Children of Bacchus

Title: Children of Bacchus
Author: Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M contemporary, fantasy romance
Length: 304 pages
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre


THE BLURB

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.

THE REVIEW

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.

15 comments

    • Hi KKM
      It’s his tail, I think. One of the more amusing parts of the book was when one of the heroes used his tail to tickle the other hero’s balls. I quite liked that concept :).

  • Bland…….*that’s* the word I was looking for when I finished this story. I was not a fan.

  • Jen, thanks for the review, you picked out lots of issues important for me when it comes to the buying decision. I’m with you in that I usually prefer my stories on the “difficult” or “gritty/edgy” side of things and an overabundance of sex scenes usually annoys me. (that’s why I can’t be a Sean Michael fan 😉 although a very few of his stories worked for me, too)
    *
    However, I heard a lot of good things about his “Farm” series, “Love means…no shame” being the first. I’m currently into the 3rd chapter of that story and looking forward to more. Hopefully it hasn’t the same flaws you identified for “Children”.

    • Hi Lilli
      I’ve heard lots of good things about AG’s farm series too, so much so that I’m tempted to read it myself, especially as I liked the Advent short set in the same setting.

    • I have read two out of three of the farm series and most of the conflict is internal as opposed to serial killers, nasty bosses, harassment, etc. Sometimes I like the gritty stuff but I also enjoy books that are just a couple trying to make their way as a couple. To me that’s probably more realistic, most of us lead pretty boring lives on the whole. LOL I think he does that well. I also didn’t find them overkill on the sex, not that I noticed and I usually do.
      *
      Just not sure the concept of the one you reviewed is ringing my bell.

      • Hi Tam
        Wave has passed me the first farm book and I’ll see how it compares to this. I don’t mind stories where the focus is on the relationship between two men. That can be conflict within itself, if done right.

  • Good detailed, thoughtful review, Jenre! You said, “I like fast paced books with lots of conflict and realism.” You and I are exactly alike on that. I just reviewed a book recently that lost me by page 40 (though I did manage to finish it) because it had no real conflict. When I reviewed it, I got comments from others indicating that they were fine with a gentle, low-key book without much conflict. Big eye-opener for me!

    • Thanks, Val :).
      *
      I can understand why some readers may like the more gentle stuff with little conflict. If you live a fast-paced, stressful life then you might not want to read stressful situations in your fiction.

  • I’ve read a few of Andrew’s works and will admit to enjoying parts of his stories in just about every work read. However, some of the downsides are just what you’ve pointed out in this book — over abundance of sex (I liken them to commercials on late night TV and just as easy to skip or ignore), weak conflicts and easy resolutions.

    *

    However, having said that, I do know that many – MANY – people enjoy his work in its entirety. I also understand that Andrew is a very nice guy in person, and I think that’s projected in his stories.

    • Hi Merith
      I agree that Andrew Grey has lots of fans – he’s a big seller at ARe and other book sites. Perhaps the reasons I’ve given for not liking the book are exactly what appeals to some readers. In today’s day and age where there’s so much bad stuff in the world, I can understand those who want to read books where everything is resolved easily and all the characters live in a loving and accepting society.
      *
      After all, the happy ending is one reason why I read romance stories myself. I just like the journey my characters take to have a little more bite to it.

      • I stumbled into M/M ebooks via fanfiction, and fanfiction is fraught with what’s one person’s squick is another person’s kink.

        *

        Agreed, there are a lot of stories out there written for that gentle, sentimental escapist who enjoys the tender side of romance.

        • You are right Merith, what works for some doesn’t work for others, something that’s been proven time and again on this site :).

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