by Lauren Hawkeye, historical (2012)
Red, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-219695-8
Do note that it is "gladiators" - plural - in the title of Lauren Hawkeye's My Wicked Gladiators. Yes, we are talking about two sweaty and swarthy guys in blood-soaked haze ravishing our luscious heroine in those old Roman empire days. Also, for those who don't like to read about guys playing with other guys, take note that these two men do just that in this story.
Our heroine, Alba, is married to Lucius, but despite being a gorgeous woman, she somehow manages to have her husband lose interest in her. Lucius plays with the slaves, while Alba moons over the hot gladiator Marcus. In fact, shortly after the story begins, she gets Marcus to play with her. Lucius runs a gladiator training school - which supplies those hunky guys that fight in those tournaments for our entertainment - and in order to secure the money of a potential sponsor, he needs to impregnate Alba. Alas, he's not up to the task, so he decides that his gladiators will do the honor instead.
Alba doesn't like that - it's not that she doesn't want to be ravished by those gorgeous men, it's the principle of it that she is against - but she soon is having the time of her life with Marcus, Caius, Gaus, Paus, Laos, Naus... okay, only Marcus and Caius, how cute. Of course, by now the author is terrified that readers would think of special Alba as a slut, so she has to find a way to make sure that Alba ditching her husband for these two men is the morally right thing to do.
That's the most perplexing thing about this story: the author is more intent on proving to me that Alba is the most virtuous person in the galaxy that she ends up having Alba spending more time protesting that she is a good person than doing anything else. Alba is basically carried along for the bulk of the story. Sure, she has little rights back in those days, but it's not like she can't try to work with the limitations she is given to make the best of a situation. No, she'd rather whine, protest, moan, and grumble like a princess trapped in a bubble of self-absorption. It gets to the point that the sex scenes - which are actually very spicy - become a joyless read because every orgasm is followed by double the amount of self-recrimination. After a while, I start to wish that Alba has the willpower to keep her legs together if sex is going to send her into a tizzy that much.
The author also falls into the same trap that caught many authors who fancy themselves purveyors of quality erotic romances - she shames women who embrace their sexuality while putting those who show little effort to be in control of their sexuality on a pedestal. A villain, who just has to be called Hilaria, is a widow who enjoys being a man-eater. Naturally, she is shown as a nasty pox of a woman, with Alba calling her "mad". Mind you, with Alba stewing in jealousy every time she imagines Hilaria happily boinking Marcus or Caius, Alba is the one who comes off as rather sad here. Still, I find it odd and a little depressing that, once again, in a story that supposedly celebrates the sensuality of romance, the woman who enjoys sex is portrayed in the most negative manner possible.
This story is narrated from Alba's first person point of view, so the whole story is soaked in her constant whining, moaning, and self-recriminations. Poor Marcus and Caius come off as rather one-dimensional happy trophy dildos for our heroine. I don't know why they want this mopey baggage to join their sweaty manly lovefest with one another, and I think they should have just ditched that thing and give me their story instead.
As I've mentioned, the sex scenes here are hot, so this one is worth a look if you are in the mood for such literary edification. The story itself, however, is a let down, especially when it's narrated by a heroine that is too passive for her own good.
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