Review: The Beauties by Lauren Chater

The Beauties is most definitely my favourite novel by Australian author Lauren Chater. And that is no insult to her previous work, historical fictions that are always well written with interesting characters. The Beauties has those things as well. As well as offering a glimpse into the lives of women in an interest time in history, it offers a glimpse into the art world. And I think we all know that I'm a sucker for a good book about art. 

Set in the seventeenth century we meet Emilia Lennox, a woman who has lost everything due to her brother in law, and the politics of the day. She has come to court hopeful of asking King Charles to restore her brother's estate. The king agrees, but with a condition--only if she will become his mistress. Knowing that her looks are the only thing that will give her any kind of currency, Emilia agrees but only if her portrait will hang among those of the Duchess's Windsor Beauties. We also meet the Duchness in a duel storyline that takes place several years before Emilia arrives at court, and learn how Anne Hyde from the Netherlands become the Duchess. We also meet Henry Greenhill, the assistant to court painter Peter Lely, and who captures Emilia's heart.

The Beauties is a well written glimpse into a time and place where women have little agency, where their lives and reputations can be destroyed on hearsay and are forced to use what little they have--their appearance--as a weapon. I loved the glimpses into the art world. As I said, this is favourite book by Lauren Chater (so far). 

An excellent historical fiction.

Highly recommended. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of The Beauties.


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