He Is Worthy - Lisa Henry Two men whose lives are destroyed by the insane "God Complex" of the Roman Emperor, who with nothing else to lose draw strength from each other and become united in their single objective ~ to assassinate Nero... 3.5 stars

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I am not normally someone who is interested in Historical fiction... except for the Roman Empire! where my interest is immediately piqued, probably due to my depraved mind being interested in the excesses and unrestrained indulgence of the time... nothing at all to do with near naked men and big strong Gladiators... So reading the synopsis this book should tick all my boxes!

We start our journey in Greece 37AD, where the streets are wild with upheaval, caused by the death of Corbulo - a true Roman hero who fell on his own sword when the innocuous but deadly words "you no longer have the friendship of the Emperor"... are delivered by Novius Senna. Senna is a man wracked by guilt and remorse - ashamed of what he has become "The most feared man in Rome" and to all intense and purposes he is a "hit man" who delivers the fatal blow with words alone!

There was a time when Nero was a good friend, when they were young and idealists, their heads filled with poetry, songs and dreams of the future. Only now Nero is unrecognisable from the youth he once was, now tainted by power, a narcissist surrounded by "yes" men, lost to madness and a mere puppet to the evil whispering's of Tigellinus - head of the Praetorian Guard.

Aenor... a beautiful young man, accused of committing murder and sold into slavery twice, before he ends up in Rome - where he is tagged, beaten and abused, covered in his own vomit and trembling in fear of the unknown and unfamiliar... So he should be, because the road he has travelled so far is nothing compared to the tortuous existence as a pleasure slave at the hands of Nero and the Praetorian's!

Senna is drawn to Aenor because of the strength and power he sees hidden in the depths of his eyes - he sees the boy filled with hate - and he sees the man who can help him rid the Roman Empire of the madness that is Nero! He is attracted to Aenor, but despite this attraction he wants to remain honourable, not wanting to be like the others who had taken Aenor and abused his body for their cruel amusement. Through Senna's kindness the shell of numbness that Aenor had buried himself in is cracked and Senna sees deeper into the lost soul of the boy... and what is there is far more profound than he thought possible.

This isn't a long novel and for the first 50% we are enlightened on the two MC's past and the journeys taken that eventually brought them together. This part was a bit vague at times referencing characters I did not have enough information on to visualise the whole picture, which left me with questions! Especially on Lucan, a character who is referenced several times who I eventually Googled, making more sense of his role in the grander scheme of things. This is an historical novel so there will be Roman references... which I also Googled, however at the end of the book there is a glossary which would have been better placed at the beginning? Sorry if there was a note and I missed it?

The sex between Senna and Aenor was not the passionate kind, where you need ice to cool down. Instead you see Senna giving Aenor comfort and compassion, he is gentle and loving with this boy who had been given the name "Dog" by the bastard that was Tigellinus! This was perfectly done, to show Aenor his love rather than treat him like the fuck toy he was used to. The brutal scenes involving Aenor did not leave my blood boiling, (I am a reader of some pretty hard core novels) I somehow felt detached from it even though they were horrific. This would suit many readers who unlike me prefer the tamer side of fiction involving abuse.

Overall I enjoyed this book, I wouldn't call it a Romance per se, more of an understanding between two desperate men who found solace in each others arms, a HFN. I think if it had been a bit longer I might have felt more attached to the characters, something that didn't hit me until the last 20%.

ARC courtesy of Riptide Publishing via Netgalley


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