My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Caelius inherits his uncles villa and with it his gladiator stables. Even though Caelius is not a fan of blood sport himself, he sees the sport as a way to gain ground in his political career and decides to rebuild the stables. In the stables he finds a hidden gem, in the shape of a very proud slave. In spite of (or maybe because of) the fact, that the slave is filled with hatred towards his owner, Caelius still decides to take the man as his lover.
This is a wonderful story. The writing is lovely and flows nicely, the characters are well rounded, the sex is hot and the back drop of ancient roman society is detailed and richly described without a single info dump to be seen. Any necessary information is weaved beautifully into the story.
And yet, I did have some difficulty loosing myself completely in the story. This I believe was mainly to do with one of our MCs: Caelius. Caileus is surely one of the nicest, most considerate, noble and understanding men I have ever heard off. And that didn’t really ring true in my head.
I found it hard to accept this behaviour in a man of noble birth, in a highly hierarchical society, who believed that birth gave you the god given right to rule and own lesser men. In other words, I found the man I believed Caelius would have been – based on his culture, birth and the society he was a part of – hard to consolidate with the beautiful dreamer we are presented with.
I completely understand, and agree, with the authors, that Caelius needed these traits. He needed to be all that was kind and just in opposition to our stubborn, scarred, cynical and magnificent warrior MC Gaidres. But it still irked me.
The other reason, that kept pulling me out of the story, has nothing at all to do with the authors or the story, but is only to do with me. But I realised – whilst reading this book – that I mainly read contemporary MM romance for a reason. That reason being, that I understand the society, culture and time these characters live and love in – and therefore understand the societal stigma they are forced to navigate. In historical settings I loose that knowledge. Which means, that my stupid brain will spend a lot of time pondering if this is realistic? Would the society at the time accept this? Would they react to a same sex couple in this way etc.
Now, everyone knows, that same sex lovers were quite common – especially among the nobles – in ancient roman society. But how would the society and culture have viewed a pairing as is depicted in this story? Would an all male household (with children) have been effortlessly accepted? I kept being pulled out of the story to wonder (and google…). This however, as I already stated, is solely to do with my overactive brain and should really not reflect on this story.
Because all in all – this was a wonderful love story, with great characters and setting, which is worth a read and I would recommend to others without a doubt.