Lovers is a short novel set in prerevolutionary France (1749) that illuminates a relationship between Balthazar de Créon, a nobleman, and a 15-year-old shepherd boy, Sébastien. The two first meet when Sébastien saves Balthazar’s life after he is thrown from a horse. Stunned by the beauty of the young boy, and his talent for healing, Balthazar dedicates all his energy into training the young man as a physician. Balthazar’s motivations, however, are clearly twofold as he struggles to control his desire for his young pupil. Through Balthazar’s kindness, Sébastien finds himself transported into a completely different life, a life his mentor and admirer have made for possible for him. Very soon the two become romantically involved, causing a scandal at court. Flaunting his apathy at the king’s displeasure, Balthazar soon finds himself in a situation where he must choose between his love and his life.
Lovers is an exceptionally well written novel, managing to convey a great deal of action and imagery with an astonishing economy of words. At times historical fiction can be exceedingly heavy, as the author feels the need to fill the text with explanations and descriptions to facilitate a better understanding of the times. Arsand has mastered the art of writing the past without writing it like it is the past. One steps into Balthazar and Sébastien’s world and is enveloped into its reality with ease. Despite there being substantially less “meat” to this book, one does not walk away from reading it feeling hungry. The story itself is tastefully done, and the characters are flawed enough to seem very real. Sadly, as is often the case in stories of forbidden love, one in the pair stands to lose more than the other. An interesting study of character and love, and an enjoyable, short read.