The Beautiful by Renѐe Ahdeih
Hodder and Stoughton, hb, £16.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
After fleeing Paris to start a new life, Celine Rousseau arrives in New Orleans at the start of the carnival period. She yearns to explore the streets, but a serial killer lurks in the shadows, hunting young women. A bold woman, Celine comes to the attention of the enigmatic and beautiful residents of La Cour des Lions, as well as the serial killer’s. As the darkness around her grows, Celine realises she must take matters into her own hands before it is too late.
Told through two distinct voices, we have Celine’s point of view in third person narrative and the killer’s in the first person. There are no clues about the serial killer’s identity, just their opinion regarding how events have worked out. This keeps the reader guessing throughout which makes the twist at the end even more satisfying.
Ahdeih captures the essence of New Orleans in the 1870’s in a manner reminiscent of Anne Rice’s later works in her canonical vampire chronicles. It’s full of decadent parties, luscious clothing, and atmospheric descriptions using all the sense to take us through the streets with Celine which brings this work to life.
This is a rich, vibrant world full of colour, and shadows, and dangerous attractions. If you like your paranormal romances corseted and swoony then this is the one for you. The love triangle between Celine, Sebastian Saint Germain, a suspect in the murders, and Detective Michael Grimaldi who is investigating the case, is not as simple as Celine choosing between right and wrong. Fundamentally, her choice of partner reflects how true to herself she wants to be.
That theme of being yourself recurs throughout as the body count increases as Celine is often challenged by the convent she has found shelter in after escaping Paris and las Cour de Lions. Ultimately, Celine makes a choice based on her desire to save herself rather than any man, which makes her a much stronger character. Perhaps she could have been a little more decisive sooner, but then Celine is only seventeen, so you can’t expect everything from her.
Without spoiling the plot, this is a story full of tragedy and sacrifice, making the end more poignant. This is clearly the first book in a series and it finishes with enough answers to make it satisfying, while also raising some new questions leaving us hungry for more. The Beautiful is an interesting first novel which shows great promise to be a sumptuous and powerful paranormal romance series and a must for any fans of the genre.