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CHARMING YOUNG MAN

Beautifully realized and a pleasure to read.

A young pianist seeks to understand himself while trying to gain a foothold in high society.

Seventeen-year-old Léon Delafosse is a piano prodigy, but he lacks the connections and know-how to find a patron and climb the social ladder in belle epoque Paris. Luckily—or, perhaps, unluckily—he meets the charismatic writer Marcel Proust, who introduces him to the fickle young Count Robert de Montesquiou. Robert could become his patron—and maybe more—if Léon plays his cards right, but Robert’s patronage comes with more perils than Léon expected. As Léon attempts to learn the social games of the upper classes, he also struggles with his attraction to other boys and what that means for his life and career. As related in the author’s note, the novel is based on the life of the real Léon Delafosse, a French pianist and composer who is largely unknown outside his wistful portrait by John Singer Sargent and his unfavorable fictionalized appearance in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. With these details and Delafosse’s and Proust’s letters as research material, the author creates an intimate, sensitive, gay coming-of-age story. Each description paints a sensual image of Léon’s world, from the rural idyll of his childhood home to his cramped Parisian apartment and Robert’s sumptuous town house. Knowledge of the era is not necessary to enjoy Léon’s story, but readers who do have that context will find even more to appreciate.

Beautifully realized and a pleasure to read. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780062982391

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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THE NOBLEMAN'S GUIDE TO SCANDAL AND SHIPWRECKS

From the Montague Siblings series , Vol. 3

An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage.

Adrian, the youngest of the Montague siblings, sails into tumultuous waters in search of answers about himself, the sudden death of his mother, and her mysterious, cracked spyglass.

On the summer solstice less than a year ago, Caroline Montague fell off a cliff in Aberdeen into the sea. When the Scottish hostel where she was staying sends a box of her left-behind belongings to London, Adrian—an anxious, White nobleman on the cusp of joining Parliament—discovers one of his mother’s most treasured possessions, an antique spyglass. She acquired it when she was the sole survivor of a shipwreck many years earlier. His mother always carried that spyglass with her, but on the day of her death, she had left it behind in her room. Although he never knew its full significance, Adrian is haunted by new questions and is certain the spyglass will lead him to the truth. Once again, Lee crafts an absorbing adventure with dangerous stakes, dynamic character growth, sharp social and political commentary, and a storm of emotion. Inseparable from his external search for answers about his mother, Adrian seeks a solution for himself, an end to his struggle with mental illness—a journey handled with hopeful, gentle honesty that validates the experiences of both good and bad days. Characters from the first two books play significant secondary roles, and the resolution ties up their loose ends. Humorous antics provide a well-measured balance with the heavier themes.

An enticing, turbulent, and satisfying final voyage. (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291601-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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