Camilla Beauregard is a Belle. Belles are elite because they control beauty in the land of Orleans. Everyone here is born with gray skin and red eyes. Only Belles can change their appearance. Camilla spent years working to become the favorite, the Belle of the royal family. But once she ends up in the royal palace, the politics of the kingdom changes her perception on everything. Her life is not about the carefree beautification of the royals, it’s dangerous. Camilla must choose to risk her own life or maintain the status quo…but neither choice is easy when she has to consider the consequences of her actions. Desperate to save Orleans from a tyrant and her sisters from a more horrible future, Camilla takes the fate of the land in her own hands.
We have conflicting thoughts about this book. On the one hand, we really enjoyed the imaginative storyline. The plot was unique in that it tackled important issues like societal perceptions of beauty— but with a magical flare. The world of Orleans was well described and we were pulled in by Camille’s description of her time at court. We especially enjoyed how Clayton described the belle process. Her interpretation of societal expectations for appearance, weight, fashion, etc. were spot on and challenged the reader to think critically about how this theme applies to our own world. On the other hand, we did not love most of the characters, and there were a lot of story points that fell flat with us.
Camille was by far the bright spot of the cast of characters. She was strong, brave, and determined. She also loved her sisters and genuinely cared about them— even Amber, who was by far the worst of the belles. She also was a dynamic character with flaws. She found herself jealous of her sisters and felt a lot of pressure to become the favorite. We found it refreshing that Camille wanted to challenge societal norms by making curves and imperfections “on trend” for her clients. Camille’s sisters were rather bland, but there were a few that stuck out. The villain, Princess Sophia, was also truly a horrible person and was incredibly unlikable. Which, we get is the point of a villain, but there is nothing redeemable about her at all.
Let’s talk love interests. There kind of were none. First up was Remy, Camille’s guard, who was quiet and kept to himself for the most part— unless he was butting heads with Camille over her safety. The second guy— our favorite— was Auguste, who was witty and kind of a jerk. He had great banter with Camille and palpable chemistry, but we are not entirely sure where their relationship is headed. There was a lot of build up that led to one kiss, and that one kiss fell flat. But, there is hope for them in book 2, The Everlasting Rose.
Overall, this was a book with an interesting plot that fell short of our expectations. We think this book could’ve been a hundred pages shorter if the author had cut out unnecessary fluff. The ending was the best part, though, and definitely left us hanging!