Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mark of the Gladiator by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane #review

Title: Mark of the Gladiator
Authors: Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing, 2012

I’m going to freely admit here that my love for all things Rome at present can firmly be blamed on watching the TV series Spartacus. So, yes, I was very much primed by the time the request to review Mark of the Gladiator landed in my inbox. And Heidi and Violetta do not disappoint in this offering, Mark of the Gladiator showing all the hallmarks that make all the Riptide Publishing tittles of a consistently high standard. This novel offers a heady combination of narrative, danger and sex, all in equal measures, in a way that feels like everything has its place and time.

Firstly, I’d like to praise the authors. Not once was I jerked out of the story nor could I tell where one author left off and the other began--their writing blends seamlessly. Also, I’m a bit of a history junkie, so hats off to the pair for immersing me into what felt like an authentic setting.

In Mark of the Gladiator we follow from the point of view of Anazar, a slave and gladiator better known to Romans as Cyrenaicus. But he’s a wounded soul, and his years of captivity have to a degree dulled his spirit. He is very much entrenched within his role of slave, and seeks to please his master in everything.

However, the opportunity to become a freedman presents itself when Anazar’s master loans him to another master in order for him to train a team of female gladiators, and Anazar does what he can to please his new master, Marianus. But what should be a relatively trouble-free situation, serving a master who seems to be near perfect, is muddied by the fitful presence of Marianus’s brother, Felix.

Rome wouldn’t be Rome without oodles of intrigue, and Anazar soon finds himself in a predicament, and his loyalty called into question. Much as on the sands, mistakes can prove fatal, and he finds himself fighting hard, not only for his own survival, but for the spirited women he has to train so that they too can stay alive. And dare he grasp out, against expectations, for the hope of love offered?

The characters in this novel are all too human, showing their virtues and flaws. The authors soon had me caring deeply for the fates of all involved. If you have a love of ancient Rome, then don’t hesitate in adding this one to your “to be read” pile. And the question that’s on my mind right now is will Heidi and Violetta give us another tale in the same setting? More please!

Read my interview with Heidi and Violetta here...

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