When Roman politician Caelius inherits a stable of gladiators, there is one who captures his attention above the others…one whose eyes gleam with hate, pride and desire.
Forced into slavery by Roman greed, Gaidres can barely conceal his contempt toward his new Dominus. Gaidres has a plan: kill Caelius and end the lineage of the Roman family that enslaved him. For his plan to succeed, he must make a show of respect and obedience–even when called on to service his master’s desires.
Gaidres is shocked to learn that in the confines of his quarters, Caelius doesn’t want to dominate his slave, but to be taken by him. The sex is explosive as they break society’s taboos and, to Gaidres’s dismay, they form a tenuous relationship. Even when Caelius learns of Gaidres’s plans for revenge, he knows he can’t live without his perfect lover. Is he willing to risk it all to tame his gladiator’s heart?
The problem here is that the authors tried to write a modern romance in a historical setting. The characters themselves are thinly disguised modern men whose problems don’t really stem from the differences in their social statuses in the ancient Rome.
Gaidres could have just as easily been blaming Caelius and his family for a road accident that took his lover from him as he could have been blaming them for the loss of his freedom. And Caelius doesn’t seem to fully comprehend his position as master of his household or what the word slave meant to men of such stature in his time. He could have been a wealthy business man who lets his employees walk all over him and make the important decisions rather being the successful master of his house he’s supposed to be. There’s a temporary change in this towards the end, but it’s too little too late.
What words of respect are spoken, aren’t mirrored in action. In other words it’s all telling not showing. Whenever there’s an instance of need for the main characters to hide their true relationship, there are two careless moments when anyone could overhear or see them.
The rest of the world description details, including the latin vocabulary, seem to have been lifted straight out of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which had aired a year and half before this book was published. There’s nothing wrong in being inspired, but I wish it’d translate into better storytelling quality. Their authors’ note addresses the one historical fact I didn’t question.
If those are things you can get past, then you probably won’t mind the vilifying of the wife or the fetishist approach to m/m romance either. The book isn’t quite as bad as you could expect; some sex scenes are of the fade-to-black variety, but only some. The story and the writing were solid enough, and it’s not too difficult to see why others have loved the book. For me, the era needed to play a bigger role especially in the characterisations than it did.