Title: Shepherd, Slave and Vow
Author: Lyn Gala
Cover artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Fantasy/M/M Romance/Historical
Length: Short Story/64 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: I loved the setting in the story and I thought writing was very competent, but I enjoyed the story less than I wanted to overall because I did not buy into connection between the protagonists or their happy ending.
Bored with the privileges and duties of a member of the first family, Ferro finds himself in the slave tents as a consequence of his antics, knowing he’ll be rescued before long. At least, that’s the way it’s always worked before. This time, though, Ferro finds himself sold as a sheep-tender along with an intriguingly mysterious slave called Lysias. For the first time, Ferro’s met someone who seems immune to his wiles, and he’ll soon learn that Lysias has more to teach him than just shepherding.
I confess, I grabbed the story because I love the cover. I have such fond memories of studying Ancient Greece in college and these types of pictures remind me of Gods and Heroes, Athens, Sparta, Homer and all those wonderful stories connected to them. I also usually enjoy Lynn Gala’s writing, so I had high hopes for this story. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I was very happy when I finished the story.
First, Dreamspinner lists this story as fantasy/paranormal, but I am still not sure what is paranormal about it. I guess one character refers to himself as meeting a God and being given a prediction, but the existence of Gods was such a real part of Ancient Greeks’ lives that I am not sure if for me such classification holds true. While the story does not give us detailed portrayal of Ancient Greece and I can kind of understand why it is listed as fantasy, at the same time I think it is better classified as a costume historical romance. It sketches the settings to give you a very general feel of Greece and there are some general concepts that may remind you of something real, but all together it was just not ancient Greece for me. Additionally, I really was not sold on mentality of our protagonists as being completely appropriate to their time, so I guess I can live with fantasy classification.
I thought this was a pretty meaty short story/novella (sorry Dreamspinner, until you start putting up words counts, I can never be sure which category it is) and I enjoyed how both guys were written. But…even though I thought they had pretty strong chemistry, I did not quite buy Lysias’ feelings for Ferro. I found Lysias’ turnaround to be a little weird. I was thinking, “huh, here he wants to handle Ferro with no small amount of cruelty, which is realistic, sure, and now he wants Ferro for his mate?” Then I realized that I missed the obvious — this was a prelude to a BDSM game in the second part of the story, which was pretty hot actually in my opinion. And thank goodness the author did not frame it in the contemporary terms. I actually thought it was skillfully done, and framed in terms of having control and losing control, but it ultimately just did not work for me. I think it is because the initial cruel treatment of Ferro by Lysias felt too realistic for me, felt exactly how a master (or in this case slave with more power, with higher position) would treat another slave. And I guess the jump into “I want you forever” was too sudden for me, a bit too awkward?
Lastly, I did not buy into their happy ending. While I could see how Ferro became a temporary slave, there is no way I could believe that he would choose the life of the slave over the life which he used to live, even though he was not happy in that life. I could imagine how Ferro could have taken the lessons he learned from Lysias and walked away knowing more about himself, making this one of the rare occasions where for me a story would have been much more believable if they would have walked away from each other at the end.