Seventeen-year-old Pelonia is a young Christian woman living near Rome in 81 AD. She lived a comfortable life, sheltered from the dangers faced by Christians in Rome, until her greedy uncle had her father murdered and sold her into slavery. She is brought to Rome, where she is purchased by Caros, a former gladiator. Though still a young man, Caros has lived a difficult and violent life. After witnessing the horrific deaths of his family, he was sold into slavery at the age of fifteen and trained as a gladiator. Having won his freedom in the arena, he is now a lanista and runs a school where he trains gladiators.
When Caros sees Pelonia for sale, he is drawn to her beauty and innocence, decides she must be his, and purchases her to be a slave in his household. But he is unwilling to force her, and begins something like a courtship with her, determined to win her heart. Soon, he realizes she is the only person with whom he truly feels at peace. But although she is attracted to Caros, and realizes that she does truly love him, Pelonia fights her feelings, because he is not a believer in her faith, and she is determined to escape and find her surviving family so she can live as a free woman again.
The Gladiator is a wonderful story of faith and love set in Ancient Rome, a unique setting for a historical romance. Although a first time writer, author Carla Capshaw does a wonderful job of bringing the setting and characters to life, and I look forward to reading more from her. I highly recommend this book to readers who like inspirational romances or historical romances with unusual settings.