Your books Cheri and The Last of Cheri have put me through the emotional wringer! But I mean that in a good way. It feels as if I have walked alongside your characters as they strolled through those lovely Parisian gardens.
"Between the curving garden path a stream of red salvia wound between banks of grey-mauve Michaelmas daisies. Golden butterflies flitted as if it were summer and the scent of chrysanthemums, strengthened by the hot sun, was wafted into the garden-room. A yellowing birch tree trembled in the wind above beds of tea roses, where the last of the bees still were busy." (page 53)
Your characters are so real! They were truly the best part of this novel. First there was Lea, an aging courtesan involved with Cheri, the son of her friend Charlotte.
"Thus, for a long time, she mused over her future, veering between alarm and resignation... She saw day follow day with clockwork monotony, and herself beside Charlotte Peloux - their spirited rivalry helping the time pass. In this way, she would be spared, for many years, the degrading listlessness of women past their prime, who abandon first their stays, then their hair-dye, and who finally no longer bother about the quality of their underclothes." (page 121)
Then there was the handsome Cheri (Fred), a play-boy type half her age. The exploration of his relationship with Lea in the first book was perfectly done. The inevitable breakup comes as he marries. However, neither has fully realized the importance of their relationship or imagined how difficult ending it would prove.
In The Last of Cheri, Cheri returns from the war, changed and aged, to a loveless marriage where he finds himself superfluous in his own household. Poor man...
"...he recoiled with unspeakable repugnance from the idea of the two of them living together in a home where love no longer held sway. His childhood as a bastard, his long adolescence as a ward, had taught him that the world, though people thought of it as reckless, was governed by a code almost as narrow-minded as middle class prejudice. In it, Cheri had learned that love is a question of money, infidelity, betrayals, and cowardly resignation. But now he was well on the way to forgetting the rules he had been taught, and to be repelled by acts of silent condescension." (page 259)
And, the ending? Although predictable, it was still very powerful. My husband, upon observing my mood while reading, said a couple of times "I don't think I like the book you're reading." Whatever... I loved it and can't wait to meet a new cast of your marvelous characters. Thank you.