Quintus Furius Varus is a renowned lanista, training some of the best gladiators in Rome. After his parents’ death, Quintus took over the training facility at a young age, and though he is a firm master, he also cares for the gladiators who are like family to him. When Senator Servius Augendus comes to Quintus looking for personal guards to protect him from a perceived threat, Quintus has no interest in taking on the job. But Servius puts him in a position he can’t refuse, threatening the safety of his men, so Quintus agrees to come to Neapolis to train guards for Servius’ protection.
Kaeso Agorix was taken from his home in Iberia and brought to Rome as a slave, purchased by Servius. When he acts out, Servius puts Kaeso under the dual control of both himself and Quintus. It is a punishment for both men, as Quintus is now responsible for Kaeso’s actions. But as much as he chafes under the collar of slavery, Kaeso realizes he has found himself a kind master in Quintus. The two men form a strong bond, one that soon leads to a sexual connection both men crave. Quintus and Kaeso learn to trust one another, and while still master and slave on the surface, begin to form a partnership of emotional equals.
It becomes apparent to both men that there is much more going on with Servius than he has led Quintus to believe. Servius’ political aspirations see him involved in some shady dealings and traitorous acts. Quintus is determined to figure out just what is going on, but he and Kaeso find themselves caught up in political intrigue and dangerous maneuvers that may leave them vulnerable. Now the men must race to figure out Servius’ plan and stop him before his actions threaten both their lives, as well as the well-being of Rome itself.
I am a huge N.R. Walker fan and will read just about anything she writes, so I was thrilled to see her latest book release. I’ll admit, I don’t read much in the way of Roman historicals so I was a little bit wary about this one, but Walker has never let me down and so I jumped right in. I have to say that Nova Praetorian was a fabulous combination of well-developed historical and beautiful romance, with a sprinkling of suspense to really keep things exciting.
First off, I absolutely adored Kaeso and Quintus together. Walker takes great pains to ensure we know that the relationship between the men is one that is longed for on both sides (in fact, Kaeso has to repeatedly reiterate his desire to Quintus who is careful not to take advantage of his position as master over Kaeso). I never had any doubt that the attraction between the men was real, and we really feel the passion and intensity between them. Even more, I loved the dynamic here as despite their outward roles, Quintus does treat Kaeso as a true partner in private. Kaeso is one of the few people who can question or challenge Quintus (and he does, often). Once these men fall for one another, they can not stay apart. They are sweet and romantic and sexy and sometimes even mushy in their proclamations of love for one another and so this one just swept me off my feet with the romance.
The story also deals quite a bit with the politics of the time, as well as the class differences between the men. Quintus was raised as a lanista, owning slaves who serve as gladiators. The way different classes are treated in Rome is something he doesn’t really think about too much, it is just a part of life for him. So I enjoyed seeing his growth over the story as Kaeso, who comes from a completely different culture, begins to open Quintus’ eyes to the ingrained views he has held. The book also gives wonderful details about life at the time and I found myself totally immersed in this world. While the book does have a glossary to explain many of the Latin terms, Walker does a wonderful job explaining things in context and i never had to refer back to it. I’ll admit, I was a bit worried going in here that this world would be a little over my head, but I found it so well developed and so wonderfully drawn that I had no problem.
While I wouldn’t classify this as a suspense novel, there is an element of intrigue built in that kept me frantically turning pages. We know from almost the start that there is more going on with Servius than he claims, and as the book moves forward, Kaeso and Quintus slowly begin to figure out what is going on and try to determine how to stop it. I loved the intrigue, the bit of suspense, and the high octane ending. I just adored how it all comes together and where these guys wind up.
So I can easily recommend this story to anyone, but particularly fans of historicals (or those who enjoy some Spartacus like I do). Walker has crafted two really engaging heroes, a nice suspenseful story, lots of romance, and a really nicely developed sense of time and place. Definitely give this one a try.