Jul 15, 2015

Review: The Gladiator's Mistress

Phaedra, a dutiful daughter of Rome’s most influential senator, has no choice but to marry a man chosen by her father. But a chance encounter with handsome gladiator Valens Secundus sends her pulse racing—and, for the first time, makes her wish she could choose her own fate. They make each other a promise: she’ll insist on having the right to select her next husband, and he’ll do everything within his power to win his freedom.

A gladiatorial champion, Valens has fought his way up from poverty to become a star in the arena. The only two things he craves are his freedom and the luscious Phaedra, both seemingly far out of reach. But four years after their fateful meeting, Phaedra returns to Rome and soon becomes a widow, and Valens answers to no one but himself. They’re finally free to explore their fiery passion—while evading a powerful and wealthy new suitor of Phaedra’s—until Valens must return to the arena one last time. And in order for Phaedra to control her own destiny and claim her love, Valens will need to survive the battle of his life.

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A lot of books set in Rome bring out the power of this city.  THE GLADIATOR'S MISTRESS instead shows the powerlessness of the women and the slave class and yet how two individuals rose above it.  Phaedra has always played by the book being the dutiful daughter and the dutiful wife.  The one thing she asked for herself was the right to choose her next husband but even that is dependent on whether her father will honor his promise.  

Valens has a good master and once he has retired from the arena, he is set free to care for his sister.  He finds that even as a free man, he isn't complete without Phaedra whom he only met once.  And even free and wealthy, he isn't of the social standing to claim her.

Ms. Bokal has a true gift of sweeping her readers into the story.  I immediately found that I really liked both Phaedra and Valens. I wanted to ring Phaedra's father's neck as he tried to go back on his promise to let her choose her own husband even as I understood that he was a weak man rather then a bad man.  I was holding my breath when Valens stepped back into the arena to save his sister.

She shows both the splendor of Rome and the squalor and I could easily picture myself walking the streets as both a slave or being carried about in a litter.   I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like a taste of Rome from the viewpoints of the underprivileged, the women and the slaves.


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