The Pleasure Slave

Pleasure SlaveTitle: Pleasure Slave
Author:  Jan Irving
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link:
Genre: M/M Historical Romance (Roman Empire)
Length: 99  Pages
Rating:  3.75  out of 5

A guest review by Erastes


Lucius Mettelus Carbo, once a legate on the rise in the Roman army, rescues a beautiful young prostitute, Varick, who immediately stirs him. However, Lucius doesn’t believe anyone could want him, a man cursed by the gods with an ugly, twisted leg. He resists his attraction to the pleasure slave as they forge a tempestuous relationship, and Varick tries to convince Lucius that he desires his master despite the injury. Both men are fighting their fears as they strive toward a future together… a future in the shadow of the volcano Mount Vesuvius.


I have to say up front, that however my review seems to indicate the opposite, I did enjoy reading this book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes the era.

The story takes place in Pompei, and a quick glance at the date (July 79AD) will set the scene immediately.  Volcano Day is on the way so we know our protags are going to be up against it.  However, sadly (and this is the second time in recent months that I’ve read an under representation of a cataclysmic eruption) the eruption, when it does come, is more of a damp squib than a OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE and the escape seems a little too easy, considering the rain of death that was going on.

Whilst I liked both protagonists, it was difficult to cheer them along, as I didn’t know if they even knew what they wanted.  The emotions are kept very much in check, Lucius’ less so, but he keeps himself back because he doesn’t want to fall in love with a slave, and Varick’s point of view is only very lightly visited, so we don’t get into his head much at all. However, the romance is very readable, warm and arousing, and the sexual level worked well for the length of the book.  I did feel that they cared for each other and that they needed to learn to trust each other, something that didn’t come easy for either of them.

The history is good and solid–the author even makes a note that she has, for her own timeline purposes, moved the destruction of Lucius’ regiment a few years, but that’s forgiveable, the best of historical novelists do that.  I enjoyed the historical aspects of this book a lot, because I love learning things, and the history and destruction of Lucius’ regiment was fascinating. The descriptions of the town, the murals, the graffiti and the villas are convincing, and never once did I get jolted out of the story.

Historically, too, Lucius’ behaviour is very apt–he no longer considers himself a man. He’s injured, and therefore is no use (in his mind). His friends shun him and he hasn’t even taken prostitutes since his disfigurement because it reminds him of all the men and women he had – paid or otherwise – when he was whole.  The stigma of falling in love with a slave is well described too.  Shag your property by all means, but you run the risk of being laughed at if you become “indulgent with it.”

I never quite understood what happened to Lucius’ leg, though – it’s twisted and wasted but I’d have liked a bit more of what actually happened to him when he got lost during the Batavian rebellion.

It’s sometimes a frustrating read, because there seems to be something else going on under the surface which is never quite explained, and there are a couple of dialogue sections which entirely baffled me.  Perhaps it’s due to the length restriction, but I feel that if the book had been perhaps 50 pages longer, it would have felt more complete.

At 90 or so pages (yes, it says 99 but of course many of those are introduction, cover, bio etc) I would have expected a little more story for my story, but at $3.99 it’s a pleasant read which will certainly fill an hour of your life and although may not set your world on fire, it won’t disappoint.



  • Now THAT’S what I’d call an insightful thought on this subject. What I would suggest though is speaking to other people involved in the scene and bring to day any other points of view and then update or create a new post for us to . I hope you’ll take my ideas, I’m looking forward to it! Try to cover off on some graffiti characters as well if possible, they’re very popular at the moment.

  • Thanks for the review! I saw that book on the DSP site and the premise of the noble roman and the slave attracted me, but I wasn’t sure abotu the author as I’ve heard mixed comments about her work so far. It’s a good thing you mentionned right from the start that you did like the book 🙂 I somehow managed to miss on the fact this was taking place during the Vesuvius eruption… very interesting, although it’s too bad it wasn’t given the scope it must have had in real life. At least the social issues connected to the characters’ relationship seem to be tackled well. I’ll see if the impression of unexplained background facts annoys me as much as it did you ;).

  • “there seems to be something else going on under the surface which is never quite explained,”
    I must remember this phrase because that’s exactly what happened with a couple of short stories I read recently but I couldn’t express it. But that was exactly it. Something else was happening or had happened that I wasn’t told about but it was hinted at which I found very frustrating at times.
    Sounds like an interesting time period though for all the other issues.

    • Its certainly not a bad read, and anyone who enjoys historicals will certainly like it. I don’t want to change my historical slant to the reviews, so I am afraid I’m going to have to continue to be picky picky on Wave’s blog as well as SIN – I did enjoy the story, as I said, for all that. 🙂


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Erastes is an author of gay historical fiction. Her novels cover many time periods and locations. She lives in Norfolk UK with demanding cats and never seems to have enough time to serve them.
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