The Beautiful- 3.5 stars

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THE BEAUTIFUL takes place in New Orleans, primarily following a young woman, Celine. Celine fled France after a terrible event and found refuge in the Ursuline Convent, where she and other girls are helping to get it up and running and teach classes. Celine feels like an outsider and has not really found her place, until she happens to meet Odette, a young woman of means who wishes to commission a gown from her for an upcoming masquerade. After seeking permission from the convent, she travels into the city at night with another girl, Pippa, to take Odette's measurements for the gown.

The journey is to change her life forever. She meets Bastien, a young man who becomes a larger figure, and they trade barbs. She is introduced to a secret society of people with untold gifts. She also finds a murdered young woman, the second to be found in New Orleans, and this places her into the police eye. Celine has also caught the eye of this mysterious killer, upping the ante on the mystery.

What I loved: For historical fiction, this was very lush. While it may not be quite historically accurate, the genre allowed the book to move more slowly and spend more time building the world and characters. There are also a lot of diverse characters, which is always great to see. While the plot was intriguing, I particularly enjoyed the perspectives from the unknown 'other' that are given throughout and really added to the mystery of the whole thing. Many of the side characters were particularly intriguing, and I hope they will have even bigger roles in future books.

What left me wanting more: The pace was slower than I anticipated, which will appeal to some. There are a lot of mysteries in the book as to the societies, characters, and of course the murders. While some of this is given at the end, much is left to be later explained in future books. I would have liked some reveals to come earlier and with more information. The romance felt a little insta-love to me, as the characters only spend little time discussing bigger things together and do not start fondly. However, the historical setting could also account for this (as courting rituals and such limit the time spent together).

I would add warnings for attempted sexual assault (attempt described/in the past), the start of a love triangle, and somewhat gruesome murdered body scenes.

Final verdict: Overall, this is an intriguing historical fantasy that I would love to continue reading. The world-building is lush, and the mysteries are quite intriguing. Would recommend for fans of slow-burning historical fiction/romance with a fantasy twist and/or FAWKES and THE LOST PRINCE.