Title: Nova Praetorian
Author: N.R. Walker
Publisher: BlueHeart Press
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Genre(s): MM Historical
Length: 103 000 words/394 pages
Reviewed by: Lily G. Blunt
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Quintus Furius Varus is one of the best lanistas in Rome. Tall and strong in build, fearsome in manner, and sharp of wit, he trains the best gladiators bound for the arenas of Rome. When Senator Servius Augendus seeks personal guards, he attends the Ludus Varus for purchase of the very best. He puts to Quintus an offer he cannot refuse, and Quintus finds himself in Neapolis, contracted as a trainer of guards instead of gladiators. Kaeso Agorix was taken from his homelands of Iberia and delivered to Rome as a slave. Bought by a senator to be trained as a guard, his fate is handed to the man who would train him. Absent free will, Kaeso knows his life is no longer his own, though he soon realises the gods have favoured him when he learns his new master has a kind heart.
Quintus and Kaeso forge a bond that far exceeds the collar at Kaeso’s neck, and together they discover the senator’s move for promotion has an ulterior motive. Thrown into a world of politics and conspiracy, of keeping enemies close, they move against time to save Rome before traitors and the gods themselves see to their end.
And in doing so, see the dawn of the nova praetorian—the new guard—rise.
Although writing a historical saga is a new venture for N.R. Walker, it bears all of her hallmarks. Nova Praetorian is a well-written, low angst tale that provides plenty of feels via the passionate romance. It is set in the ancient Roman world and has clearly been well-researched, but overall the story portrays a rose-tinted version of those blood-thirsty and cruel times. Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as gruesome as the Spartacus series on TV, but there are some similarities and nods to the political machinations and gladiatorial training and games.
I feel Quintus’ character also benefits from our 21st century sensibilities. He’s a trainer of gladiators and the owner of a successful ludus, yet he treats his slaves and gladiators with compassion rather than as chattels. In return, Quintus is respected and his men (and women) offer their allegiance readily to him. Kaseo, the slave who is temporarily given to Quintus as a means of controlling his behaviour, is not forced to have sex against his will. Indeed these two men break down the boundaries between slave and master as they become lovers.
Their romance is at the heart of this story. I enjoyed the shared glances and smiles, the connection that developed between them, the banter, and the numerous sex scenes in their bed chamber and the baths. They became much more than lovers in the physical sense. For much of the story, the reader wonders whether Kaseo can ever be free to love Quintus without those slave collars fixed around his neck. I loved the anticipation that Kaseo could easily be taken away from Quintus by the ‘baddie’ of the story. We know calculating and two-faced Servius is up to no good from the start and his scheming is only gradually revealed.
There’s a long build up, establishing the characters, the ancient setting, and the development of the romance. It’s slow-going and a little repetitive at times, but it gradually moves towards an exciting climax. Well worth the read. If you enjoy NR Walker’s stories as well as watching Spartacus, you will probably enjoy this historical romance too.
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