A MelanieM Review : The Left Hand of Calvus (Warriors of Rome #1) by Ann Gallagher

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Former gladiator Saevius is certain fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. But then his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having an affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.

But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.

When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray one of his masters: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and both of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.

In The Left Hand Of Calvus Ann Gallagher has recreated the ancient city of Pompeii, complete with corrupt politicians, cheating wives, and the desperate, hard and often short lives of gladiators and the ludus. Gladiator Saevius’ fate changes when he’s sold as a bodyguard to Pompeiian Politician Laurea Calvus.  Thinking himself free of the fighting, it turns out that his new master, wants a spy within the ludus of the famed and infamous lanista Drusus.  To fulfill his master’s orders, it’s back into the arena as a gladiator that Saevius must go.

I loved how vividly alive Pompeii feels here, from the overcrowding, poverty, and  stench that arises in the poor section of the city to the behavior of the powerful  at every level of society and its impact on others (political, social, and even economic).  It gives the  story such a wonderfully rich foundation as well as framework for the story and characters.

It also gives most readers an additional point of reference because we are well aware of what awaits the citizens of Pompeii in the future adding a layer of urgency and poignancy.

For me  it’s less a romance and more a wonderful piece of historical fiction that happens to have an element of romance in it (if you are looking for sex you won’t find it here).  Much of the story revolves around a central mystery and two characters both pulling at Saevius for his  loyalty and control.  One is the politician that owns him and the other is the lanista Drusus who in a manner also “owns” him as Saevius fights for him in his ludus.  The more the gladiator finds out, the more confused he (and the reader) become because nothing is as it seems.

The author builds the suspense, there are many agonizing moments as Saevius often teeters on the brink of discovery.  And there is one masterful plot  twist at the  end that worked perfectly within the storyline and was still a stunner for the reader and the character.

My only slight hesitation here in giving this story five stars was that I wanted to see a little more development in the relationship between Saevius and Drusus.  I think that needed a little more time and depth.    However, all the other relationships, characters, and dynamics here were so well done that I read straight through until the story was complete.

Cover art: LA Witt.   I liked the cover but I seems very old fashioned, more like a college cover.

Sales Link: Universal Book Links

Book Details:

This title is part of the Warriors of Rome collection.

ebook, 175 pages
Published November 5th 2012 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 3rd 2012)
Original TitleThe Left Hand of Calvus
ISBN 193755161X (ISBN13: 9781937551612)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/left-hand-calvus
SeriesWarriors of Rome #1
CharactersDrusus, Saivius settingPompeii (Italy)
Italy

Literary AwardsRainbow Award for Best Transgender Novel (2013)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Bone to Pick by T.A. Moore and Michael Fell (Narrator)

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a highly enjoyable, very-difficult-to-solve mystery adventure. Both MCs have issues with relationships so though they don’t want romance, they do have sexual chemistry and they act on it.  Plus, there’s a dog—a police dog named Bo—who stole the show, as far as I’m concerned. 

Children have gone missing over the past ten years, not often enough or apparently connected enough for anyone to link them until the recent disappearance of a ten-year-old boy.  FBI agent Javi Merlo is assigned to the case and he’s not particularly happy about working with a dog and his cop handler.  But that’s too bad because not only does Cloister Witte have plenty of experience with his dog, he also has personal experience with the disappearance of his own brother many years ago—a brother who was never found.  But he’s dedicated and committed to his task and won’t stop until he finds the boy—dead or alive.

Javi doesn’t trust Cloister, though, and continually pushes him away from the case, but Cloister plods along following his own leads and his two-plus-two investigation style eventually leads to four. This isn’t a typical romance, and in fact, it ends with the case solved and with the men in bed, but not in love, so it’s a HFN at best.  But it honestly doesn’t matter because the mystery itself is so good. It’s exciting and fast-paced with just the right amount of snarky ’tude from both MCs.  And, of course, the dog is the hero at the end of the story so the dog lover in me was quite happy. 

The narrator was new to me and he did a very good job with the voices, which were definitely different and easy to pick out.  On the other hand, I hated the voice he gave to the mother of the missing boy—I wanted to smack her so bad. She was entitled and bitchy and nasty and the voice he gave her fit her personality like a glove.  So yes, he did a good job—enough to evoke a lot of emotion from me, so that’s a win in my book. 

I highly recommend this audiobook version to those who enjoy an interesting whodunit topped off with two sexy law enforcement MCs and a dog named Bo.   

Cover art:  Anne Cain.  Love the cover. Interesting and it pulls your eye into the character and details.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Length: 9 hrs 

Audible Audio
Published February 22nd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published August 14th 2017)
Original TitleBone to PicksettingSan Diego, California (United States)
California (United States)

A VVivacious Review: You’re My Everything by Lily G Blunt

Standard

Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This is an anthology featuring the following stories:-

1. Happy Anniversary, Jasper  

Rating: 3.75 Stars out of 5

Nathan is about to celebrate his tenth anniversary with Jasper as he waits for him, he reminisces all the moments that made them a couple.

Wow! This story was a surprise. It read like a biography of a couple hitting all the points that made them who they are but that twist at the ending blew me away. The beginning of the story especially the teenage years come off as a little immature maybe in an effort to emulate teenage but I felt that the voice should have been more mature considering that this was a grown-up looking back at his teenage years not an actual scene from that period so the maturity that comes with age should have come across.

The story doesn’t have a strong beginning but the ending more than makes up for it.

2. Over the Rainbow  

Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

Dorian has just started teaching under the guidance of his mentor Mark who he can’t help finding sexy as hell. Will they ever find their way to each other?

This was a particularly long story and it is a slice of life fiction so that means that this story more than had its share of ups and downs. But overall I really liked Dorian’s character and I loved his story. Also, you can really sense the delicious chemistry that exists between Dorian and Mark. So, on the whole it was a very satisfying read, seeing these two end up together.

3. Opposites Attract  

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Andreas and Chris have been in a relationship for over three years but as time passes Chris’ adventurous persona seems to clash with Andreas’ fear of heights. As they both contemplate their future together, will they be able to get past this hurdle?

I always love established couple romances and that was a plus in favour of this story. Also, the story’s beginning is all fiery passion which somewhat clashes with the steady and calm pace that the rest of the story adopts. The dilemma is a case of differences clashing and both feeling insecure in their relationship with the other, nothing which a good conversation wouldn’t solve. So the conflict comes in the way of nature’s tempestuousness. Overall it was a solid read but since the tone and length of the story was very similar to the previous one, this one suffered a little bit because reading two similarly paced stories one after the other was a tad boring.

4. Service with a Smile  

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This story appears fifth in the ARC though its listed fourth on the contents page and the story listed after this one appears fourth in the book.

Terry is on a mission and the sales assistant he is eyeing is in for a pounding…

This is a short hot read and God! Is it hot in here… Wow! Terry and Ash blew my head off. This was a really hot and satisfying scene and even though the reveal (I don’t know if I should call it that, but would do you call unveiling the truth after the story tries to misguide you to a different conclusion if not a reveal, hmmm… I guess story progression) at the end was very predictable but all in all a short steamy quick fantastic read.

5.You Can’t Stop Loving Someone Just Like That  

Rating:  2 Stars out of 5

Corey has been in love with his best friend, Jack for years but he knows his love will never be reciprocated. Over the summer before college, Corey meets Pierre and they both fall in love with each other. But, what will Corey do when Jack says he loves Corey, too?

I didn’t understand the point of this story. The title seems to completely contradict the protagonist’s actions and feelings. Also, there is cheating involved. I don’t mind reading about cheating but I really don’t get cheating on someone you love with someone you used to love, I mean you successfully jeopardized two relationships and got absolutely nothing in return except heartache either way. Also, I don’t get how the author is using the words “You Can’t Stop Loving Someone Just Like That” in context of a three-week old relationship, the words would have made more since if applied to Jack & Corey instead of Corey & Pierre. I feel like this story is supposed to be giving me a message but as far as I am concerned the message just doesn’t seem to have been delivered.

6.Without You

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Jasper has been separated from his lover for five long years and he prays that today on the day of their anniversary he might see his friend… lover, again?

I am not going to comment much on the plot of this story because the plot has a very nice twist to it and even though you start off confused, the story steadily starts to make sense. It is a really nice story though I can’t say much if I plan to avoid spoilers but this story is a really good read.

 On the whole, I enjoyed this anthology, my particular favourites being the first and the last story.

Cover Art by Jay Aheer. I liked the cover.

 Sales Links:  Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 1, 172 pages
Expected publication: March 29th 2018 by Lily G Blunt
ASINB07BH3X6JZ
Edition Language English

Parker Foye on Research , Procrastination, and the new release Mage of Inconvenience (author guest blog)

Standard

Mage of Inconvenience by Parker Foye
Dreamspinner Press
Dreamspun Beyond

Cover art: Aaron Anderson

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Parker Foye here today talking about writing, research and Mage of Inconvenience.  Welcome, Parker.

♦︎

 

Research …and Procrastination by Parker Foye

Hello, and thanks to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting the final stop on my blog tour! It’s been a lot of fun celebrating the release of Mage of Inconvenience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

Today I’m answering questions about research: Does research play a role in choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I’ve posted a bit on Twitter recently about how difficult it is to find methods of magic World of Warcraft hasn’t named already, so research has been on my mind lately. Honestly, it usually is; I primarily write speculative fiction, but set in the world we know. This tends to involve two threads of research/development: real world locations, and whatever I’m using as a magical system.

Though I’ve set spec fiction stories in historical periods before, Mage of Inconvenience takes place in a contemporary setting. When I started writing this story, I lived in a small town in Ontario, and this is where I located West’s home. Julian, meanwhile, has an office in Toronto, and a cottage elsewhere in the province. These locations were places I knew, or could easily research with added local insight, and I thought I was being quite clever to choose these settings. But then I moved over 4,000km across the country.

Thank you, internet.

The internet is less helpful when it comes to making up magical systems, aside from checking someone hasn’t done it first (see the comment about WoW above). But this is actually something I really enjoy doing, and one of the reasons I write in this genre. Making the impossible possible but flavouring it with things we can relate to—for example, with the magic in Mage of Inconvenience, I imagined something like a magical DVLA (DMV, for those of you across the pond!), with all the connotations that invokes.

Creating magical systems is one of the (many) areas where beta readers and editors are invaluable. Their insightful questions really helped draw out and solidify how magic and its corresponding bureaucracy worked in this story, cementing the foundation for how the marriage of convenience comes to be in the first place.

But, absorbing as it can be, the problem with research is knowing when to stop! I’m a chronic procrastinator and can trick myself into researching all day long, but at some point it’s time to close the browser and start cranking out words.

Or write a blog post or two.

What about you guys? Any favourite methods of procrastination? Asking for a friend…

Mage of Inconvenience

Can they find the magic in a practical union?

West is on the run from his werewolf pack, but if he cannot renew his magical defenses, he won’t get far. What he needs is a mage….

Julian is part of a wealthy and ancient family, and one day, his legacy will include his mother’s vast library of spell books—and the knowledge he needs to correct his past mistakes. But his inheritance comes with a stipulation: he has to be married before he can collect. What he needs is a husband….

West and Julian can help each other, and at first they don’t want anything further. But as they dodge meddling cousins, jealous rivals, and an insidious drug, it becomes clear that their lives are entwined in ways they never imagined—and they’re in greater danger than they thought possible.

Buy the book at Dreamspinner | Amazon CA/COM/UK | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Parker Foye writes speculative-flavored romance under the QUILTBAG umbrella and believes in happily ever after, although sometimes their characters make achieving this difficult.

An education in Classics nurtured a love of heroes, swords, monsters, and beautiful people doing stupid things while wearing only scraps of leather. You’ll find those things in various guises in Parker’s stories, along with kissing (very important) and explosions (very messy). And more shifters than you can shake a stick at.

Used to living out of a suitcase, Parker is currently of fixed abode in the UK but still travels regularly via planes, trains, and an ever-growing library.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Retro Review Tour – Ann Gallagher’s The Left Hand Of Calvus (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
Length: 52,500 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.

But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.

When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion.

For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.

March 26 – Drops Of Ink, Sarandipity Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
March 27 – MM Good Book Reviews
March 28 – Book Love, Dog-Eared Daydreams
March 29 – Padme’s Library
March 30 – The Book Corps, Velvet Panic, Bayou Book Junkie

Excerpt

So this is Pompeii. The prosperous city at the base of Vesuvius.

I’ve heard the tales about this place. Quiet. Warm. Near the sea. Until recently, with the rudis of freedom so close I could almost feel its wooden hilt in my hands, I had considered coming here to make my home once I was no longer a slave. That is until Fortune decided I should remain in bondage. I’d had perhaps three fights left, but now I, along with two other men from my familia gladiatori, are on our way to the Pompeiian politician who’s now our master.

In spite of the fact that I’d lost my chance at freedom, the rest of the men in the familia had been envious.

“A nobleman? In Pompeii?” One had slapped my arm. “You lucky bastard!”

“Agreed,” another had said. “You won’t be in the arena anymore, and if you’ve got to stay a slave, Saevius, you could do worse than to live out your days as some rich bastard’s bodyguard.”

A third had added, “Pompeii? I hear in that place, the wine they pour in noblemen’s houses tastes like the lips of Venus herself.”

The other men traveling with me had been thrilled by that notion. Me, I’m as enthusiastic about any woman’s lips, including Venus’s, as I am about spending the rest of my days a fucking slave, so I’d simply muttered, “I’ll be sure to give my regards to Bacchus.”

What servant drinks the same wine as his masters, I can hardly imagine. But never mind, because the wine here is probably no different from what flows in Rome. After all, Pompeii doesn’t seem much different from Rome, if you ask me. A great deal smaller, yes, and much less crowded. At least in this part of the city, though, it’s all the same terracotta roofs and limestone walls and, as we near the market, people dragging unruly livestock down stone streets past lumbering carts and clouds of buzzing flies. Smells like bread, sweat, fish, and dung, just like Rome, with chickens talking over the shouting bakers, fishmongers, butchers, and vintners while hammering and banging come from workshops behind shop fronts and booths. Perhaps I should have considered retiring to Herculaneum instead. Then again, if Pompeii isn’t in life what it is in stories, then Herculaneum likely isn’t the luxurious place it’s said to be either.

Not that I have a choice now. Pompeii is my home until I’m sold or I die. Or my new master sees fit to free me when I’m no longer of use to him.

Ectur, the monolith of a Parthian tasked with bringing the three of us down from Rome, leads us deeper into Pompeii’s stinking, bustling market. With every exhausted step, our chains rattle over the city’s noise. Though the streets are crowded, people move aside to let us pass. Some give us wary looks, standing between us and their wives and children. Even those struggling to move carts down these difficult roads stay out of our way. They’re especially wary of Ectur. We certainly look the part of gladiators—scarred, tanned brutes, all of us—and since Ectur’s unchained, people probably think he’s our lanista. No citizen with any sense wants near a lanista.

The market must be close to the Forum. All over the place, noblemen strut like cocks and sneer at slaves and citizens, just like every one I ever saw in Rome, as though the gods themselves should fear them. Would’ve liked to have met one of them in the arena during my fighting days; he’d have wept to the gods for mercy, and that pristine white toga would have been stained in shit before I’d fully raised my sword.

But, gods willing, my days in the arena are behind me forever.

Just beyond the market, where the streets fan out toward clusters of high-walled villas, Ectur approaches a squat, balding man in a tunic that’s far too clean to belong to a common laborer. The man’s attention is buried in a beeswax tablet resting on his arm, and he’s muttering to himself as he scratches something into it with a stylus.

He glances up at us, and I realize he only has one eye. Dropping his attention back to the tablet, he grumbles, “Thought you’d leave me waiting all bloody day.”

“Longer journey from Rome than it is from your master’s house,” Ectur mutters.

Without looking up, the one-eyed man says, “I’ll need to look at them before you leave. The Master Laurea will be unhappy if they are not up to his standards.”

Ectur stands straighter, narrowing his eyes. “Caius Blasius doesn’t deal in faulty goods.”

“Then he’ll not mind if I inspect his goods to be sure.” The one-eyed man gestures at us with his stylus. “Whereas I have a beating waiting if I bring to my master slaves who are not to his liking. So he’ll—” He stops abruptly, his eye widening. “Where is the fourth? Master Laurea specifically selected four men, not three.”

“The fourth fell ill. Terrible fever, and the medicus can’t say if he’ll live.” Ectur pulls a scroll from his belt and hands it to the one-eyed man. “Caius Blasius gives his word your master will be compensated.”

Glancing back and forth from the scroll to Ectur, the man sighs heavily. “The master will not be happy. It was the fourth in particular who interested him.”

Ectur sniffs with amusement. “That scrawny Phoenician is hardly worth the sestertii your master paid for him. An entertaining gladiator, maybe, but he’s worthless outside the arena.”

I can’t help a quiet laugh. It’s true enough; the idiot Phoenician is only alive—assuming he still is—because he’s less afraid of his opponents than he is of the punishment for being a coward on the sands. A man bred to be a bodyguard, he is not.

“The master selected his men for a reason,” the one-eyed man snaps at Ectur. He sighs and shakes his head. “Never mind, then. If he isn’t here, he isn’t here. The other three had best be in good condition.”

Ectur doesn’t respond. He folds his arms across his chest, watching with a scowl as the man with the stylus inspects us each in turn, tutting and muttering to himself in between jabbing us with his finger and etching something into the tablet. He pokes at scars and bruises, eyeing us when we flinch, and then checks our teeth and eyes. Since I was a child, I’ve been through more of these inspections than I can count, and still I have to force myself not to put both hands around his throat and show him I’m as fit and strong as a gladiator—or bodyguard, in this case—ought to be.

Finally, he grunts and slams shut the leather cover on the wax tablet. “They’re all well.”

“Good,” says the Parthian. “Give my regards to your master.”

“And yours.” The one-eyed man gestures sharply at us. “Come with me.”

Without a word from any of us, we follow the man. His legs are shorter than ours nearly by half, but he walks quickly, his gait fast and angry, and with heavy chains on our ankles, it’s a struggle to keep up with him. Ectur doesn’t come with us.

Soon, we will meet our new master.

By name, Junius Calvus Laurea isn’t unfamiliar to me. I’ve heard Caius Blasius mention him—usually with a scowl—and he’s apparently bought gladiators from my former master before. I don’t know his face, though, and I know nothing of the man whose life I will be sworn to guard. Only that he isn’t a lanista and my existence no longer includes the inside of an arena. Freedom may not be in my future, but Fortune be praised a thousand times over anyway.

The one-eyed servant leads us down a narrow road between the enormous villas lined up in ranks just inside the wall along the northern edge of the city. In spite of our chains, my fellow former gladiators and I exchange smiles. A villa instead of a ludus gladiatori? Indeed, this will be a new life. The existence of a bodyguard isn’t safe per se, but unless our master has an unusual number of enemies, we’ll protect him with our presence more often than our fighting skills. We’ll more likely die from boredom than a blade.

On our way out of Rome, we’d passed through the shadow of the nearly completed Colosseum. As the immense structure’s cool shade rested on my neck and shoulders, I’d whispered a prayer of thanks, in spite of the chains on my wrists and ankles, for my good fortune. Rumors abound about what’s planned for the Colosseum, and some say the games there will be far greater and more brutal than all the Ludi we’d barely survived at Circus Maximus. Another year or two, people say, and it will be complete. Perhaps I’ll never earn my rudis and the freedom that accompanies it now, but any gladiator should be grateful for the chance to serve a nobleman rather than set foot in that place.

We stop in front of one of the countless villas. There, two massive, heavily-armed guards push open the tall gates, and we walk inside. Our one-eyed guide takes us through the luxurious home to the garden in the back. Here, within the high walls covered in trailing ivy and in the shade of a massive cypress tree, servants and statues surround our new master.

As soon as I see him, I recognize the Master Laurea. I’ve seen him at the ludus before, watching us train and inspecting us the way his servant did today. I didn’t know at the time he was the one called Calvus Laurea, but I never forgot that face. Carved from cold stone, sharply angled, with intense blue eyes that always emphasize the smirk or scowl on his lips.

He lounges across a couch, cradling a polished cup in his hand as a servant fans away the day’s heat with enormous feathers. A large bodyguard stands behind Calvus Laurea, as does a black-eyed servant with a wine jug clutched to her chest.

The man who led us here stops us with a sharp gesture, and all three of us go to our knees, heads bowed.

The master gets up. His sandals scuff on the stone ground. “Stand, all of you.” As one, we rise to attention.

“I am Junius Cal—” His brow furrows. He looks from one of us to the next. Narrowing his eyes, he turns to the man who brought us. “There are three, Ataiun. Where is the fourth?”

The one-eyed servant bows his head. “My apologies, Dominus. There were only three. The fourth was stricken with fever and unable to travel.” He pulls out the scroll Ectur had given him. “His master sends this promise of compensation.”

Master Laurea scowls. “Very well. I suppose it will have to do.” He waves a hand at his servant. “See that it’s accounted for.” To us, he says, “I am Junius Calvus Laurea, and I am your new master.”

Once again, he looks at us each in turn. I try not to notice how his gaze keeps lingering on me longer than it does on the others, but his pauses are too conspicuous to ignore.

At last, he speaks: “You’re the one called Saevius, yes?”

I square my shoulders. “I am, Dominus.”

Without taking his eyes off me, he says to his servant, “Show the others to their quarters.” He gestures at me. “This one stays here.”

The men who accompanied me bow their heads sharply, and a moment later, they are gone.

Master Laurea steps closer to me, still looking me squarely in the eyes. “Welcome to Pompeii, Saevius,” he says with a slight smile. “You may call me Calvus.”

His request for familiarity sends ghostly spiders creeping up the length of my spine.

Without taking his eyes off mine, he snaps his fingers. “Bring us wine. Both of us.”

The servant holding the wine jug obeys immediately, and the spiders are more pronounced now, my breath barely moving as the woman pours two cups of wine. She hands one to our master, and then the other to me.

“Leave us,” Calvus says. “All of you.”

Gods, be with me . . .

In moments, I am alone with my new master, a cup of wine in my uncertain hand. Calvus brings his cup to his lips, pausing to say, “Drink, Saevius. I insist.”

I do. I can’t say if it tastes like the cunt of Venus, but it’s as sweet and rich as Pompeiian wines are said to be, if slightly soured by the churning in the pit of my stomach.

“You won’t be my bodyguard, Saevius,” Calvus says suddenly. “Not like the two who came with you.”

I suddenly can’t taste the wine on my tongue. With much effort, I swallow it. “Whatever you ask of me, Dominus.”

“I have two tasks for you, Saevius.” Something about the way he says my name, the way he keeps saying my name, sends more spiders wandering up and down my back and beneath my flesh. “One simple, one less so.”

I bow my head slightly. “I am here to serve, Dominus.”

“Calvus,” he says. “Call me Calvus.”

I slowly raise my head. “I am here to serve . . . Calvus.”

He grins. “Much better.”

He’s playing a game here. He has to be. What game it is, and what role I play, I can’t work out.

I take another drink of tasteless wine. “What are my duties?”

“There is a ludus gladiatori on the south side of the city.” The mention of a ludus twists something in my chest. Calvus continues, “Your first task is to present a gift to the lanista of that ludus. A gift of five hundred sestertii from Cassius, the city magistrate.” My skin crawls as an odd smile curls the corners of my new master’s mouth. “Cassius deeply regrets he could not present it himself, but”—the smile intensifies—“I promised I would take care of it for him.”

In spite of Calvus’s expression, relief cools my blood. Delivering monetary gifts instead of fighting other gladiators for the entertainment of a roaring crowd? Even if it means setting foot in a ludus again, I’ll be there only as a messenger, not a fighter in training.

Gods, I thank you. Again and again, I thank you.

“Let’s discuss your second task.” He tilts his head just so, like he’s looking for answers to questions he hasn’t yet asked. “Blasius spoke highly of you, Saevius. And your reputation precedes you all the way from Rome.” He raises his cup. “A tremendous fighter, but also a loyal servant.”

He’s quiet for a moment. It’s a silence I’m certain I’m supposed to fill, but I don’t know how.

“Thank you, Dominus,” is all I can think to say, and quickly correct it with, “Calvus. Thank you, Calvus.”

He lowers his wine cup. A different smile forms on his mouth, one that’s taut and unnerving. I’m less and less comfortable as the silence between us lingers.

At last, he speaks, and there’s something in his voice this time, an edge that prickles the back of my neck. “After you’ve delivered the money to the lanista, you will remain at the ludus.” His eyes narrow as one corner of his mouth lifts. “As an auctoratus.”

My heart beats faster. “Dominus, with respect, an auctoratus? I am not a citizen. I’m not even a freedman. How can I be an auctoratus if I am still—”

Calvus puts up a hand. “You will remain my slave, of course, but until such time as I tell you otherwise, you will live at the ludus. Train as a gladiator.” He inclines his head and lowers his voice. “To everyone but us and the gods, and according to the documents that will accompany you, you are a citizen voluntarily submitting to be owned by the ludus and its lanista. Am I understood?”

No. No, what are you asking me to do? And why?

But I nod anyway. “Yes, Dominus.”

He moves now, walking toward, then around me, circling me slowly as he continues speaking. “While you train and fight, you will keep your eyes and ears open. Listen and watch the men around you.”

I sweep my tongue across my dry lips. Every familia gladiatori is already rife with dangerous rivalries. To spy on my brothers within the ludus? Especially when I am the newest blood? I should cut my own throat now and be done with it.

“As an auctoratus,” he says, still walking around me, “you will be able to leave the ludus of your own free will, so long as you return and you don’t leave the city. When I wish to speak to you, I will contact you. Understood?”

“I . . . yes,” I say. “What am I looking for, Dominus? Er, Calvus?”

“You’re a gladiator, Saevius,” he says. “Surely you know how women feel about men like you?”

I nod again. Women were no strangers to the ludus where I trained before. Many of them married, plenty of them noble; my lanista took their money, the women cavorted with gladiators, and the husbands were never the wiser.

“A man of my stature cannot afford the embarrassment of a wife’s . . .” He pauses in both speech and step, wrinkling his nose. “Of a wife’s unsavory indiscretions. Especially with creatures so far below my station.” Calvus resumes his slow, unsettling walk around me. “And when word begins to spread of a woman doing these things, a husband, particularly a husband of my political and social stature, has little choice but to put a stop to it.” He steps into my sight and halts, looking me in the eye. “Which is where you come in, Saevius.”

Oh, dear sweet gods, help me . . .

“You will listen, and you will watch.” Calvus comes closer, eyes narrowing. “Learn the name of the man who keeps drawing my lady Verina into his bed. Am I clear, gladiator?”

In all my years in the arena, my heart has never pounded this hard. What woman doesn’t have slaves as lovers? Gladiators fuck married women as often as we fight amongst ourselves.

Unless Calvus thinks his wife isn’t involved with a slave. One of the freedmen working as trainers? Perhaps the lanista himself? Or one of the munerators renting fighters for some upcoming games? No citizen, especially not a public figure such as Calvus, tolerates that kind of insult from his wife, and for some, divorce isn’t nearly punishment enough.

Regardless of Calvus’s reasoning or what he plans to do once he knows the name of his wife’s lover, is there any place more dangerous for a man than the middle of games played between a wife and the husband she’s scorned?

“Am I clear, gladiator?”

I swallow hard. “Yes, Calvus.”

“Good.” He steps away and lifts his wine again. “I will have your papers drawn up tonight. Tomorrow morning, you will be taken to the ludus owned by the lanista Drusus.”

Drusus. Gods, any lanista but him. I silently beg the ground to open up beneath me. Drusus’s reputation extends beyond any reach Master Calvus could dream of his own doing. No gladiator who’s heard the stories about Drusus would ever volunteer to fight for him.

Calvus looks me up and down, his brow furrowing as he inspects my arms, one then the other. “These scars are . . .” He meets my eyes. “You’re left-handed, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

He grins. “Excellent. I’m sure Drusus will be doubly pleased with you.” The grin widens. “Perhaps I should have chosen you in the first place over that Phoenician. After all, a left-handed fighter like you belongs in the arena where he can make his lanista rich, yes?”

I resist the urge to avoid his eyes.

“You’ll be his left-handed moneymaker, and you’ll—” Calvus gives a quiet, bone-chilling laugh. “Well, I suppose in a way you’ll be my left hand, won’t you?”

“I suppose I will, Dominus,” I whisper.

Calvus puts his hand on my shoulder. The amusement leaves his expression. “Listen closely, gladiator. This is very important. The money you’re giving Drusus, the five hundred sestertii, is from the magistrate called Cassius. The same one who will be providing your auctoratus documents. Is that clear?”

My mouth goes dry as I nod.

“You will not mention me or our arrangement,” he says. “Not to anyone within the ludus under any circumstances. Understood?”

“Yes, Dominus.” I hesitate. “Calvus.”

“Be warned, Saevius. I do not tolerate treachery or dishonesty.” He leans in, lowering his voice so I’m certain no one but me and the gods can hear him, and he presses down hard on my shoulder. “Give me a single reason to believe you’re not doing precisely as I’ve ordered, or that you’ve breathed my name within the walls of the ludus, and I will see to it the magistrate asks Drusus if he received the full seven hundred sestertii. Am I understood?”

With much effort, I swallow. With even more, I nod. “Yes, Calvus.”

And silently, I beg the gods to send me back to Rome to fight in its Colosseum.

Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

 

Website: http://www.gallagherwitt.com
E-mail: gallagherwitt@gmail.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

Review Tour and Giveaway for Out Of The Ocean by Lynn Michaels

Standard

 

 
Length: 26,500 words approx.
 

Cover Design: Decorous Anarchy Studios

 
Blurb
 

Cal Bigsby spent his life working the fishing boats and ignoring who he really is and what he needs to be happy.


Prescott ‘Scott’ Vandenburton is being primed to take over Daddy’s company, but he craves a life of his own. His only escape is sailing his yacht.


When a freak storm hits, both are forced to think about life from a whole new perspective.


Shipwrecked, fighting for their lives, and finding unexpected love.



March 15 – The Novel Approach
March 16 – Sexy Erotic Xciting, Hearts On Fire Reviews, Cupcakes & Bookshelves
March 17 – Gay Book Reviews
March 19 – BookLove, Xtreme Delusions
March 20 – Joyfully Jay
March 21 – Jim’s Reading Room, Making It Happen
March 22 – MM Good Book Reviews
March 23 – Diverse Reader, Archaeolibrarian, Dreams and Screams Bookaholics, Annette Gisby, Wicked Reads
March 26 – Bayou Book Junkie, Valerie Ullmer, Sarandipity, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
March 27 – Love Bytes Reviews

Author Bio


Lynn Michaels lives and writes in Tampa, Florida where the sun is hot and the Sangria is cold. Lynn is the newest addition to Rubicon Fiction, and she loves reading and writing about hot men in love. She writes paranormal and contemporary MM Romance


Facebook Page
Amazon Page
Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions