Marc reviews Dominus (Dominus #1) by JP Kenwood. The book was released by the author on April 21st, 2014 and is about 272 pages long.
This book was provided to the reviewer free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
In AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky IV Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake. Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a sex slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the hated Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master. Dominus is a plot-packed erotic m/m fantasy that transports readers back to ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98-117). This is the first book in an alternate history series—a tumultuous journey filled with forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception and murder.
I received a review copy for this book quite a while ago, but I struggled with it. Historical gay fiction is not my usual reading fare, but ancient Rome has always fascinated me. However, I have a hard time facing some of the realities that were common in that time. The author has a great gift of making history come alive, but that also means the slavery she writes about feels real as well. I had to stop reading a few times, but I was hooked enough by the story that I could not give up and kept trying.
I think for me it is easier to read the story of two Gladiators or Roman slaves who fall in love, because they are the victims of a system that I despise. This story is not quite as black and white. There are several major characters who get their POVs told in different chapters and they are all complex, flawed and very human. While it took me a few tries to get into the story, once I did I was completely hooked and read the remaining 75% of the book in one go.
This is the story of Gaius Fabius, a decorated Roman commander and Allerix, the Dacian prince he buys as new pleasure slave. It took me a while to warm up to Gaius. I didn’t like how he treats some of the people he encounters, he owns slaves and is part of the slavery system that was in place in ancient Rome and he just behaved like a total prick in the beginning. Allerix on the other hand really helped me to get into the book. He is introduced later in the story and is someone I could really identify with. He is new to slavery and the Roman ways and feels like a prisoner of war, as Gaius is the man who defeated the Dacian forces in a bloody war. He seems smart and likable and tries to get the monster’s trust to get his revenge.
Everything is more complex than it seems, though. Gaius is not the monster he seemed to me and Allerix in the beginning. While he is a man of his time and does not share my modern perspective, he does treat his slaves with respect, despises unneccesary slaughter and just wants to live a peaceful life. He had a horrible childhood and has to play a dangerous political and social game.
The book starts and ends with an archeological dig in modern times and I’m not really sure yet how it all will connect in the end. It was a surprising and refreshing way to start a historical book, but for me the book’s greatest assets are the wonderfully complex characters in the past (whether or not one likes them all from the beginning). Their relationships are as complex as their personalities and make the intriques and mysteries in the book so much more complelling.
Gaius is the central figure and all other character seem to be connected to him in some way. I have already mentioned his connection with his new pleasure slave Allerix, but there is also his relationship with his adoptive father, the relationship with his adoptive brother, with his cunning wife, his former slave and the two other male pleasure slaves as well as the sexual relationship with his best friend. I don’t want to take away from the book, so I will not go further into why these relationships are intriquing in very different ways. These characters really draw you in and make it impossible not to read on. You need to find out what happens next! That is especially true for the ‘cliffhanger’ in the end. While it does not leave readers uncertain about a character’s fate, it will leave them anticipatory about what will be next for Gaius and all the other characters.
Thankfully, the next book is already out and just as good, if not better (as it does not need to spend time introducing the major charactors).
My Rating: 8.5/10 Pots of Gold (85% Recommended) – Compares to 4.25/5 Stars
When she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a dusty history tome, JP Kenwood relishes reading and writing plot-packed erotic m/m fiction with strong romantic elements sprinkled with humor and angst. Her alternate history series, Dominus, features an ensemble of memorable characters—masters and slaves, senators and soldiers, lawyers and freedmen, wives and whores—who live, laugh, and lust during the Golden Age of imperial Rome.