1899: Ingrid Waverly is ruined in London, her reputation in tatters and her friendships irrevocably broken. In the wake of a disastrous summer, Ingrid can hardly bring herself to care when her mother uproots the family to open an art gallery in a Paris abbey.
Both Ingrid and her younger sister, Gabriella, are horrified by the sorry state of the abbey and the prospect of actually living in it. Worse, upon arriving in Paris the family soon learns that Ingrid’s twin brother Grayson is missing.
As Ingrid struggles to find some trace of Grayson she is drawn into a strange underworld of Paris filled with demons and monsters that boggle the mind. But not all of the grotesques Ingrid encounters will lurk in shadows. Some will be closer than she could ever imagine in The Beautiful and the Cursed (2013) by Page Morgan.
The Beautiful and the Cursed is Morgan’s first novel and the beginning of a series. It also started life with the much fiercer title of Grotesque.
A combination of a picturesque setting, an impossible romance and living gargoyles guarantees that The Beautiful and the Cursed will be wildly appealing to many readers. Particularly to readers who enjoy paranormal romances.
Unfortunately other pieces of this novel do not come as smoothly together.
Many aspects of the story do not make sense ranging from unlikely names* to poor plotting. The incident surrounding Ingrid’s departure from England seemed particularly unconvincing to the point of either being contrived or completely fabricated by an unreliable character.**
These problems could have been forgiven and the story truly has potential. The real problem, the one that became impossible to ignore, was how the romance aspect of the story progressed. Ingrid is immediately drawn to one of the abbey’s surly servants–a young man named Luc. While (rightly) Gabriella notices something with Luc, all Ingrid sees are his vivid green eyes. He is at times dismissive, arrogant, rude and brash in his interactions with Ingrid.*** There is absolutely no reason to believe Ingrid would ever be attracted to someone beneath her (albeit sullied) social station and given her supposed independent and pragmatic nature there is even less reason to believe that person would be Luc if such a thing were to happen. Readers who enjoy an unlikely romantic pairing and instantaneous attraction may still find redeeming qualities in Luc (much as Ingrid herself does).
Although the romance is fraught with problems and numerous narrators add unnecessary complications (and repeated information reveals) to the story, The Beautiful and the Cursed is an interesting historical fantasy romance. The story has suspense, drama and even some swoon-worthy moments. Morgan also does an admirable job creating a mythology for gargoyles that is all her own.
*Calling proper English girls Gabriella and Ingrid seemed strange to me. Perhaps with a French mother Gabriella makes sense, but Ingrid? Really?
**She started a fire. By accident. Really?
***I don’t care how tragic the backstory. Luc is a jerk. Really.
Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor