Publisher: Avon Red
Release date: Out now
Author Lauren Hawkeye returns to Ancient Rome in her second erotic romance featuring sexy, fierce gladiators—and the women they love.
Lilia is the rarest of commodities—a champion female gladiator. But success has come with a price: shunned by her peers and desired by hateful men like Gaius, the brother of the emperor, Lilia is at the mercy of those around her. Only her heart is impenetrable.
After Christus, a warrior with the body of a god, is sold to the ludus that owns Lilia, she finds herself forced to defend her position and to guard her body and heart against the erotic sensations only he can bring. Beneath the tantalizing flesh of the gladiator, Lilia finds a man determined to protect her, to love her.
But when Gaius reveals a challenge for the gladiators of Rome—an epic battle to the death—Christus and Lilia must fight to win their freedom, their lives . . . and each other.
Lilia has clawed and fought her way up the ranks in her Ludus (a training school for gladiators) despite being bullied and abused by her fellow gladiators to become the champion gladiator, even though she is a woman. She is proud of being the champion, but when another experienced and skilled gladiator joins their brotherhood, Christus, her status and position is in doubt. But this is not the worse thing to happen to Lilia, because she brings out Christus’ protective feelings that soon leads to more deeper emotions which she reciprocates. However, succumbing to temptation is dangerous since falling in love could lead to punishment or worse, death.
I was really looking forward to reading Seduced by the Gladiator because not only it is set during a vibrant and violent period of the Roman empire, but it had a gladiator hero and heroine, which had me at hello. Nonetheless, despite its promising premise and opening scene, this was a very disappointing book for me because it didn’t live up to its promise for a strong heroine or a strong plot. I found Lilia suffered under the too much telling and not enough showing of being a tough heroine. There were numerous mentions of how she was a strong and skilled warrior who rose up the ranks, even though she was a woman. I did not see any scenes showing how able and skilled Lilia was, and the couple of fight scenes she fought in the arena was glossed over. The training scenes, which were filled with a lot of posturing on how tough she was against the other gladiators, also didn’t make me believe in her ability for being the champion. I also felt she was heading into Mary Sue territory, and later in the book there were elements that suggested this was the case.
It also didn’t help when soon after Christus’ arrival in the Ludus, he defends her against the other gladiators, especially against the cowardly Bavarius who has tormented and abused Lilia from the beginning of her training. I did like the fact she tried to point out to Christus–
who did have honourable intentions to protect her–that he was undermining her position in the Ludus. But this was sidelined when the sexy action took place and this was the main problem of the book for me. I know this was an Avon Red book, so I expected a higher heat content but it seemed to me that the plot was overpowered by the sexual elements instead of plot and character development.
If this was set under a different period, and featured a heroine who didn’t have an unusual historical role, I think I would ranked the book a higher grade. But it actually started to push my hot buttons the more I read. When I come across a strong female heroine, I expect them to be bold and indomitable. They don’t have to be kick ass warriors but I want them to resist and be forceful against the obstacles they face. In this case with Seduced by the Gladiator, I didn’t get that with Lilia.
[spoiler]Lilia found herself in numerous dangerous or tense situations, but didn’t react in an alert way when she was taken unaware in the practicing fields/Ludus but what really peed me off was towards the end of the book. During the big gladiator game, which was to the death, she was in the position to get back against one of her tormentors. I liked that Christus gave her the choice to settle the score and give her agency, which from up to this point in the book she has been the focus on the whim of those wanting to control her. But Lilia decides that he doesn’t deserve to die by her sword and Christus ends up doing the deed. I hated this so much! Not only the subtext with this action discredited Lilia’s abilities as a gladiator, but this was a fight to the death. I really loathed the message conveyed to the reader and I couldn’t buy her reasons that he did not deserve to die by her sword. The whole point for being a gladiator is to prove their worth and skills despite who they are up against and that was a cop out. And this undermined her portrayal of what she worked hard for.[/spoiler]
I got what the author was trying to do, but it didn’t come across that way for me, and if you are going to portray warrior type heroines, especially in a patriarchal world, they have to be well developed and stand out. They have to be believable. This just felt like a Spartacus lite type tale (which can be a fantastic premise if done right) but the execution was a lot to be desired.
The focus was on the romance and on the sex, and although the latter was well done, there was one scene which kind of squicked me out because of the lack of hygiene–and that didn’t involve the orgy voyeuristic scenes which was reflective of the society of the time. I just found this a weak effort in terms of historical feel, accuracy and tone. While I felt the romance was lackluster because there was no real build-up and the focus was spent on the sex.
I also found the sub-plot involving the Emperor’s brother who had an unhealthy fixation towards Lilia to be unbelievable because of the lengths he goes to try to capture and own Lilia which didn’t make sense. I also wished there was more development with Christus’ character who was this big huge heroic figure, but ended up being very one-dimensional. This affected the development of the romance; there was no real build-up or tension, especially since embarking in a relationship would have been dangerous. And I could not believe he would have been able to share the same room with her. I know I can forgive historical inaccuracies if the story and characters is memorable but all of this just added to my displeasure of the book.
If you don’t mind the issues I highlighted then you may enjoy the book. However I don’t think the focus on the sex could have carried this story and I know its with the erotica imprint by Avon, but there has to be a strong story and characters. For me it threw me off the story and I found the characters annoying, especially Lilia. I love strong heroines but I don’t want to be told about how assertive and tenacious they can be; I want to be shown this and then I can believe in them. Once you lose this you lose the believability, especially if the premise has an unconventional status for the heroine.
I give Seduced by the Gladiator a D+