A guest review by Jenre
When Travis inherits the title to a large tract of unspoiled woodlands from his estranged father, he travels there and meets Cembran, a solitary figure who had been driven from his home. But the handsome man who captivates Travis is much more than he seems – he is a magical being, a satyr, and he awakens in Travis realistic, erotic dreams the like of which he has never experienced.
What Travis and Cembran don’t expect is for the dreams to bind them together and warn them of danger – threats against the magical woodlands from developers, against Cembran’s heritage and life with his people, and against Travis and Cembran’s growing love for one another.
It’s the hand of Bacchus himself that leads them into a life with one another: building a family, establishing a home, and battling old demons. And when the dreams return to foretell another threat to their happiness, it will take Cembran, Travis, and all those they love to save not only the satyr community and its lands, but the permanent future Travis and Cembran hope to live together.
Andrew Grey is an incredibly prolific and popular m/m author. I’ve not read any of his longer books but I have read quite a number of his short stories and found them to be fairly decent reads. This is the first novel length book in his Children of Bacchus series which began with the Christmas short, Winter Love.
The story begins with a prologue. It’s long ago and Cembran, a Swiss shepherd, awaits his lover Gathod in his small shelter on the hillside. They share a night of passion but when Cembran returns to his home in the morning he discovers that his father knows about his relationship with Gathod and gives him an ultimatum: Marry a woman of his father’s choosing or leave their village forever. Heartbroken, Cembran chooses exile and is even more upset when Gathod refuses to come with him, choosing the safety of the village over his love for Cembran. The story then moves to the present day when we meet teenage Travis whose recently deceased uncle has left some land to his father. Over the next few years Travis visits a small lake on this land time and time again, finding peace and tranquillity there away from his overbearing father. During one visit Travis meets a man who runs a farm on the land. Little does he know that one day he will fall in love with this man, who turns out to be Cembran, and discover his secret – that Cembran is actually a half-Satyr and hundreds of years old.
This book is structured in two halves, almost like two novellas placed together and linked by the characters of Cembran and Travis. I was quite relieved to discover this because at one point I couldn’t understand why Cembran and Travis’ relationship was progressing at such a great speed as they meet, exchange life stories and fall in love almost within the first 50 pages of the book. The first half of the book concentrates on Travis and Cembran and resolving the issues that Cembran has with his father, and the second half focuses on the two men building a new community of Satyrs on the piece of land.
Whilst I thought that the ideas contained in the book were on the whole very original, my overall feeling about Children of Bacchus was that it was very bland. For example, with the exception of Cembran’s father, everyone in this book is ‘a nice person’. Everyone. Even the so-called bad guy in Joe the property developer turns out not to be so bad after all. They all love each other, are kind and considerate of one another, treat each other with respect, apologise for any wrongs, never lose their temper and are happy people for most of the time. In other words they were all rather dull. They also live in a gay and satyr utopia where there is only acceptance from outsiders over the fact that most of the group are gay and many of them are a different species from human.
This blandness extended into the sex scenes between Cembran and Travis. There were a lot of sex scenes between these men and in my opinion a number of them could have been cut without any harm to the plot. Each sex scene was very similar in the way it was written, with the only difference being who ended up on top or whether the sex would be penetrative or not. The same phrases came up over and over again to the extent that I had a mental check list of phrases that I began to look out for whenever a sex scene came up. I have to admit that long before the end of the book I began to skim read the sex scenes in favour of moving onto the next bit of plot because I found myself unable to care about the sexual pleasure of the characters.
One final negative point, which again contributed to the blandness of the book is that every single complication in the book is resolved quickly, easily and with very little bother for the characters. There were also a number of ‘convenient’ moments or characters written into the book just so that any complications could be easily dealt with and we could go back to the sex. One of the characters is a lawyer so he is able to deal with any legal stuff, another is a cop so he can deal with any lawbreaking. Even the god Bacchus appears to make things better for our heroes at a couple of points. The satyrs also have special powers which turn out to be useful in preventing any nasty stuff from happening to our heroes. Every time I thought things were going to get interesting, I was disappointed to find that nothing was allowed to come in the way of this ideal world created by the author where satyrs can live and love each other.
I know I’ve been quite harsh in my assessment of this book, and you are probably wondering why it gets a grade of three when I found it such a struggle to read. Partly my grade is based on the knowledge that many, many readers of this site will probably love this book. It has a sweetness and gentle tone to it that I found bland but other readers might enjoy. I like fast paced books with lots of conflict and realism and this book just wasn’t like that. The pace was slow, the characters nice, the plotting solid. In my opinion it was a pretty unremarkable book with quite a bit of missed potential as the focus remains mostly on the emotional journey of Travis and Cembran. Having said that, there were parts that I did like about the book, especially the relationship between Steven and Brock.
If you are the sort of reader who gets overly anxious when bad things happen to the characters in a book, then Children of Bacchus will be an ideal book for you to read. Personally, it didn’t work for me and I had to force myself to finish the book.