Avon Red, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-225205-0
Historical Erotica, 2013
Lauren Hawkeye’s Seduced by the Gladiator is linked to her previous effort for this publisher, My Wicked Gladiators. You can read this one as a stand alone story, but I have to warn you – the two guys from the previous story show up here in the late third or so, and you may end up feeling like the only person in the party without any friend to talk to.
We are back in ancient Rome, and our heroine Lilia is the rare female gladiator who is fast making a name for herself in the ludus. Not that she has any choice in her vocation, as she was sold to her Dominus from a young age and has choice but to fight. When the story opens, her recent effort to show the guys that she is not to be messed with is interrupted by Christus, a newly acquired gladiator. Christus thinks he’s doing Lilia a favor by coming to her rescue, not realizing that he has inadvertently shown her to be weak in the other men’s eyes. Can their relationship get over this rocky beginning? The fact that gladiators are forbidden to consort with each other may complicate matters, of course.
Unfortunately for this story, it reprises some of the elements of the previous story that I am not so fond of. Women that enjoy sex are still portrayed as mentally unstable villains, and Lilia’s portrayed as “good” mostly because she responds to sex instead of actively seeking it out. For all her tough background, Lilia is still portrayed as a stereotypical blank slate waiting for the hero to school her in the ways of the flesh. While there is a tough heroine here, therefore, the sexual dynamic between the hero and the heroine is still a very familiar one.
Just like the previous story, this one is narrated from the heroine’s first person point of view. Maybe because this time there’s only one hero, Christus does come off as a more well-developed hero. Unfortunately, he’s still a trophy dildo material, as he exists basically to deliver sexual healing and enable the heroine to feel like a woman. He has some issues about his wife and kid getting killed by a villain, but he spends most of his time being the “real man” that brings out the “real woman” in Lilia.
The “real woman” thing is unfortunate because the unfortunate implication here is that a “real woman” has to depend on a man to make her feel whole and fulfilled. A “real woman” is “soft” and “tender”, so the woman that fights to survive in the gladiator ring is actually abhorrent. Give me a break. You can argue that perhaps the setting of this story allows for such dated sexual norms to exist, but Lilia is actually a modern-sounding heroine in many other ways. I don’t believe historical accuracy can be used as justification for this instance, since Lilia exhibits some contemporary beliefs and thoughts in other aspects of her personality.
This story does have some good points. The sex scenes are hot enough to scorch, and there is plenty of action to keep things moving. It’s just that this story also has some unfortunate and even outdated notions of gender roles hanging over it like the Sword of Damocles. If you can overlook these things, well, there’s no harm looking at this one, as it’s not like we can find sexy stories set in ancient Rome every other day.