Title:  The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1)

Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: YA,  Fantasy, Paranormal
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 2019
Paperback: 448 pages


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 enamoured 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.

My Rating: ★★★★

My first read by author Renee Ahdieh and I'm completely charmed. I love historical fiction and the added paranormal aspect of this story caught my attention from the start.

The Beautiful tells the story of Celene, a young dressmaker, who travels from Paris to New Orleans in the late 1800s in an attempt to run from her past. She's a beautiful young woman with a fiery personality and the beauty of Crescent City immediately enamours her. Soon she finds herself mixed up with the mysterious Sebastian Saint Germain and the Court of the Lions, and if that wasn't dangerous enough, a killer seems to be after her.

I loved the world-building and the gothic and dark atmosphere of this novel. The pace is a bit slow but the writing style is so enthralling that I absolutely didn't mind it. The vivid descriptions of the city, the culture,  parties and ensembles pull you into the story and it's easy to imagine those scenes before your eyes. 

Celine is a complex and layered protagonist. She's witty, intelligent, effervescent and a fearless and stubborn heroine, capable of going toe to toe with the enigmatic and mischievous leader of the vampires. Both her and Bastian are fiery and strong-headed and their word sparring and banter was extremely entertaining. I loved the romantic relationship that blossomed between Celine and Bastian. It was a slow burn, but the way it developed, each interaction and the constant tension made it worthwhile. They had amazing chemistry and I could imagine the push and pull between them, it was all very vivid and atmospheric. Also, the diversity of secondary characters was a bonus for this story. It was refreshing to see sexuality and race acknowledged.

In terms of plot, there is action, there are secrets, mystery and suspense but I feel like the story is more character-driven than anything else.  The ending was surprising in regards to the identity of the villain but I still would have wanted more apropos to the presence of vampires throughout this story. Nonetheless, I think this book was beautiful and hypnotic and I highly enjoyed it. I just hope the sequel will give us more vampire action.