I received Seduced by the Gladiator for review from the publisher. It's not a book I would normally pick up because I find the gritty, harsh world of the Gladiators to be, well... gritty and harsh. In fact, that whole time period is so barbaric that sometimes I can't bring myself to believe it was real. I don't want to believe it. How can anything good exist for anyone other than the most elite of society? So I began this book with much trepidation, but by the end, I was pulled into the world, invested in our hero and heroine, and wanting to see them be together, even if that meant in death.
This was a pretty tough story to read, at times. The way slaves were treated, how humans had to fight one another to survive, just for the pleasure, the entertainment of the upper classes. Even now I'm shaking my head and the thought of it. If I didn't know this was all true, I would think the author had a pretty twisted imagination!
But I digress.
I won't recap the synopsis, but Seduced by the Gladiator gives us a glimpse into what life was like for slaves, Gladiators, merchants, rulers... the day to day kind of living, whether filthy and impoverished or extravagant. It's a well written story, told in the first person from Lilia's point of view. There was quite a bit happening right from the start, but the pace was slow due to the necessary world building and plot layout. It was all very interesting and the further along the story went, the more invested I became.
Lilia is a strong woman. Of course, she has to be. She's the only female Gladiator and that makes her an icon for some, and a target for others. I had a hard time connecting with her at first because she's so determined. So strong. So independent. But the more I read, the more I came to realize that in her world, to be otherwise would mean death. At this point, I not only came to care about her, but to respect her.
Christus is definitely a swoonworthy, tormented hero. He had had a good life, a wife and a child, and it had all been brutally taken away when they were slain by a neighbor who wanted Christus's land. One thing leads to another and Christus is sold into slavery, and then, like Lilia, sold to this ludus to be trained as a Gladiator. Once he sees Lilia, the petite but fierce warrior, you can imagine how protective he became. Unfortunately, that wasn't always a good thing, and led to more than a few problems between them.
As I said, the story started on the slow side, but once it picked up, it did so with a vengeance. The fight scenes were exciting and, when I allowed myself to think about why they were there, also heartbreaking.
And heads up! There's a lot of sex in this book, and I do mean a lot. The most explicit of it takes place between Christus and Lilia, but there are also scenes with anal sex, an orgy and even some spanking.
If you're a fan of the movie Gladiator, or the STARZ original series, Spartacus, you'll want to check this out. It's gritty, brutal, barbaric...and it's honest. It's also a very, very sexy story, and I might even go so far as to say it's an erotic novel. The ending is sweet, the happily ever after is well deserved - and no, they don't have to die to get it. When I'm in the mood for something given to the darker side of humanity, I'll definitely be looking for more from this era by this author.
You might have noticed that I capitalized the word Gladiator throughout my review. I did so out of respect for those real men and women who had no choice but to fight or die.
My thanks to Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.