Mark of the Gladiator

Mark of the Gladiator - Heidi Belleau,  Violetta Vane Outstanding Book... Definitely up in my top 5 books of the year, It is one of those exceptional reads that 5 stars does not do justice to the wonders contained within. This an excellent adventure set in Rome with all the brutality, debauchery and excesses we know so well from that period, it is full of intrigue, power plays, deception, gladiator battles, love and murder with a beautiful, intense and forbidden romance..

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Firstly... I am in awe of the writing skills of these two authors, when I read a book I like to feel the emotion, visualise the action and see the wonders and colours of the world to which I am transported. If only for a few hours... I want to experience it all and I want to cherish every moment whilst I am there and with the beautiful, exciting and descriptive prose so eloquently delivered from Ms Vane and Ms Belleau... I AM there!

Throughout this book we are in the mind of a slave... a Thraex Gladiator. Once a proud soldier with a sharp mind and the fighting skills of a great warrior known as Anazar. But now he is Cyrenaicus... a spectacle for the blood thirsty Romans, striped of his identity, his family lost - and forbidden to have or show any emotion... all fight beaten and tortured out of him, he is humiliated, degraded, his spirit bent to obey and surrender to the might of the Roman Empire and above all perform to the will of his Master. He no longer feels the pain or fear, so withdrawn into himself he is impassive to the hate and outrage that once fuelled his anger. His only instinct now, is to survive!

Anazar's only chance for freedom would be to buy himself out of slavery or to be freed by the whim of his Dominus (Master). So when he is sent to the House of Marianus as a trainer to the Gladiatrices (female Gladiators) he sees this as a blessing from the Gods and the opportunity to ingratiate himself to his new Master... for whatever services he may require!

His new Dominus is Marianus, an honourable man who treats his slaves with some compassion and entrusts the training and supervision of the women to Anazar, giving him the freedom to voice concerns, something that would previously have meted out punishment and with the promise of freedom for achieving the impossible he somehow finds comfort and regains some pride in the task ahead of him. So with Anzars heart filled with renewed hope and mutual respect for the women and his Master growing, he is more hopeful of the outcome...

Flourishing feelings of loyalty and Anazar's admiration for Marianus - so handsome and dignified, make his extra duties more pleasurable and he is more than willing to submit... only wanting to please this man that has so confused him with his trust, tenderness and care.

Marianus has a younger brother... Felix! (be still my beating heart - I love this man) a scoundrel and the Roman Empires equivalent of a playboy, with a strew of ex-lovers, disgruntled friends and creditors in his wake! Notorious in literary circles, he is a master of wit. Happy to waste his days away and basically not give a flying fuck for the feelings or concerns of others, living on the charity of his brother and the reputation of The House of Marianus!... Love him!

He is wicked and naughty, teasing Anazar at every opportunity for his servitude, taunting him into behaving in a manor that would certainly cause issue with his brother and jeopardise his chance at freedom and he resents Felix with a passion never known before for bringing such chaos and havoc into his life!

When The House of Marianus comes under threat and is at the centre of a murder plot... Anazor does not hesitate to take on the role of guardian and protector to his Master and family... and so begins an adventure of intrigue, power plays, deception, love and murder!

The first third of the book is time for us to get to know the characters, understand their lives and see the world in which they live. What follows will leave you ~

Laughing... I am still sitting here smiling thinking of the snarky humour and antics of Felix... He has got to be one of my most favourite characters ever and a complete and utter man whore! Did I mention I love Felix?

Crying... at a love so profound, Anazor was consumed with wanting to absorb everything about his lover, his tenderness, honesty and affection. For Anazor there where not enough words to describe this man, he had given him something that was worth more than his freedom, he had unbound his soul of the chains and divides and loved him as a man - equals - just two men deeply in love. Yep... the two MC's had me in tears!

But the sex... OMG! I was running to the freezer for ice... so if I wasn't wet from tears, it was from the ice melting... especially when my blood was boiling at the cold hearted nefarious actions of the bad guys!

The murder plot is well done and leaves you guessing for the most part and there is a lovely epilogue so you are not left wanting at the end.
I wish I could tell you more... but that would be giving away too much of the plot and you really have to read it to experience it... haha, I know what happens!

I noticed a review had said this was wordy!... Hell yes - it is! It is filled with lots of exquisitely captivating words that take you on a journey like no other. It is an intelligent read... the difference between a tabloid and a broadsheet and the difference between watching a movie on your TV at home or going to the cinema for the full 3D effect in glorious high definition colour. The characters are real, believable, fully animated and brought to life...

I am no expert on Roman history so I haven't got a clue if it is accurate or not, to be honest - I don't really care, it's fiction and I loved the story!?! However, there is an authors note at the end and it seems they did some pretty extensive research before embarking on this novel to ensure authenticity for us readers. Also, there are a lot of Roman words in this book... again, sooOoo over my head! However for the benefit of us readers there is a glossary of terms at the back, I suggest book marking on your kindle before starting as I did... much easier!

ARC courtesy of Riptide Publishing via Netgalley

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