Although it only look me just under two hours to read Arsand’s slim novella, the essence of the book has stayed with me for days. This relatively concise work centers on a disastrous love affair between wealthy aristocrat Balthazar de Créon and peasant worker Sébastian Faure during the time of Louis XI. The men are exceptionally gifted to feel love, but
they are forced to bear the ultimate burdens of their forbidden desires.
In short, poetic chapters that abound with imagery, Lovers captures the physical and emotional evolution of the two men in an age where the love "that dare not speak its name" was considered the “devil’s work,” and when a more conditioned and somewhat more enlightened age was but a pipedream. The author describes in detail Sebastian’s dream-like existence.
The placid, contemplative boy feels both terror and joy when he first spies two men together, their bodies interlocked in an eloquent and furtive dance of lovemaking.
Sebastian’s conflicted inner feelings are put to the test when he helps three proud men who stand in their plumed hats. Making their acquaintance in a volatile mix of fear and terror, he
is drawn to the fourth man--Balthazar de Créon who marvels at Sebastian’s knowledge of the “healing powers.” Filled with an irrepressible desire to touch and to feel the boy, Balthazar whispers to Sebastian: “I am yours.”
It doesn’t take long for tongues to start wagging. The Faures are dismayed and appalled at having “a buggerer” for a son and grimly predict that he will “burn at the stake one day.” At first, Balthazar’s mother Anne de Créon is curious yet skeptical, then horrified that her son is in no hurry to get back to Versailles, where an impatient
king begins to suspect him of plotting rebellion, or of indulging in some sort of “scandalous pleasure.”
Rumors from Paris spread and eventually reach the de Créon chateau, branding Balthazar as seducer of pretty boys, a werewolf, and a vampire. The Princesse grows more anxious when her precious son is labeled a monster and Sebastian a sorcerer, the whole affair perpetuating her fear that her son’s life will end in flames.
A sense of the degraded, cruel, and forbidden lays over all as Arsand weaves the voices Sebastian, Balthazar, Anne de Créon, and others into a chorus of disbelieving passion and cold eighteenth-century morality that reflects the author’s major theme: the disappointment, shame, and permanence of love.
Anne de Créon proves brilliant at evasion as her poor son is pitted against the gritty circumstances of the timem, judged to be a devil's creature and doomed to hell as a “buggerer and sodomite.” Sebastian adores Balthazar, but his fidelity always seems to hang by a thread. To his detriment, he ends up alone in his silence and grief as he tries to find a way through the virtue that has been forced upon him by misfortune.
We watch horrified at how the truth is distorted by the powerful and how superstitious people project their thoughts onto what they are told. Playing out in a literal quicksand of fear, Lovers is a gathering storm of recrimination and anger, where the multifaceted cruelties of those who hate same-sex love only increase the intentional falling of the lovers’ dominoes.