Title: Mark of the Gladiator
Series: Warriors of Rome
Author: Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
Genre: Historical Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Published: November 26, 2012 by Riptide Publishing
After an inconvenient display of mercy in the arena, the gladiator Anazâr is pulled from the sands and contracted to nobleman Lucius Marianus to train his new stable of female gladiators. His new charges are demoralized and untested, and they bear the marks of slavery and abuse. Anazâr has a scant four months to prepare them for the arena, and his new master demands perfection.
Anazâr’s surprised by how eager he is to achieve it—far more eager than a man motivated by only self-preservation. Perhaps it’s because Marianus is truly remarkable: handsome, dignified, honorable, and seemingly as attracted to Anazâr as Anazâr is to him.
But the rivalry between Marianus and his brother, Felix, sparks a murder conspiracy, with Anazâr and his gladiatrices caught in the middle. One brother might offer salvation . . . but which? And in a world where life is worth less than the pleasures of the crowd or the whims of a master, can there be any room for love? As a gladiator, Anazâr's defenses are near impenetrable. But as a man, he learns to his cost that no armor or shield can truly protect his heart.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Passionate MM romance set in ancient Rome. So long as readers aren’t squeamish with violence, blood and rape then this is a good read with plenty of intrigue and compelling characters.
The Set Up: Gladiator Anazar is loaned from his master to Marianus, the new owner of a stable of female gladiators. But training women will be easier than dealing with the family battle between Marianus and his unconventional younger brother, Felix, both of whom desire Anazar.
Why I Read this Book: I’ve been an unabashed fan of the Starz series Spartacus so wanted to try this gladiator story.
What I Liked: This novel is way more than sex. There is a plot, intrigue, well-rounded characters and a descriptive historical setting of ancient Rome. Anazar is a sympathetic central character as a captured warrior turned into a gladiator with his life defined by the whims of his masters. I had no idea how Anazar’s life would turn out, let alone who his romantic lead would be. This isn’t an easy book to read with its graphic descriptions of slavery and the power games that Roman masters played with the humans they owned but it’s fascinating anyway.
What I Also Liked: The intrigue was very well written and kept my attention, even as the romance progresses. I don’t want to ruin the romance but it was well developed and told within the structure of slavery in ancient Rome to maintain the story’s integrity. The romance is emotionally and sexually balanced and has time to progress deeply which I really liked. I also liked the resolution a lot as the book devotes quite a few pages to Anazar’s life after the romance and intrigue are both concluded.
What I Didn’t Like: This is a very violent book, physically, emotionally and sexually. Slaves were property of their masters and the book doesn’t romanticize slaves’ lives. This means the book contains violence of every conceivable kind and this is hard for modern readers like me. Rape and torture should trouble readers so expect that in this book.
IMO: So long as you can stand the high level of violence, this is a good historically accurate romance.