The Gladiator’s Mistress by Jennifer D. Bokal
Publisher & Release Date: Montlake Publishing, July 14, 2015
Time and setting: 100 – 104 B.C. Rome
Genre: Historical Romance/Historical Fiction
Jennifer D. Bokal
Length: 330 pages
Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame
Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns
Phaedra, a dutiful daughter of Rome’s most influential senator, has no choice but to marry a man chosen by her father. But a chance encounter with handsome gladiator Valens Secundus sends her pulse racing—and, for the first time, makes her wish she could choose her own fate. They make each other a promise: she’ll insist on having the right to select her next husband, and he’ll do everything within his power to win his freedom.
A gladiatorial champion, Valens has fought his way up from poverty to become a star in the arena. The only two things he craves are his freedom and the luscious Phaedra, both seemingly far out of reach. But four years after their fateful meeting, Phaedra returns to Rome and soon becomes a widow, and Valens answers to no one but himself. They’re finally free to explore their fiery passion—while evading a powerful and wealthy new suitor of Phaedra’s—until Valens must return to the arena one last time. And in order for Phaedra to control her own destiny and claim her love, Valens will need to survive the battle of his life.
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I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Gladiator’s Mistress from the publisher via Net-Galley in exchange for an honest review. The book description sounded interesting, and I looked forward to reading it. While this book does have a strong romantic element, I would not say it is historical romance, but historical fiction instead.
The historical detail is fantastic, and I truly got the sense of this very long ago time. From the description of the costumes to the vivid description of the Gladiator’s arena, I became enmeshed in that part of the story. I loved the description of Valens’ living quarters while he was still a slave.
I quickly bonded to Valens Secundus’ character from the start. He’s an honorable warrior who has fought his way up from poverty to become the Gladiator Champion of Rome. He takes care of his mother and sister as well as he can since he is still a slave in the beginning of the story. I always enjoy a warrior archetype, and Valens fits it perfectly.
I had a more difficult time identifying with Phaedra’s character. I did not see her as honorable for one thing. She meets Valens on her wedding day and immediately develops romantic feelings, even though honor demands she give her affection to her new husband. While I understand her father married her to a much older man of great political importance, she is still honor bond to the man she marries, but she is not loyal,even though nothing physical occurs. I think part of the problem is that the book jumps ahead four years, and I did not get to see her learn to have affection for her husband.
I struggled through a good part of the book before I became engaged with the story. Most of the time the hero and heroine is apart. I could not understand how they could fall in love. They never had a chance to truly get to know each other until well into the story, and even then it was more physical than emotional.
If you want to get a good feel for Roman times and the life of a Gladiator, then you will enjoy The Gladiator’s Mistress, but if you are looking for an emotionally-charged romance, you will have to wait until the last part of the book. I did enjoy this novel, and I’m glad I read it. However I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had gone into it knowing it was a historical fiction piece rather than a romance. Happy reading!