which is not the best time to be reading – but it was the time I had. Second, I… uh, got muddled when starting this, thinking it was the vampire one and so spent the start wondering where the vampires were (I have a stack of borrowed books and eARCs by the author, and I keep forgetting which title goes with which book.) I have tried to keep these in mind when writing the review, to see past my fatigue and confusion.
This is a slow paced fantasy romance, following the tangled love lives of the characters. Nina is young and new to the city, and ends up falling for Hector. Hector feel in love with Nina’s cousin-by-marriage Valerie a long time ago, and wants to get close to her. It’s certainly not a snappy story, more interested in digging into the characters’ minds and emotions than moving along to any action. I don’t read romances, so I’m not sure if that’s a typical feature of the sub-genre.
There are three POVs, Nina, Hector, and Valerie, which lets you see their journeys and struggles, not to mention the romance from both sides. I really didn’t like Valerie. I can’t tell if I was meant to dislike her, or sympathise with her (given she was a POV.) But she was just so self-centred and cruel, willing to use and hurt anyone if it meant getting her own way (and playing with Hector after realising his affections were moving.) She was very much the villain in my view, and I did like seeing her villainous perspective as it added an urgency and threat to the book.
The setting is gorgeous though. It’s a secondary world, full of money and glamour. I want to say inspired by the 1910s France/Europe, as that was the vibe I got from the names, the rules of courting, the clothes, and technology (motorcars being a new thing, for example.) Plus Nina likes beetles and butterflies, which was a really nice detail to set her apart. Not to mention the iridescent beauty of the shells helped evoke that lacquered, polished semi-precious stone vibe for the early twentieth century.
The magic is a really small part of the story, another thing that means Nina doesn’t fit into the upper classes but finds an affinity with performer Hector. That and the secondary world are the reason it’s a fantasy book, rather than a being shelved with romance.
Read my reviews of other books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: