Author ~ Ann Gallagher
Published ~ 5th November 2016
Genre ~ Historical M/M Romance
Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.
But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.
When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion.
For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.
This 52,500 word novel was previously published under the pseudonym L.A. Witt, and has been lightly revised.
I have to admit that I read this book several times in its previous incarnation so I was gagging to read it again partly to see if any changes had been made but mostly because it was just that good! I’m pleased to be able to report that my feelings about the book haven’t changed and I enjoyed it all over again, but that’s not a proper review, is it?
Firstly the period. The Romans – Republic or Empire – hold a fascination for me as a totally alien environment, yet one where one can see the beginnings of customs, laws and institutions that are common today. But it was a harsh and dangerous world where human life was cheap and the taking of it had been turned into a vicious and lucrative spectator sport. The author describes the life endured by gladiators with a precise economy that impressed. There’s a lot of information to get across but it was done as part of the narrative rather than info-dumped, which is a skill not all historical authors possess.
Secondly the characters. Protagonist Saevius is a veteran survivor of many lethal engagements whose brief freedom is cut short by the paranoia of a rich man. Calvus admires Saevius for his hardihood and for his status as a left handed fighter, but is willing to risk Saevius’s life by returning him to the chancy world of the gladiators training camp. Saevius is given an assignment, to discover which of the gladiators is servicing Verina, Calvus straying wife. That she may be hiring a gladiator for sex is not the problem. Gladiators are slaves and slaves don’t really count. What upsets Calvus is that he suspects that Verina may be seeing Drusus, the lanista [trainer] and a free man but of terribly low status with a reputation for savagery. For Verina to be boffing a pleb would be very damaging to Calvus’s reputation and he is honour bound to take revenge if this is so. Saevius is sent to spy on Drusus and the rest of Drusus’s organisation and, one suspects, would eventually be required to kill Drusus if what Calvus suspects is true.
But Drusus is not at all what Saevius expects. He’s young, handsome, slender and has a knack for making Saevius feel on edge, terrified and aroused. It doesn’t take Saevius long at all to decide that he’d sooner have Drusus’s favour than Calvus’s and begins to tread a very edgy path where he tries to support one without the other finding out. A further complication – Drusus knows he’s being spied on and sets his men against each other in the hope they will solve the problem for him.
There’s everything one might expect in a novel about gladiators plus some twists that give the story a lot of extra pizazz. One point to consider for potential readers – there’s no on page sex which didn’t detract from the story at all as far as I was concerned. This is a terrific historical novel, depicting in full colour smellovision a way of that is mercifully over. Highly recommended.
Meet Ann Gallagher
Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.