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Charming Young Man

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Member Reviews

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I was particularly swept up in the historical references to Paris whilst travelling in France.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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**I was provided an electronic ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.**

Eliot Schrefer presents his newest novel, Charming Young Man, a YA historical fiction following the imagined life of Leon Delafosse. Leon was a piano prodigy in late 19th century France, who, at one point, was meant to be the next Mozart. Schrefer's story is a coming-of-age in part, following Leon as he leaves the poverty of his farming hometown and enters the conservatory in Paris to study piano. Leon grapples with social climbing and the need to secure a patron even as he is beginning to realize and explore more about his sexuality.

Schrefer goes more into the historical facts of Leon's life in his author's note, whereupon Leon tends to be a "side character" in the lives of famous figures including Count Robert de Montesquiou and Marcel Proust. I was grateful for the author's note in giving historical context, but also found that it made Schrefer's novel more impressive for its inclusion.

Schrefer was sensitive to the historical context of sexuality in the 1890's while also doing a solid job of avoiding placing modern interpretation of sexuality on those historical figures. I was not previously aware of Leon Delafosse, and was grateful for the opportunity to meet him first as Schrefer's character. Leon is a character that is easy to root for and easy to have emotional investment in, mostly due to Schrefer's attention to character development based on the limited historical context we have for his life.

I overall enjoyed my time with this book, bittersweet as the story had to be, and am happy to say that I would be interested in reading more about Leon in historical record based off of Schrefer's work.

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While this was a beautifully written coming-of-age and understated romance novel, I felt myself losing interest (maybe because I wasn't particularly in the mood for something historical, although Eliot absolutely took liberties with Leon's life to make it entertaining! I just struggled to get through it.)

I felt the romance between Leon and his hometown best friend Felix was a quiet romance, which I adore, especially for teens/young adults! It feels so authentic and Eliot wrote the longing so well! <3

I will continue to read from Eliot in the future, and this book was sweet, but just not my favorite!

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Eliot Schrefer's "Charming Young Man" is a poignant and powerful exploration of identity, transformation, and the search for belonging that will resonate deeply with readers. This novel is a captivating journey that lingers in the heart and mind.

"Charming Young Man" has richly drawn characters, particularly the complex protagonist. Schrefer's portrayal of this character's journey of self-discovery is moving and thought-provoking. Readers will find themselves deeply invested in his transformation and the profound questions it raises about identity and authenticity.

Schrefer's prose is lyrical and immersive, drawing readers into a world that is at once familiar and charming. His descriptive language brings the settings to life, from the bustling streets of New York to the lush landscapes of the tropics, creating an atmospheric richness.

"Charming Young Man" explores themes of identity, self-acceptance, and the desire to belong. It reveals the complexities of personal transformation and the sacrifices that come with it. Schrefer's narrative raises profound questions about the masks we wear and the lengths we go to in order to fit into society's expectations, inviting readers to reflect on their own journeys of self-discovery.

The novel's exploration of cultural and social contexts is insightful and relevant. Schrefer weaves these elements into the narrative, offering readers a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the characters. The book's portrayal of the clash between tradition and modernity adds layers of complexity.

"Charming Young Man" sheds light on the human condition. Schrefer's storytelling skill serves as a bridge between different worlds, inviting readers to step into the shoes of the characters and experience their struggles and triumphs. It is a book that fosters empathy and understanding.

In a literary landscape filled with coming-of-age stories, "Charming Young Man" stands out as a profoundly moving and intellectually stimulating work. It challenges conventions and invites readers to grapple with complex themes while immersing them in a narrative that is both enchanting and thought-provoking.

"Charming Young Man" will leave readers deeply moved and intellectually engaged. It is a book that not only entertains but also inspires contemplation on the intricacies of identity, transformation, and the search for authenticity.

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(Posted to Goodreads)

This beautiful book managed to fill my heart, rip it right out of my chest, and then begin to piece it back together again. The Darkness Outside Us was my top book of last year, so I went into this with high expectations. I was not disappointed. Eliot's Schrefer's top tier writing style (the sentences and descriptions are just so lovely) shines through here, just like in TDOU, but in a very different way. I would say that TDOU is very plot driven, while Charming Young Man is more of a character study linked together with events. The details of these specific events are kept to a minimum and progress in a very condensed way, but I think that is one of the best qualities of this book. It takes a good writer to hold attention on exploring characters versus taking them through a twisting and turning plot, and this book captivated me all the way through. I was very much glued to these pages, relishing in these very flawed, very real characters.

Our protagonist, 17 year old Léon Delafosse, is a gifted young pianist in 19th century France trying to navigate his way through Parisian high society while pursuing his passion for music. Equally significant, he attempts to find his way in the world as a queer person in a society where living outside the "norm" is highly stigmatized and scandalized. His life becomes entangled with Marcel Proust, a gossip columnist trying to climb the society ladder, and Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac, a wealthy, eccentric young man who has both a very vulnerable side and a cold, cruel one. Their motivations for their involvement in Léon's life unfold throughout the book, and boy is it a wild ride.

And then there's Félix, Léon's best friend, who we mostly see through beautiful glimpses of Léon's memories and daydreams as well as letter exchanges between the two. The way Léon plays his music, fueled by thoughts of Félix, gives this book even more heart. We as readers see their relationship through these moments, despite the two of them being separated by distance most of the time.

This book is all about Léon's journeys; through high society, through searching for where "home" is, and through discovering his true self and how to remain authentic in a world that punishes that authenticity. It's all pieced together so well. The pacing is a bit unconventional. Some moments are slow while others move very quickly. Many moments happen off the page altogether. But I never found it to be jarring or distracting. Once I began reading, I became acclimated to the ebbs and flows.

This book is marketed as YA, but I think that it also appeals very well to an adult audience (I felt this way about TDOU as well). The characters are messy, flawed, and real, as are their relationships. Their complexity is not sanitized. Despite Léon being only 17, he is thrust into mature stakes and circumstances.

This book is based on real people, as explained in the Author's Note, but many artistic and creative liberties are taken. The author acknowledges this very clearly. It's easy to villainize some of these characters and their actions, but because they're written in such a three-dimensional way, it makes the story feel more whole and complete.

The one thing I was left really yearning for when I finished was just a little more on-page time between Léon and Félix. I could envision and fill in the gaps, especially regarding a significant conversation I assume would have taken place, but I would have loved to see that moment unfold. But I can acknowledge that just because I want something on the page doesn't mean that it necessarily should be there. The pacing is already so careful crafted that I'm not sure if what I wanted to read in more detail would have flowed as well.

Overall, the authenticity of Léon is so clear, especially his exploration and struggles with sexuality. This is one of those books that I wish I had growing up as a queer person, constantly questioning and grappling with my identity. Thank you, Eliot Schrefer, for writing this book with such an honest voice and with so much care.

Thank you so much to HarperCollins Children’s Books and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC. I look forward to buying a physical copy when the book is released!

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Oh wow. I was so excited when I got this arc mostly because I am a HUGE fan of Eliot Schrefer. The Darkness Outside Us is quite possibly maybe my favorite book of all time. It’s my personality.

Although the tone for this was obviously quite different, the love encased in the writing is still there. Eliot is such a gifted writer and he imbues his character with soooo much depth. I’m not familiar with this time period at all but I was swept away with the writing.

Léon and Felix made me feel quite a lot. The romance here was understated and gentle. Lots of yearning and although separated by distance, they return to one another often. I am glad they Léon found belonging and I always love when I feel that way about a character at the end of a novel. I wouldn’t call this a romance just like I wouldn’t call The Darkness Outside Us a romance at its core. As other reviewers have said, they’re impossible to compare. But I enjoyed this just as well but in a different way. Elliot is definitely a “go to” writer for me when I want to ~feel something.

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Léon Delafosse is supposed to be France’s next great pianist. He’s the youngest student ever accepted into the Paris Conservatory, and has been studying for years. However, in 1890s Paris, it’s nearly impossible to make it as any kind of artist without a patron.

Enter Marcel Proust, a young gossip columnist who takes an interest in Léon. He takes him under his wing and introduces him to the right people. So, when Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac offers Léon patronage, he immediately accepts. But as Léon gets closer to his dreams, he realizes he’s getting further away from his original country roots. And thus, further away from Felix, the boy he might just love.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for an advanced copy of Charming Young Man by Eliot Schrefer to review! Schrefer seems to be excellent at writing characters who seem to find themselves in impossible situations. Moving from sci-fi to historical fiction might be an odd jump, but Schrefer has shown that he can masterfully write in both genres.

In the author’s note, Schrefer explains that he was interested in the story of Léon Delafosse after seeing his painting in a museum. After learning that Léon and Robert had a falling out, he was inspired to write this story. Not a lot of YA historical fiction is set during this particular time period, so it really was a breath of fresh air in that aspect. Even though I am no historical expert, the story felt well-researched and realistic for the time period he is portraying.

This book is generally more of a character driven story, showing more of what life could have been like in this time period for those that are queer. It’s a bit slow moving, focusing on Léon and the way he’s moving about society. The writing style also sort of fits with the kind of things that would have been written at that time, which helps to pull you into the story even more.

However, it is quite a short book, so it almost feels like maybe it was over a bit too soon. For the most part, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it, but it could have been fun to see more of an expansion of some of the background characters.

All in all, if you like historical drama, you’ll definitely enjoy this one!

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Charming Young Man by Eliot Schrefer captivates readers with its portrayal of Léon Delafosse's journey, drawing them into his world effortlessly.

Schrefer gifts us a fictional narrative that delves into the life of France's prodigious piano talent, Léon Delafosse. From his acceptance into the prestigious Paris Conservatory at the tender age of six, the story fast-forwards a few years to unveil Léon's struggles in sourcing a sponsor to sustain his tuition payments. Léon’s life takes an intriguing turn with the introduction of Marcel, a social events writer whose interactions intersect with Léon's aspirations. In order to keep climbing the social ladder Marcel introduces Léon to Robert, a figure wielding the potential to propel him to the zenith of high society or to end his starting career with the snap of his fingers.

Schrefer's skill in character introduction allows readers to quickly form opinions about the characters, with a few lines of dialogue from even the smallest characters, you instantly feel like you know them. The author maintains a realistic narrative, avoiding extreme events and unnecessary risks for the protagonist. While the story's pace slows at times to explore Léon's emotions, the climax feels sudden, and more depth to Robert's character would have enriched the ending.

Charming Young Man is a beautiful and memorable tale, showcasing a different side of Schrefer's writing compared to his previous work, The Darkness Outside Us. I recommend it with 4 out of 5 stars.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Katherine Tegan books for the eARC of <i>Charming Young Man</i>. All opinions are my own.

If you love the Moulin Rouge-era of Paris, the lushness of rich Parisians, the hard truth of the life of the underclasses, and just the general artistic mayhem all of that setting conjures, <i>Charming Young Man</i> by Eliot Schrefer is the story of a down-and-out pianist trying to socially climb his way into the favor of the upper class. Along the way he confronts truths about himself and his own life, and whether living genuinely is worth the risks and the sacrifices.

This novel is a lot of fun for history and literary history nerds. None other than Marcel Proust, the madeleine lover himself, plays a prominent role in Leon's up and coming place in Parisian high society, alongside such luminaries as actress Sarah Bernhardt, and painter John Singer Sargent (one of my personal favorite characters in the book and painters in real life). The prose is engaging (I think I read it in two days!), and you can't help but be invested in the story of Leon, a poor piano prodigy looking for a patron to secure funding for the rest of his musical education. The reader feels like they're getting their own glimpse into the lives of Paris's rich and famous at the <i>fin de siecle</i>, a time period known for its rich artistic, cultural, and political movements.

If you love queer historical fiction, give this one a read.

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Charming Young Man is based on real life pianist Léon Delafosse, and his attempt to "make it" in Paris in 1890. While studying his craft at the Paris Conservatory, Léon is looking for a patron to help fund him, as well as make introductions into the right circles. During this quest, he makes friends with gossip columnist Marcel Proust, and eccentric socialite Count Robert de Montesquiou. Both Marcel and Robert want more from Léon than he originally imagines, and Léon struggles with trying to appease both men, while also trying to navigate his own desires and ambitions.

I've previously loved Schrefer's The Darkness Outside Us and I was hoping I'd love Charming Young Man as well but this book fell mostly flat for me. I found the pacing to be somewhat off, and Léon's confusion and naivete got annoying.

The book is based on real people though the author doesn't claim it depicts real life events. I don't think the authentic framework for this story did it any favours though. It's a bit of a slife-of-life book, nothing much truly happens, and it's just about the vibes. Usually, I love that but unfortunately, the vibes here weren't great. I didn't like any characters except Léon's sister, and I felt the book dragged on a bit too long.

The premise was interesting but overall this wasn't a book for me. I'm also not sure if the ending was supposed to be happy or not but I guess it's nice that Léon is basically neighbours with Monet.

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The book opens with piano prodigy Léon poised on the precipice of greatness. Almost a decade of hard work is about to pay off, but despite studying at the conservatory in Paris for all that time, our young protagonist still feels like a country bumpkin. He doesn’t quite know how to navigate the upper class salons, but there are several charming young men eager to assist Léon. However, reputation is everything, and who he chooses to trust will have permanent ramifications on his future.

Léon is a likeable protagonist. He has a tender heart, and he wants nothing more than to reach his goals. He’s a lot humbler than one might expect, considering how talented he is, and that only makes him more endearing. He’s also meeting all sorts of handsome boys, but he still holds a tendre for Félix back in the village. Throw in the negative attitudes surrounding homosexuality in the late 19th century, and the angst and pining are inevitable.

The pacing could have been tighter and the language was a little too modern for the era and pulled me out of the story every time I came across an anachronistic phrase. That being said, I don’t think the target audience is going to notice these issues. And frankly, the last quarter of the book makes up for all that: I was absolutely riveted. Maybe I’m as naïve as sweet Léon, but I did not anticipate the plot unfolding in the way that it did. Good grief, what a denouement.

I would recommend Charming Young Man. It will definitely appeal to the target audience, and I am always in favor queer fiction.


I received a digital ARC of this book from Harper Collins/NetGalley.

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The Darkness Outside Us is one of my favorite books of all time, so despite not loving historical fiction generally, I was excited to give this a try and I ended up really enjoying it! It was charming and full of drama and bits of romance, and I found it immersive in a way I don’t always find in historical fiction. I felt the ending happened very quickly and wasn’t fully satisfying which is the only reason it’s not a five star read but the majority was a pleasure to read.

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I could not get into it. I read a few chapters and just stopped. Something about the writing style just didn't work for me. It might be that it feels too YA for me. Not what I was expecting, but I do appreciate the chance to read it.

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Leon Delafosse loves to play the piano, however, maintaining his education will require a patron to pay for the remaining classes. This is where he finds Marcel Proust (yes, that Proust), an up-and-coming gossip journalist, Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, his new patron.

Together all three men explore what it means to be queer in French society and Leon learns he must play the game if he wants to continue to play piano.

💫What I didn’t know before starting this book is that it’s based on three real people - Leon, Marcel, and Robert. This made more sense as some of the characters’ behavior didn’t align with previous action. But real people are messy and inconsistent, so looking back this, my biggest pet peeve about the book, is irrelevant.

This story was uneven in pacing and a lot of action happened off page, which made it difficult to keep up.

If you’re interested in an aspiring pianist, France in the 1890’s, and a queer love story, pick this one up.

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