Mark of the Gladiator by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

16166511Title: Mark of the Gladiator

Series: Warriors of Rome, Book #4

Author: Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

Genre: Historical

Length: Novel

Publisher: Riptide Publishing (December 3rd, 2012)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥4.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Thommie

Blurb: After an inconvenient display of mercy in the arena, the gladiator Anazâr is pulled from the sands and contracted to nobleman Lucius Marianus to train his new stable of female gladiators. His charges are demoralized and untested, and they bear the marks of abuse. Anazâr has a scant two months to prepare them for the arena, and his new master demands perfection.

Anazâr is surprised by how eager he is to achieve it—far more eager than a man motivated only by self-preservation. Perhaps it’s because Marianus is truly remarkable: handsome, dignified, honorable, and seemingly as attracted to Anazâr as Anazâr is to him.

But a rivalry between Marianus and his brother sparks a murder conspiracy, with Anazâr and his gladiatrices caught in the middle. One brother might offer salvation . . . but which? And in a world where life is worth less than the pleasures of the crowd or the whims of a master, can there be any room for love? As a gladiator, Anazâr’s defenses are near impenetrable. But as a man, he learns to his cost that no armor or shield can truly protect his heart.

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Review: What a lovely book this one was, so utterly captivating and enthralling in its theme. Gladiators are generally a beloved topic of mine, but this book was not merely a fantasy, it was a full on literary work, with quite some research covering its background and a truly fascinating story.

Anazar, a once upon a time Numidian warrior, now a fierce gladiator finds his life’s thread to be quickly shortening as he no longer finds a reason to live. Yes, of course, in the middle of the battle when his instincts take over, he fights with all he has, but he is quickly running short on that. His owner is deeply dissatisfied and lends him over to a man who has recently come to own his own gladiator team. Female gladiators. He is in need of a trainer and one that will not have a mind to take advantage of the women. Anazar is the perfect man for that on many accounts; he’s seasoned, knows his way around the arena and training of gladiators and he has no interest on women whatsoever. Men on the other hand…

I loved how smoothly Anazar’s profile was written here. I loved how the authors slowly led us into his head and mindset. A fierce man who had resigned on his slavery. A man who has accepted and submitted to his duties. I actually had a hard time making my mind about him and his nature. Was he a submissive, or not? I still can’t make up my mind and that’s a beauty I rarely come across when getting to know characters. Most are so stereotypically described they hold no interest, but Anazar is a character you want to get to know. He has many layers of personality, each one slowly revealing itself throughout the book. He is strong in his beliefs of what his duty is without being blind to his master’s faults. Well… almost. His slave status and conditioning is revealed in the many ways and turns his brain takes. There is that resigned state of mind and sub servitude that comes from having no choices left, without diminishing his passion and fire, without turning him weak. Ah, I loved, loved this character, he is exquisite.

Moving on, Fate has him caring for life once again when he’s forced to make gladiators out of women. Such a cruel notion, one that tugs at Anazar’s heart. But when added to the mix of new turns and twists his Master’s brother, Anazar finds he’s unable to maintain control on the following events. Can a man borne to master men see a slave for a human being? And at that, can a slave see a master of men in the light of love? And can that all happen in the midst of a City where treachery and backstabbing politics were born and thrive?

Quite the interesting plot this one, with the Roman’s characteristically treacherous politics barreling full force and making this book a wondrous emotional ride. Hidden agendas and untrustworthy characters made the effect even brighter. I lost count of the times a new plot was made, I lost count of the many layers of corruption and back-stabbing, and I lost count of the times my heart plummeted to the floor along with Anazar’s, and how my guts turned and complained at the emotional assault. Even the end was an event in its self, every time I thought it was over a new twist would make my breath catch and turn me into a nerve wreck.

Ah dear me, I could go on forever it seems. As it is, I loved the book. I loved the plot, I loved the time period it was settled, I loved the characters, all of them being brilliant, and I loved the intimacy between the lovers and their encounters. I also loved the fact that this book does not shy from the cruelty inflicted at that time, although there is a lack of unbearable gruesome details. They were described rather masterfully in my opinion.

So bottom end, if you love your gladiators, honorable men, and some backstabbing Roman politics this is the book for you. I do believe you’ll be fascinated and captivated same way I did. Totally recommended.


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