Genre: Historical Fiction/Family Saga
For young Gastien Beauchamp, a life running his father’s farm feels like a prison sentence. He’s wanted to paint since he can remember, and only his mother understands the desire. Gastien is a natural artist, a lover of color, texture, light, and life, and he resolves to do whatever it takes to accomplish his dream of not just becoming an artist, but becoming an artist in the grand city of Paris.
Oh, and he also wants to become the best lover EVER. He just has to learn how.
When we first meet feisty Gastien Beauchamp, he’s being groomed to take over his abusive father’s farm, but this isn’t the life he wants for himself. He vows to make it in Paris, to someday own a studio, and to become the Parisian Don Juan. All of this is well and good, but there’s a problem—Gastien is dirt poor, and everything in Paris has a price.
Rowland gives us the tumultuous life of a French peasant whose fortuitous, sometimes unbelievable, ups are matched by hellatious, and often brutal, downs. Destitute, Gastien quickly goes from dirt-poor, bright-eyed peasant to a street-saavy beggar with seemingly unlimited good luck. Just when Gastien’s life couldn’t get much worse, he comes across a stroke of incredible luck that completely changes his situation, only to have his life crash around him again.
In the beginning, I had a lot of trouble connecting to Gastien’s character. He seemed too perfect, too good at everything. I hoped *cruelly* that the other shoe would drop, but I didn’t expect it to beat him into submission. Rowland doesn’t leave anything out. What Gastien endures on the streets is heart and gut-wrenching.
After a while, I started to mellow out toward him. Even though he is unbelievably good at everything, he started to become a little more human as he experienced his failures. As it turns out, though he might be an incredibly talented artist and lover, he’s not all that great at being on his own. It helps to balance him out, and made the book much more enjoyable.
Part of the difficulty connecting had to do with the writing. I wasn’t as drawn into it, even though Gastien’s story is quite an interesting one. Of course, that’s the subjective part, but I’d recommend downloading a sample to see if you and the writing get along before committing to the full book.