“Do not mistake gentleness for weakness, or confuse mercy with the inability to take care of my own.”The year is 27AD and Caelius has come to his villa in Fidena, the villa he recently inherited from his late uncle. Craxus had been a self-indulgent man and had allowed his slaves, gladiators and in fact, all of his property, to fall into ruin. He gave no thought to those who depended on him, spending his coin on hedonistic pleasures and giving little care to the future, but now he's dead and it falls on Caelius to put things back in order. As his uncle's overseer showed him around the property, Caelius was both angry and saddened at what he finds:
Priscus wrung his hands as he led Caelius out to where the men had lined up to wait. They were an even more miserable-looking bunch up close, ill-fed with the pinched expressions and hollowed eyes of men who had lost muscle and weight. No doubt thanks to his uncle and his coin-pinching ways. Why feed slaves three times a day when he could feed them once and drink away what he saved?To me, that passage speaks volumes to the kind of man Craxus had been and the kind of man Caelius is, and even though he is a slave owner, just as his uncle had been, I still found myself being drawn to him and wanting to know more about this Dominus.
His uncle hadn’t held to the same philosophy that the rest of the family did. That they had a duty to their slaves as much as their slaves had a duty to them. Still, he had not expected abuse on such a sickening, infuriating scale.
“They’re skin and bones! And filthy! What has happened to the coin I sent for food, fresh water and a medicus to see to their health?”
One of the gladiators lifted his head, genuine surprise flashing in his blue eyes. His brows furrowed as if he was questioning Caelius’s sincerity. After what he had likely endured at Craxus’s hands, Caelius didn’t blame him. His eyes wandered over the group and then came back to the gladiator, and their gazes caught. The man held his stare for a moment before lowering his eyes again.
Gaidres had lost so much to the greedy, arrogant Romans. He had nothing that mattered left; no family, no property, nothing but bitterness, and the only thing he had to live for was finding revenge against those who now ‘owned’ him. As far as he was concerned this new Dominus was no different from the last, and not to be trusted. While this man's words of outrage surprised Gaidres, he knew them for what they were - just words. He might have a new Master, but nothing else had changed except that now it was Caelius who would pay the price for what had been taken from Gaidres.
The Gladiator’s Master is the first story I’ve read taking place in ancient Rome during the legendary days of the Gladiators, and authors Fae Sutherland and Marguerite Labbe did a wonderful job of bringing that period of history to life. I enjoyed reading about the social classes, the ways of life, and the struggles of both the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’ but what really drew me in was the relationship between the slave, Gaidres, and his Dominus – or Master, Caelius. I found myself sympathetic for both men, who each in their own way was a victim of their times. They both had rules to follow, their lives being governed by laws and social status, and when it came right down to it, both were slaves, just to different masters.
While this story is incredibly hot, the sex scenes burning up the pages, what I loved most was the depth of emotions these men felt for one another; anger, hate and distrust, compassion, friendship and love… and I have to say that The Gladiator’s Master is one of the best M/M erotic historical romances I’ve read, and I will definitely look for more by these authors.
This ebook was provided free of charge by netgalley.com in behalf of Carina Press. This had no influence on my rating or my review.