Gastien: The Cost of the Dream, Gastien Series # 1 by Caddy Rowland
A story set in the turn of the century, Gastien is an artist and part of the ‘forward thinking’ generation: obsessed with the arts, sexuality and the changes that are encompassing the entire world. Set as a family saga, the author has released five books in a series that circle this family and their dramas.
So I was prepared for a more forward-thinking story in the historical fiction genre, and expected some of the sexuality and more ‘shocking’ (for the time) ideas to be presented. And often, the author manages to capture moments in the characters that feel very genuine. Gastien is self-absorbed, frustratingly so, and far too obsessed with his sexual conquests. With more than a few scenes that serve only to increase his sexual conquests, and do little to serve the plot: Gastien’s obsession with his sexual prowess and attractions to both men and women are wearing and while you often can hope he will find something permanent and real, they all begin to flow together and lose impact.
There are scenes of considerable dubious consent, and several moments where the author has expended far more effort in analyzing his psyche than was necessary: we have seen the missing pieces in Gastien’s psyche, we have a clear path to follow his intentions. This frequent insertion of information only served to halt the forward motion of the plot, and left this reader frustrated.
Secondary characters are introduced rapidly, although none seem to be developed in a way that would present their appearance as necessary or impacting the storyline, and sadly, most are forgettable.
I was reading an historical, and while the author goes to great lengths to explore and explain her reasoning for the dialogue misses and inclusion of phrases with meanings far advanced of the age, that was a huge miss for me: I understand the choice, I didn’t like it and I didn’t find that words like Okay and Gig served to enhance the “forward thinking” feel that was sought. There was promise in the story and even in the writing, it just needed another round of edits to tighten the plot, enhance and develop characters other than Gastien, and balance the pacing. There were some beautiful moments, and some lovely descriptions despite all of these issues: the idea is one that could make a lovely and gripping story, it just needs more polish.
I purchased a copy of the title for my own library prior to having the opportunity to read this title as part of France Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
When young Gastien Beauchamp flees the farm for Paris, the late nineteenth century bohemian era is in full swing. Color has always called to him, beseeching him to capture it on canvas and show people a new way of seeing things. His father belittled his dream of being an artist and tried to beat him into giving it up. The dream wouldn’t die, but Gastien would have had he not left.
He also yearns to become a great lover. After the years of anguish he has endured at the hand of his father, it would be heaven to feel pleasure instead of pain.
However, the city of Paris has a ruthless agenda. Unless a man has money and connections, Paris unfeelingly crushes dreams and destroys souls. With neither of the required assets, Gastien faces living in alleys, digging in trash bins for food, and sleeping where a man is often killed for his threadbare blanket.
Left with only his dreams, Gastien stubbornly pushes on. He vows that absolutely nothing will stop him, not yet realizing what keeping that vow might mean. Sometimes the “impossible” is possible – but the cost can be extremely high.
This book may be unsuitable for people under 18 years of age due to drug and alcohol use / violence and/or sexual content in a genre not specified as Erotic.
This excerpt is from “Gastien: The Cost of the Dream”, the first book in the completed Gastien Series (of which there are five books). In this scene, it’s Gastien’s second day in Paris. He left the farm at age seventeen, after an altercation with his father. It is 1872 and the bohemian art era is in full swing. Gastien believes he can easily find a job to cover a small room and one meal a day, plus painting supplies. Little does he know how brutal the city of Paris can be for one who is without money, education, or connections. He’s only starting to find out.Gastien left the church and started on his way. Surely there would be a job for him today. He should have asked at the art store! Maybe he would try that. But, no, he remembered the sign in the window, “Not hiring now.” He supposed a lot of art students applied there all of the time.
To change his luck, Gastien decided to take a new route, see a little more of Paris. He did not veer off far, just a block over, into the residential area. The streets were narrow, with many houses and apartments in them. Some were five or six floors high! It would certainly build stamina to climb up to the sixth floor every day, he thought. Gastien felt hopeful. He was as clean as he could get, and ready to present a happy face to possible employers.
All of a sudden, he heard someone open a window up above. As he looked up, a chamber pot was emptied without the person even looking down. Gastien was covered with the night soil of a family of four. He had jumped to the side as he saw it coming down, so thankfully his tote was not hit. But his clean clothes were covered in piss and runny feces, as was his hair. His face was wet from it. “NON! NON! FOUTRE, FOUTRE, FOUTRE!!” howled Gastien.
Someone opened a window and yelled at him to shut up. Gastien was gagging. He fought throwing up what little food he had eaten the night before. God dammit anyway, can anything go right for me, he wondered. Now what would he do? There was only one thing he could do, and that was clean himself up. He could not go looking for a job with shit clinging to his clothing! He kept gagging.
He ran in the direction of the river and went along its banks, looking for an area safe to hide by and wash off. That was not easy to find in the city. Finally, he found a spot behind some abandoned factory equipment. This sheltered him from public view, as it was around a bend. People on the other side would not see him. “FOUTRE! FOUTRE!”
He stripped down and waded in without checking to see if the current was strong. At this point, Gastien would not have cared if the current took him away. He felt about as low as the feces that clung to his clothes on the bank of the river. He dunked his head under. When he came up for air, he climbed up and grabbed his bar of soap. Thank God he had brought it along for yesterdays stinky clothes! He knew you usually did not wash clothes with a bar of soap. It was all he had, so he had packed it. He used it on himself. He scrubbed everywhere. As long as he was buck naked in the middle of Paris he might as well clean everything, he thought bitterly. That way, when the police hauled him away, at least they could not say he stunk!
Next he grabbed both sets of clothes and washed those. What would he wear while they dried? Then he remembered his coat. He would have to sit in his coat while his clothing dried. He finished washing the clothes and climbed out. Looking around, he saw some low hanging branches. He draped his wet clothes on those. There was a good breeze so they should dry at some point today. He had dried off quickly from the wind.
Suddenly he burst out laughing. Oh, if his father could see him now! There he stood, his bite blowing in the breeze, naked for all of Paris to see! Father would be convinced that he was destined for the life of a deviant for sure. For good measure, Gastien grabbed his dick and held it out. “Here, father, kiss this! You old trou du cul!” he yelled.
Gastien sighed. Putting on his coat, he sat down with his back against a rock, where he could keep an eye on his clothes. He could not believe the obstacles so far! This day was going to be completely wasted, without looking for work. He would be going all day without eating. Tomorrow did not look any more promising, as far as food went.
As Gastien waited for his clothes to dry, he drew. It felt good to use the charcoals. It felt even better to not to have to worry about someone seeing him drawing and beating him for it. For once, he had all the time in the world. The charcoal flew across the paper. He drew images of the Paris across the river, Notre Dame, the fat pig of a cook that offered to bugger him, the reddish blonde haired artist and his friends at the table in the restaurant.
Before he knew it, several hours had passed by. He looked at his drawings. They were good. Damn good! He had no doubt of his ability there. He hoped that for oil painting It would be just a question of learning the properties of oil paint, what you could and could not force it to do.
Gastien wiped his hands on the grass. When he checked his clothes he found that they were dry. He quickly dressed. It really felt good to be clean again! Gastien guessed it must be about two o’clock, judging from the sun in the sky. He decided to make his way back to the 6th and try again to find a job.
Once there, he met with the same success as the day before. Everyone had hired who they needed already. Gastien was left without employment.
About Caddy Rowland
Caddy Rowland grew up with a stack of books that almost reached the ceiling before she was five. Books, along with her vivid imagination, have always been some of her closest friends.
She lives with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart. They are owned by two parrots. Besides being a writer, she is an artist. One can often find her “makin’ love to the color” (painting) with loud music blaring.
Her goal as an author is to make readers laugh, cry, think, and become intimately connected with her main characters. She writes dramatic novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human.