Marc reviews ‘Games of Rome’ (Dominus #2) by JP Kenwood. This book was released by the author on November 18th, 2015 and is 339 pages long.
RGR received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book:
While it took me a while to get into ‘Dominus’, book one of this series, I ended up loving the book and characters and I devoured this second book right after 🙂
In this sequel to Dominus, Gaius Fabius Rufus, the victorious general of Rome’s brutal Dacian Wars, finds his loyalties and his affections pulled in different directions. Should he return to Rome and secure his claim to the imperial throne, or remain at his seaside villa and protect his pleasure slave, the fierce Dacian prince, Allerix? Retaliation for the murder of his beloved friend beckons him home, but his desire for justice could put both him and Allerix in mortal danger. As Gaius’s deceptions multiply, another tragedy strikes. Will the Lion of the Lucky IV Legion be forced to sacrifice his besotted heart to achieve his aspirations for supreme power?
Every moment since Allerix’s violent capture has tested the young prince’s fortitude and cunning. If he can kill the triumphant emperor who decimated his Dacian nation, revenge and immortality will be his glorious, everlasting rewards. But to realize his scheme for vengeance, he must deceive the Roman master whose body he lusts, the handsome, arrogant man whom he has grown to adore and admire. Can two former enemies—the conqueror and the conquered—find trust and true love, or are the consequences of war destined to tear them apart? Can Gaius and Allerix survive the perilous games of Rome?
Dominus is a plot-packed erotic m/m fantasy set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Games of Rome is the second book in this alternative history saga—a tumultuous journey of forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception, and murder.
If you haven’t read any book in this series, yet, I strongly encourage you to start either with ‘February and December’ (A collection of two Stand-Alone novellas set before ‘Dominus’) or ‘Dominus’. Don’t start with book two. Check out my review of ‘Dominus’ HERE.
It took me a while to read ‘Dominus’, the first book in this series, because I felt uncomfortable with certain aspects of the historical setting. There is a lot of historical accuracy in this series, because the author has done a lot of research and knows what she is writing about. Still, some of the realities of the time are difficult to swallow for a modern reader. In the beginning Gaius seemed cruel in the way he thought about his friend, his brother, this emperor and in the way he treated some slaves with what seemed unnecessary cruelty or as things to be used for sexual pleasure.
Reading ‘Games of Rome’ was a very different experience for me. I knew that Gaius and his ‘brother’ were given to the emperor as boys and were sexually abused by him. While being his adopted son brings Gaius money and power, I understand the hatred he has for his father and the difficult relationship he has with his entire family. While I do not approve how Gaius has treated Bryaxis, his friend Lucius’ slave, I now understand his reaction. Gaius was truly in love with his friend Lucius, but after their studies in Greece, the love between two men of the same station was strongly forbidden and they had to continue their affair in secret and were never able to enjoy their relationship. It must have been hard for Gaius to watch his beloved friend fall in love with his slave Bryaxis. I also saw the love, loyalty and protectiveness Gaius has for his slaves and everyone in his household, even though I of course strongly disapprove of slavery. Gaius is a man of his time, but he treats the people around him well and has a good heart.
I deeply cared for Gaius and the other characters by the end of book one and I truly devoured book two, because I had to know how the story would continue. There was no need to get to know characters or to get used to the setting. Book two continues just where the book one cliffhanger left off. Gaius knows the identity of Prince Allerix and his friend and lover Lucius was brutally murdered.
The stakes are very high as he has to keep Allerix safe, grieve for his best friend, and revenge his death.
Keeping Allerix safe is not an easy task, as he was a Dacian prince and thus should have been killed. The fact that Gaius knows who he is, but is still hiding him is very dangerous. Hiding Allerix is also dangerous, because the young man also carries revenge in his heart, even though Gaius’ feelings are not one-sided.
The emotional fallout from Lucius’ murder made the entire book even more intense and emotional. It is an interesting mystery that has a deep impact on Gaius and leads him to Rome, the city he hates because it is full of power games and intrigues. It is important for him to go there, if he wants a chance to solve his lover’s murder and it was fascinating for me to see him back in the city. Knowing him much better now, the way he interacts with the people of Rome was very interesting to me. He is playing a dangerous and deadly game.
As in book one, I loved Gaius’ interactions with his wife. They are both very smart and know how to play the political game well, but their marriage is very much political. They do not love and desire each other, but they have a lot of trust and respect and are a fierce power couple in the ancient city.
There are also some fantasy aspects in this book that were very unexpected for me, but were interesting and handled well. While I did not anticipate these ‘magical’ scenes, they have an emotional payoff and were not just randomly added.
I am still uncertain how the contemporary story that frames the ‘Dominus’ books will tie in with everything in the end, but the author has earned my trust and I am looking forward to discovering what she has planned for readers of the series. Though given that there are VERY heartbreaking scenes in this book, I am glad to know that the author has a wonderful HEA planned for Gaius and Allerix 🙂
I love the author’s unique style of drawing readers into a different time, while using modern language to make them feel more comfortable there. JP Kenwood has the rare ability to portray a historic setting authentically and make it come alive for readers.
If you liked ‘Dominus’, you will LOVE ‘Games of Rome’. It features the same interesting and complex characters, but the stakes are higher, the story is more emotional and there is more political intrigue, even as the beautiful and unlikely love story between Gaius and Allerix at the heart of the books never falls out of focus.
Rating: 10/10 Pots of Gold ❤
Sarcastic, sassy and over-educated writer of deliciously smutty, plot-packed stories that celebrate men loving men, often. My stories, often dark and always sexy, focus on master/slave power dynamics, the vicissitudes of fate, and the fragility of historical memory. My passions are ancient Rome, laughter, and wine.
My current project is the FIVE novel saga, Dominus, set in imperial Rome. Book 1 (Dominus; 2014) and Book 2 (Games of Rome; 2015) are currently available. I also write a series of short, two-story novellas featuring many of the main and secondary characters in the Dominus saga called “Dominus Calendar Series.” The first volume of the Dominus saga (Dominus) and the first novella of the Calendar Series (February and December) are available for a limited time through Amazon KU.