Warrior Prince is the sequel of a previous novella by J.P. Bowie, part of a two novellas anthology, Slaves to Love: Erotic Love Stories of Ancient Rome. Shame on me I didn't read the previous book, but the author took pity to the like me, and wrote a brief but comprehensive prologue. And since I'm a total looser with happily ever after, I'm almost happier like that, since now I know that in the first novella Lucius and his lover Callistus were separated, and I probably wouldn't like at all to read a story with such an end.
So at the beginning of this new book (novel lenght, so we have plenty to read), Lucius, a young capuan teacher, is mourning his lost lover Callistus; Lucius is from a patrician bu impoverished family and three years before he had the chance to meet a rebellious gladiator, Callistus, a Gaul who joined the Spartacus' mutiny. Lucius helped Callistus, but above all he fell in love; probably Callistus didn't want to subject Lucius to an unknown destiny and after an heartbreaking night of passion, he left. There is also the "little" problem that, at home, Callistus is a "prince", the only heir to the command of his tribe, and so he must marry and produce an heir. And Lucius, on his side, is the only caretaker of his family, a widow mother and two little sisters, and he can't leave them alone. So Callistus can't stay in Capua, and Lucius can't go in Gallia, the only reasonable solution is to break their relationship.
After three years, Lucius has seen the three marriages of both his sisters and his mother, and after "selling" himself to a rich merchant, he has also paied off his father's outstanding debt. So now he is free to do as he likes, and what he likes is to find his Gaul lover. In his quite naive mind, the perfect solution is to join the Roman's army which is fighting with the people of Callistus. After seducing, or being seduced, by a Roman's general, he joins the Army in a rather privileged position, but still he is not far from danger, and infact, before rejoining with his lover, he will have to go through some trouble. But all in all Lucius has a good star that watch upon him, and truth be told, he is luckier than a lot of other people in his same situation.
This novel has quite an epic feelings, battlefield and gladiators, starcrossed lovers and betrayal, it has all the ingredients for a good historical romance. It has not perhaps the cruelty that sometime I found in stories setting in the same period, even if some events that happen around Lucius are far from being "nice", but all in all, as I said, Lucius is lucky enough to always get out of trouble with little inconvenient. Maybe since Lucius arrives to me like a man willing to "compromise"; he has his ideals, and he puts love in front of all, but he is not an intolerant man, he doesn't see things in black and white. For example, he whored himself to pay his father's debt, but he saw it like a barter and remained friend with the counterpart. And when he falls in captivity, even if for a brief time, he faces that time with willingness and openmindness, even if he has not idea of how he will escape, if ever he will have the chance. Even in his private life, he has the same attitude, he knows that, if he wants to have a life in common with Callistus, he has to consider a possible future wife for his lover (even if we don't read of it...), but he again faces that chance as it is, an unavoidable event; and it's like that, the readers with "modern" mind has to not forget that this is an historical romance, and even if maybe homosexual lovers are seen in a different way in Roman Empire, there are still the bound of family to be followed.
Even if the story is often told from different points of view (Lucius, Callistus and even Flavius, the man Lucius seduces), it's Lucius' voice the one that is stronger. Callistus comes out like a loyal man, both to his people that to Lucius, but probably he would sacrifice his love for Lucius (but not Lucius, mind you), for the good of his people. He is a total unselfish man and he tends to protect Lucius, but Lucius is quite a stubborn man and tends to not stay where he is put.
There is also a lot of sex, very detailed and direct: not fancy words or embellishment, when Lucius wants something (since usually he is him that prompts) he tends to take it as soon and as much he can... there is even a sex scene soon after Lucius received a mild concussion on his head, talking about slow down things! But well, in such time of danger, you reach for what you can when you can...