Cover Image: Charming Young Man

Charming Young Man

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I wish I could have heard Leon play the piano! This historical novel set in 1890s France beautifully tells a complicated love story of Leon as he finds himself moving from rural France to the urban city of Paris. He feels out of place geographically and financially, yet persists to make connections with people that will help him rise in status. He encounters historical figures like Proust and Sargent on his way to becoming a nationally recognized pianist. Schrefer’s writing style is lyrical and beautiful. The moments he connects Leon’s piano playing to his persona life are delicate and thoughtful. The plot turn was a little obvious as it was foreshadowed early in the novel. I am not sure I like the ending, but totally understand why. The author’s discussion of gender and sexuality in the time period are important and clearly demonstrate the queer people have always existed. I highly recommend this romantic exploration of 1890s Paris. And find some classical piano to play in the background as you read.
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eliot schrefer has such a compulsively readable writing style which, at first, makes you want to consume this book all at once - but this is a book best savoured. 

learning about léon, his guilt and resentment of himself, the way he moves through the classes, loses himself, finds himself, makes most mistakes in the book and still remains an entirely likeable/enjoyable character to read about was one of the most surprising assets for me. but this book was a surprise in and of itself. 

a surprise in how much i loved it, in how much it hit me and how much it left it’s mark. historical books are one of my favourite genres, this cover is gorgeous and it’s queer so i really shouldn’t be as surprised but! the intersection between queerness and music and how we infuse the two has always been something so special and important to me (as a musician basically from birth /hyp) and this book explores it (not as the main focus but as a sub component) very well. the way queer musicians can’t help but fuel their love, their guilt, their desires into every note even when others can’t see it. 

léon is an intrinsically flawed character, and i mean that in the sense that he was always set up for both failure and grandeur at once which made his journey so special to follow. 

there’s one specific scene in this book between léon and his sister that really Highlights how this book just knows how to hit:

“I’m wrong everywhere I go, (…) i’ll always be wrong”
“you could never be wrong with me”

when i tell you this scene turned my bath into more tears than water you’ve gotta believe it. there’s something about historical fiction and knowing that whilst it Is mostly fiction, there are people and will always be people that feel so much guilt in an existence that isn’t and couldn’t be wrong that breaks your heart. but there are books like this, a truth like this shared between each page that slowly and surely can change it all.

if you’re looking for good historical fiction told beautifully and with feeling, pick this up!
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I love Eliot Schrefer’s writing and this historical novel proved yet again that his storytelling is amazing. 

The fact that this book is based on a real person intrigued me, specially after researching about Leon Delafosse and finding so many mysteries about his public life. 

I really liked the way the author approached Leon’s sexuality and how homosexuality in general was viewed at the time, in public and behind closed door. The rich boys who enjoyed the company of other boys could get away with a lot, while Leon had to carefully navigate that world of excess without stepping out of line. 

I also liked how both Marcel and Robert were clearly using Leon the same way Leon was using them, only for different reasons - Robert wanted the prestige of sponsoring someone talented, Marcel wanted influence and Leon wanted fame and money. 

One point that wasn’t so good for me was that I didn’t feel that Leon was actually passionate about music, he only did it because it was all he knew and his meal ticket. Also, Leon’s relationship with Felix. I didn’t see the connection between them, their strong feelings for each other. All of that threw me off a little and made me question the main character’s development.
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An interesting YA take on a real historical figure. Schrefer's first novel blew me away and while I enjoyed my time reading Charming Young Man, I had a hard time connecting to the characters and story until halfway through.

Schrefer may have outdone himself with The Darkness Outside Us to a fault. The characters in Charming Young Man are fun but lack nuance in their personalities that I would look for after reading his debut novel. The story however was fun, flirtatious, and a little surprising towards the end. I wasn't very satisfied with the conclusion but in a way that life leaves you sometimes. It did feel...intentional, and I applaud that. 

Overall, a good read.
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Eliot Schrefer is such a fantastic author with a way of writing his characters so that they feel so incredibly real.

Charming Young Man is a combination, in my mind, of the first half of Dorian Grey's tale with Nick from Great Gatsby. A young boy from a small farming type village with so much promise and such a bright future being sucked in to the world of glitzy high society. A boy who is too beautiful and kind of the sharp teeth and backstabbers all looking to use his neck as a stepping stool to higher themselves. 

The book does take some time to get in to what all is going on but as a lover of Historical Fiction type stories this was an enjoyable and quick read!
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This was a fun queer YA historical fiction novel from a new to me author with a unique setting and plot. I really enjoyed the characters, the conflict and the coming of age story. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the early digital copy in exchange for my honest review. I'd definitely read more by this author. Recommended for fans of Cat Sebastian or KJ Charles.
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Had a hard time getting into this one unfortunately. Felt like it often dragged, especially because so many characters I just wanted to get away from. The bits I enjoyed I really did love but overall this just wasn’t for me unfortunately.
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The author has a fixation on how Corsets are very BadTM that is both a historical and incredibly irritating. Paris feels like a very vague window dressing
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I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into this after being such a huge fan of Schrefer's previous book, The Darkness Outside Us. And, to be clear, this is absolutely the exact opposite of that in almost every way possible, though no less infuriating and haunting in its own way.

Charming Young Man follows the (kind of true) story of Léon Delafosse in late-1800s France, a piano prodigy studying at the Paris Conservatory after moving from the countryside with his mother and sister. Whereas the rest of his peers seem to float through life on their riches and family name, Léon must fight for every single opportunity he gets - until a chance encounter with gossip columnist Marcel Proust introduces him to high society, queer life, and the chance to be sponsored by the eccentric Count de Montesquiou. It's a complicated balancing act, especially when all he might really long for is the chance to return to his home in the countryside and a boy he thinks of every time he plays.

Schrefer has taken on an interesting task in his writing of "Charming Young Man," writing about a historical figure that interestingly little is known about outside of his teenage years, letters exchanges with friends-turned-enemies, and a portrait by a famous artist. It's a story that, in many ways, has an obligatory conclusion already written in. But Schrefer does such amazing work in how he gets there! Léon's anxieties and awkwardness as a young man unused to the intricacies of high society, trying to play a game that he has no interest in to survive while discovering his sexuality and who he is as a person during a very interesting time in Paris history when men were both allowed to be very open about their identities and yet not at all depending on their stations and privileges.

The entire story of Léon and his heartbreakingly innocent worldview in a society that just wants to devour him is so haunting - a particular strength of Schrefer's to get right to the heart of human motivations and crush you with the realizations. At this point, I think I will read anything he chooses to write!
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I liked this story overall. I loved Schrefer's previous book, The Darkness Outside Us, but this one just didn't hit the same for me. I liked the main character and I thought the story was interesting, but for me the ending was sort of rushed and unsatisfying. It felt like Leon, our Charming Young Man, was finally exploring his sexuality a bit just to be punished for doing so the whole time. I get that it's a historical fiction story, but I felt there needed to be some uplift at least, and I guess we got some of that in the epilogue, but not quite enough to satisfy me. 

I still look forward to Eliot Schrefer's future books even though this one wasn't quite for me. I love his writing and his stories are always interesting, so I look forward to future projects from him!
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I have to admit that after reading The Darkness Outside Us, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this. They are almost opposites in all regards, but they have a similar heart to them thanks to Schrefer. I didn't know who Léon  Delafosse was based on name alone, but I was eager to learn more about this young man through the author's lense. He comes across as a soft and somewhat innocent young man, struggling to navigate the waters of French high society at his time. This book is equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking and at times and I really feel for Léon  and everything he did to make his career as successful as he could. 

Now, I am aware that the author took certain liberties with history, but honestly, if the historical resources aren't there... they just aren't there. I will say, whenever the Sargent painting was brought up I immediately knew which painting they were referring to. My very expensive art history degree is finally paying off, but you do not need one to truly enjoy this book. 

Overall, I would recommend this to fans of historical fiction when merged with LGBTQ+ stories, bittersweet stories, and stories about wiggling your way through high society. I don't want to say to much about the ending, but I would consider it to be a happy one, even if it doesn't work out quite the way you think or hope that it would. I hope that Schrefer continues to write such beautiful stories and I can't wait to read them!
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. 

Eliot blew me away with The Darkness Outside Us. I think that most people did a double take to see his name pop up again on such a different book. 

Charming Young Man was both beautiful and infuriating. We follow Léon, who wants to become the next big pianist. He travels to Paris with his family in hopes of making it big. He hates being poor and strives to live like a French socialite. In the back of his mind, he can’t get over his childhood friend Felix that he left behind. They exchange letters frequently and Léon still thinks about him constantly. 

This was a slow paced and quiet book. There isn’t a lot of action like Eliot’s last book. We just get a boy trying to move up in high society and chase his dreams. 

This book crushed my heart. All the bad things that kept happening to Lèon made me want to cry. The epilogue made it all worth it. I usually hate the “sometimes what you needed is not what you wanted” and the “what you wanted was in front of you” the whole time cliches, but this was a sweet book that was a very quick read.
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Eliog Schrefer is back with his typical strong prose and lovable queer characters. Though I wasn't as blown away by Charming Young Man as I was The Darkness Between Us, I think this book will find a strong readership with fans historical romance, especially those looking for more LGBTQ representation in the genre.
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The writing is lovely. I especially loved the historical detail and the way readers can connect to the protagonist.
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I will never not love a good historical fiction story. Even more when it’s queer. Even if it is fictional I feel like I’m taking a look into the past. Swishing my long skirts and walking along cobblestones. This book took me there and it was an interesting journey to be in 1890’s Paris. 

The first half of the story kept my interest but it was hard to understand where exactly the journey was going. Léons emotions sometimes felt contradictory and it left me confused as to what he actually wanted. His relationships sometimes felt a little underdeveloped and maybe that was a part of my confusion in the first half. 

Overall, I liked the rest of the story. I didn’t understand the music comments but I was happily nodding along like I knew what it meant. The high society aspects were done well and I am always a big fan of hating the historical rich. I highly recommend reading the authors note, it made me appreciate the story even more.
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Thank you, NetGalley, HarperCollins Children's Books & Eliot Schrefer for providing me with an eARC of Charming Young Man for review. 

I enjoyed this book and I enjoyed Leon so much. The dream of a better life in your fingertips but love, romance and politics getting in the way. Robert is so extremely uppity that he captures the essence of a trust fund baby. Which is wonderful to contrast against Leon. I think that the book is wonderfully written, the story is tight and the characters deliver for me - even down to the flower vendor. Bless. 

I think that what I loved the most was the historical components of this story. The idea of queerness being buried in history and hidden away by not only queer people at the time - presumably for their safety - but also by historians, is so compelling to me. 

I was particularly swept up in the historical references to Paris whilst travelling in France. The author's note is beautiful and I love how this story came to be. I hope that our real-life Leon had a happy ending. 

Now this brings me to part of the problem. Maybe I am just so swept up in the real life version of this tale that I have lost any objectivity and it is just an average book. I don't think it is an average book, but I just wanted to acknowledge that I have been thinking about Leon and his painting for the last week and I might be too obsessed.
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Real Rating: 3.5/5 rounded down.

I really wanted to read this because "The Darkness Outside Us" was one of my absolute favourite reads from this author and this year, so I knew I had to check "Charming Young Man" out. Unfortunately, while I did like lots of aspects of this book, I was just a little disappointed overall, but I still did enjoy myself throughout with the parts I did like.

I did like the premise of the book. I know this story was based on real people and a painting the author saw in a museum too. The author's note did make me appreciate the story even more actually with the backstory of Leon and how much time and effort he put into researching. I loved the queer representation, how it fit into the time period and the liberties the author took in creating the backstory for these characters.

The story did take a minute for me to pick up, I did not really get that into it until like 150 pages into the story when the birthday party happened, so I was kind of struggling a bit to finish even though this technically was a quick read. After that hump I did start to get more into it. I felt at times in the beginning the book wasn't really going anywhere, things were happening, but it was reading like a slice of life, which is fine, but it definitely did drag for me. The pacing and dialogue seemed off at times which threw me off a bit, but overall, this was a decent read and the events at the end made me mad and hurt for Leon in the best way, and the epilogue while it was short, it tied up the story well.

Thank you to Harper Collins Children's Books and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I expected to love Charming Young Man because I've enjoyed Schrefer's previous work. However, I never expected to adore it quite this much. This was a beautiful, queer coming-of-age story set amidst the backdrop of 1890s France. Unsurprisingly, the writing was beautiful, and I was transported alongside Léon to the glamorous high society scene of Paris with its fabulous salons and glamorous parties.

While Charming Young Man had an interesting plot about Léon's attempt to secure a place as a renowned pianist, the focus was largely on his struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality and figuring out where he belonged. Léon was awkward, shy, and battling shame about his interest in other men. His journey was an emotional one, and I truly felt like I knew him by the end of the story. I especially loved the scenes of him playing the piano because of how he equated each piece with a memory or a feeling, which allowed the reader to experience the soul of the music and some of Léon's inner world. The writing of those moments was superb.

Léon had several relationships/situationships in Charming Young Man, but I definitely wouldn't classify this book as a romance. As he navigated Paris society, he attracted the attention of people who wanted to take advantage of his talent for their own gain, but they also helped him better understand his attraction toward men. For example, his interactions with Marcel Proust and Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac helped him understand that his sexuality was a valid part of his identity rather than just a perverted behavior to be excised at all costs. Their depictions left me super fascinated by these people, and I have already picked up a book written by Proust, which I'm excited to read.

Despite not being a romance per se, Charming Young Man did have a central relationship that I absolutely loved. Léon had such a beautiful thing with his best friend Félix. Their relationship was such an easy one, and I felt the depth of their connection despite them only having a couple of scenes together. The author accomplished this by interspersing letters between the two throughout the text, along with making Félix a staple of Léon's thoughts about home. The entire time, I wanted them to end up together, even though it seemed like that would only be possible if Léon gave up his dream.

Charming Young Man explored so many different themes. In particular, it examined the intersection of class and sexuality during this time period. Léon's experience was starkly different from the other men in Paris. The upper classes had the freedom to explore artistic and sexual pursuits that the poor, rural people did not, at least not without risking everything in the process. Léon struggled to maintain a place and often had to do things outside of his comfort zone to 'make it,' even though all he wanted was to focus on his music. I also appreciated how the story highlighted individuals who flouted the gender norms of the time. However, they were also largely afforded that privilege due to their class.

Overall, Charming Young Man was another fantastic novel by Eliot Schrefer. If you enjoy historical fiction that centers queer people and their experiences, this is a book you don't want to miss. I particularly loved that the story was inspired by the author's reaction to a painting of the real life Léon. I now really hope to see the portrait in person myself one day. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
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I am honored to share my praise for 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙔𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙜 𝙈𝙖𝙣 by Eliot Schrefer, coming out October 10th.  ★★★★✬ 4.5/5
Yes!  THAT @schrefer, author of 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘿𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙊𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙐𝙨, although this has much different pace and tone. 

This is the story of Léon Delafosse in 1890, a young piano virtuoso from the country who moved to study at the prestigious Paris Conservatory with his mother and sister.  He places alot of pressure on himself to provide for his family, perhaps at the expense of what he really wants.  His journy to make a name for himself, leads him into the halls and palors of Paris' High Society - with unwritten rules and ettiquite he was never taught.  Along the way he befriends a young gossip columnist, Marcel Proust, and eccentric Count Robert de Montesquiou - but are their intentions with him selfless or selfish?

Along the way, we also learn about his childhood friend and muse, Felix, which you can't help but love even before we meet him for the first time.

Eliot is a gifted writer, filling his work full of nuance and imagery, painting the picture of Belle Époque France.  Leon was so authentically written as a lost and innocent boy, discovering his queer identify and place between two societies when he fits in neither - his boyhood rural home or Paris' "high" society.

 "𝙷𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚞𝚗𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚊𝚕 𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚞𝚗𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎."

"𝙷𝚊𝚙𝚙𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚒𝚜𝚗’𝚝 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚞𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎; 𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚠, 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚎𝚏 𝚖𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗𝚝."

This is looosely inspired on real individuals but otherwise fictional.  Léon, Marcus, Robert were all real - although their true stories and relationship to each other have been lost to time...  Eliot shared in the author's note that this story was imagined after spending time viewing a Portrait of Léon Delafosse by John Singer Sargent (1895) - imagining his life and story.  Make sure to read the note at the end to learn more. (and if you're like me... deep dive into the Wikipedia rabbit hole)

Thanks to @harpercollins, @harpercollinsch and @netgalley for a chance to early review this story in exchange for an honest review.
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This was such an interesting queer historical YA book about Léon Delafosse, a young pianist who was predicted to become the next big thing in 1890s Paris. Léon needs the help of a patron in order to be able to afford to live and also create opportunities in society for him to play. It was compelling watching Léon befriend Marcel Proust and Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac and seeing the romantic feelings that also arose.

The location and time period of the story really came to life through Eliot Schrefer’s writing. Having Léon be new in the higher society settings provided an interesting look into the world. I enjoyed getting to see Léon’s journey with understanding his queerness and desires in a time when there was far less understanding or access to information than there is today.

I was expecting there to be far more of a focus on Léon’s career as a pianist. There are times when he practices or plays shows, but I felt like that aspect of the story faded too much into the background and it was just about society. Also, I felt like the conflict at the end was really rushed. But I did like how the story wrapped up in the epilogue, I would’ve liked to see even more of it.

Overall I had a great time reading this book. It provided an interesting story that I haven’t seen much of before in YA. Definitely check it out if it sounds interesting to you!
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