A lush fantasy about beauty standards

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People in the kingdom of Orleans are cursed-they are born appearing gray and nightmarish, which, in a place that values beauty above all else, is a horror. Lucky for the residents of Orleans, the Bells exist-girls born with the ability to manipulate appearances and enhance beauty-for a price, of course. Those with enough money and power can command the belles to change how they look, from hair color to skin tone to how tall they are.

Camille is one of the belles, and has been training to manipulate people’s appearances her whole life. Now it is time for her to be assigned a place to work, and of course her dream is to be the favorite-the belle who lives at the palace and serves the royal family.

When her dream comes true, and she moves into the royal palace and starts getting to know the queen, the princess, and other members of the royal family, Camille begins to learn that things are not always what they seem in the world of the belles, and there are some dark secrets lurking below the beautiful surface of Orleans.

As Camille tries to investigate to figure out what happened to the belle who was at the palace previously, why there are mysterious moans and screams coming from all of the beauty salons, and how people are getting beauty work done at all hours when the belles can only work a few hours a day, dangerous things begin to happen to her. And Sophia, the princess, may SEEM charming and magnanimous, but underneath all that are some pretty sinister tendencies.

Soon Camille must decide if she wants to maintain the status quo, or risk her life and her position as a belle in order to save the people of Orleans from a bleak, torturous future. In this fanciful world of extravagant dresses, decadent desserts, and teacup pets, is anything more important than beauty?

I loved everything about this book, from the extravagant world of Orleans to the relationships between Camille, the royal family, and other belles. The plot was interesting, the worldbuilding was excellent, and the social commentary was on point. Overall a great read!