Cover Image: Charming Young Man

Charming Young Man

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Member Reviews

*4.25 Stars*
This was such a lovely story. Eliot Schrefer is an incredible writer and absolutely captivates me every time.
“Charming Young Man” follows Léon, an aspiring pianist. His Mother and Sister are with him in Paris to support his career, though they’re barely surviving. Léon writes letters home to his childhood friend, Felix who he’s had all kinds of thoughts about. Léon finally gets his big break. Everything is perfect. Until it isn’t. This story is about love, self discovery and betrayal.
This was very good. My first experience with Schrefer is “The Darkness Outside Us”, which is one of my all time favorite books. While this was not as good, it had the same charismatic writing that makes you head over heels for the story. This novel would have been perfect if it was about 50 pages longer, as some scenes could have been more fleshed out, but regardless this book had beautiful writing and I throughly enjoyed it. I definitely recommend to anyone.

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Extremely well written, and I enjoyed that it's based on an unknown real person. However, I just needed a little more plot and I felt like that was missing. It was too easy to put down without a huge urge to pick up. But definitely a me thing!

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I had no idea I was listening to a historical-fiction-about-real-people book until Proust walked in. Then Sargent. And then I started googling about and was super impressed. It taught me something without me realizing it and I love that.

I love the author’s note explaining how he got to this story and what was and wasn’t invented. I thought this was a really good version of the truth events and gives younger readers the ability to discover something new.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book.

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This book surprised me, it was a YA historical fiction inspired by real people and real events both historical and in the author’s own life but (obviously) fictionalized and ultimately inspired by John Sing Sargent’s painting of Léon Delafosse.

The story was enthralling and dazzling with the egregious displays of wealth and power to the point of ownership over another’s talent. It’s also set in a time period where being queer/gay would result in ostracism from society.

Léon we first get a glimpse of when he’s quite young then we jump forward to when he’s turning seventeen but not yet eligible for patronage for his expensive musical education (and his family is poor). Léon is a likable MC who is shy, soft-spoken, modest and a bit naive to the world of wealth he’s surrounded by.

There are several men who end up being potential love interests, complicated power dynamics and the climax of this book is abrupt and jarring but it definitely hits the reader with a small glimmer of the impact it has on Léon.

This isn’t similar to anything I normally read but I quite enjoyed the story and learning a bit about the history that inspired it!

4 stars

⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Originally rated this as 2.5 stars that I rounded up to 3, but I've decided to round down to 2. I think if I hadn't just read a non-fiction book that spoke about many of main characters in this one, I wouldn't have known the real history. This book takes more than a few liberties with that actual history, and I was too distracted by that. Big enough problem, but not always fatal; one of my favorite movies about Elizabeth I - "Elizabeth," with the powerful Cate Blanchett - plays very fast and loose with the real timeline, is VERY historically inaccurate, and I LOVE the movie. (Cate was cheated out of an Oscar that year by her good friend Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Ultimately, I just didn't think the characters were all that convincing, but the book did have its moments. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I liked the beginning of this book but very quickly it became unbearable. Léon was so annoying & I feel like he never really liked playing the piano it was just something to do to help move his status up.

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Léon Delafosse's life takes center stage in the narrative, emphasizing his immersion in high society and his ambition to become a celebrated pianist. The narrator grapples with understanding the story's core, facing difficulty in forming connections with the characters. Léon's dedication to the piano seems obligatory rather than driven by genuine passion, and the story introduces numerous characters with unresolved storylines. Despite its intriguing elements, the reader is left uncertain about the story's overarching message or purpose.

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It's a strange feeling to read a book about a historical figure and keep thinking "Oh, I hope nothing bad happens to him!" and then remember that whatever happened is already in the past, and that this is a fictionalized take on a person's life. It's a strange feeling but also wonderful! I got instantly immersed in this story about Léon Delafosse's rise to fame in Paris society. He's portrayed with such sympathy and care that I kept going "he really is a charming young man and none of y'all deserve him!" There's so much longing, sweetness, earnestness, self-discovery, and wrestling with doubts, external and internal homophobia, and society expectations. Music and art take center stage in Léon's life, and I loved learning about the other pianists, writers, and artists who were influential during this time period. Some of my favorite bits are when Léon meets and interacts with the painter John Singer Sargent. Entwined with real historical figures are ones of the author's creation, who are every bit as dear and real. I can't help but wish and hope that Léon's life followed a trajectory like the one crafted for him in this novel. All in all, an enchanting read.

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This was so interesting! I didn't realize the main character was based on an actual historical figure until I read the author's note at the end. I'd be interested in reading more novels based on actual historical drama. I liked the cover as well.

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honestly charming is the best way to describe this book. Léon is a joy to read about as he tries to navigate this new world while trying to stay connected to himself.

and i need to fight every single person that wronged him because people were too comfortable being mean!!!!

i'm really running out of creative ways to say i loved something lol. but this was really enjoyable. i think Léon is going to leave an impression on me. he had this drive and motivation to him and his decisions. but he wasn't afraid of facing reality. he felt real.

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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.

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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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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