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Title: The Last Gladiatrix
Author: Eva Scott
May Contain Spoilers
In the dust and death of the Collosseum, a slave fights for freedom, a soldier fights for his life, and they both fight for the love that has been forbidden.
Captured and enslaved by a Roman legion, Xanthe never expects to end up training for the Colosseum floor, but every night after the day’s march, she is put through her paces by a Roman solider who challenges her, tests her, and excites her.
Titus is drawn to Xanthe, her fire and her spirit, so he breaks one of his rules and brings notice on himself, offering to train her as a gladiatrix to spare her a courtesan’s role. But training her, working with her, soon becomes too much. Titus knows the penalty for taking property that does not belong to him, but how long can he resist?
I enjoyed this novella a lot! I love stories set in Ancient Rome, and when I saw The Last Gladiatrix had gladiators, I was all about reading this book! Gladiators are even better than ninjas and pirates. They are better than ninjas and pirates put together! There’s something about that desperate struggle for survival and freedom that makes them so compelling. Knowing that a bad day in the Coliseum will more than likely equate to a violent and premature death makes reading them suspenseful and exciting. I’m always worried that the protagonist is going to die or be severely injured. It can be so stressful!
Xanthe is Sarmatian, and her people lived on the steppes with their horses, fiercely protecting their herds. After Xanthe is captured by Huns and given as tribute to a Roman general, her prospects for a long, happy life seem dim. When it’s decided that she’s earn the general a ton of money fighting in the games, her fate is sealed. The general doesn’t expect her to survive her first fight, and worse, he doesn’t care. Xanthe is nothing to him, worth even less than a his sandals. When Centurion Titus Valens convinces the general that she’ll bring him more coin if she survives to fight again, Titus is put in charge of her training. Xanthe and Titus soon find themselves surrendering to an attraction they can’t deny.
The only part of the story that didn’t really work for me was the instant, simmering lust that brewed between Xanthe and Titus. I didn’t care how handsome he was, she had just been taken prisoner, the Huns and the Romans treated her like a dog, and I expected her to be fierce and more independent that she was. After all of the intense training on the long, long march to Rome, I would have bought into raging attraction, but for it to happen so quickly after being captured, it felt like too much, too soon.
Despite that one quibble, I thought this was a great read. The pacing never lagers, the fighting is ferocious and intense, and both Titus and Xanthe are sympathetic characters. They have both been dealt the worst hand possible, yet they refuse to fold and give up. I kept wondering how they were going to survive and get their HEA. I liked them so much that I’d love to see what adventures they face next.
Review copy provided by publisher