Title: Nova Praetorian
Author: N.R. Walker
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 394 Pages
At a Glance: There were many things that worked for me in Nova Praetorian, and they all came together in a rather beautiful way.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Quintus Furius Varus is one of the best lanistas in Rome. Tall and strong in build, fearsome in manner, and sharp of wit, he trains the best gladiators bound for the arenas of Rome. When Senator Servius Augendus seeks personal guards, he attends the Ludus Varus for purchase of the very best. He puts to Quintus an offer he cannot refuse, and Quintus finds himself in Neapolis, contracted as a trainer of guards instead of gladiators.
Kaeso Agorix was taken from his homelands of Iberia and delivered to Rome as a slave. Bought by a senator to be trained as a guard, his fate is handed to the man who would train him. Absent free will, Kaeso knows his life is no longer his own, though he soon realises the gods have favoured him when he learns his new master has a kind heart.
Quintus and Kaeso forge a bond that far exceeds the collar at Kaeso’s neck, and together they discover the senator’s move for promotion has an ulterior motive. Thrown into a world of politics and conspiracy, of keeping enemies close, they move against time to save Rome before traitors and the gods themselves see to their end.
And in doing so, see the dawn of the nova praetorian—the new guard—rise.
Review: There are more than a few authors in the LGBT Romance genre who’ve penned novels set in Ancient Rome—books which I’ve read and loved—each of whom put their own signature touches on the lives and times of their fictional men in a reality-based setting. And now, with Nova Praetorian, I can happily add author N.R. Walker to that list. There were many things that worked for me in this novel, and they all came together in a rather beautiful way.
Building a genuine relationship on the foundation of enslavement isn’t an easy task, at least not when it’s involuntary servitude as opposed to the consensual sort we see in BDSM, but Walker met the challenges of establishing a solid and, perhaps more importantly, believable romance between Quintus Furius Varus and the slave Kaeso Agorix. Honor, dignity, respect and trust each come into focus in their own way and become an integral part of the story, those mutual characteristics coming to the fore to be absorbed as a common bond, and then there is the obvious primal attraction between them that is capitalized on as well, to lead to something so much deeper and more whole, a completion that includes the men being on equal footing in the relationship, which is something not easily achieved and they must fight for against a backdrop of political intrigue.
Senator Servius Augendus has plans to further his career, plans which include using Quintus, Quintus’ gladiators, whom he considers family, and Kaeso, whom Servius gives to Quintus with orders to break the newly arrived slave of his defiance—the failure of which Quintus himself would pay for. I liked watching the machinations and maneuverings as they played out against the story’s romantic arc and how the senator’s baser avarice and grasp for power served at cross-purposes to place Kaeso on equal footing with Quintus. Kaeso was to be little more than collateral used to keep Quintus in line, but Kaeso very often was the voice of reason when Quintus’ fighting instincts came into play, and while Quintus didn’t always welcome Kaeso’s opinions, or handle them graciously, for that matter, his respect and admiration for his ‘rabbit’ was impossible to miss. Which then became a handicap, as that which is our greatest treasure can also be our single greatest weakness.
While there are some historically significant events that take place during the story, and there’s an obvious attention to detail with respect to the time period, Walker took those events and details and made them her own and then populated the story with characters who are intelligent, fierce, warm and humorous on one side, while on the other, there are those who manipulate and betray and slay anyone who stands as an obstacle to their objective, all for the sake of greed and profit. Justice in Ancient Rome was often meted out swiftly and brutally at the end of dagger, sword or spear; it was a time when blood sport was cheered and death was a gift to the gods. There is also a race-against-time aspect to the storyline that plays out against a historical event that not only adds a sense of heartache to the story but also keeps it fast paced and fraught with tension as the danger and conflict peaks.
Make no mistake, though; it is the romance that takes center stage in Nova Praetorian, and it’s beautifully cast and formed, just as one would expect from this author. Whether in competition or playfulness, in turmoil or trouble, there was never a moment I doubted the bond or the truth of the vows Quintus made to Kaeso that they would be together always, come what may. This is a romance lovers romance, replete with passion and sensuality and a happy ever after too, for two men who fought the odds and won.
You can buy Nova Praetorian here:
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