Dear Ms Randal,
Wow, Harlequin really seems to be getting the message that romance readers want something other than Regency set romances to read. Will wonders never cease? In the past year I think I’ve read more books set during ancient Rome than in the five preceding years combined.
After two years spent battling the enemies of Rome, Marcus Flavius Donatus returns to the Imperial City determined to find the woman he left behind. However, her father won’t tell him where she is and all his inquiries turn up nothing. That is until Lelia’s younger sister offers Marcus a clue. Go to the afternoon games in the Flavian Amphitheater, she tells him and when he does he discovers that after Lelia was thrown out of her family home in disgrace for their affair, she became a gladiatrix to support herself. Horrified, Marcus negotiates to buy her from the lanista who owns her. But Lelia is still furious over how Marcus abandoned her and, with the lanista’s approval, she forces him to pay an outrageous price not only for her contract but also that of her best friend, Severina.
Marcus soon discovers that finding Lelia and paying through the nose to free her is only the beginning of his battle to win her back. Though the passion which ignited between them two years ago hasn’t cooled, Lelia now hates Marcus for what he did and how he cost her the love and support of her family plus the respect of society. Marcus knows that Lelia had to sell herself to the lanista and fight in the arena to survive but what she keeps from him is the fact that she bore a child, now lost. When an attempt is made on her life, Marcus has one more enemy to fight as he works to win back what he cast away through fear two years ago.
While I applaud your first book and the fact that you have picked a favorite era of mine to read, “Warrior or Wife” does come with some problems for me. Marcus doesn’t initially come across well for having seduced Lelia and left her, knowing full well he can’t offer marriage due to his military service. He does have another reason which is detailed later in the book (and which unfortunately is a bit cliched), but it took me a while to get over my initial dislike of him.
Then there are lots of misunderstandings. Lots of whiplash emotional changes. Both hero and heroine vow to do certain things and not do certain things then 1 day and 4 pages later, they are doing exactly what they said they’d never do. But I did like the fact that when you had Lelia change her mind about a physical relationship with Marcus, she initially did so purely from desire and honestly admitted it. That was a refreshing change from the norm.
What truly baffled me though was that Lelia waits so long to tell Marcus about their child. WTmajorF? She wants her child back, her super rich senator hubby has money and connections to find him and she waits!?! Why? What for? Their child could be in danger, dying, being mistreated and she waits?!? I tried but I really can not understand this. I can see why she waits to tell him she loves him but not going after her son makes no sense to me.
On the other hand, Marcus’s trust issues based on his abandonment by his mother at such a young age do make sense yet I still don’t like that he used Lelia. He should have known better than to use a well born daughter of a high ranking family that way. I do give you credit for creating a a truly vile villain who just is and for not loading us down with a tear filled history explaining motivations. I wanted to see more of the heroine as a gladiatrix as the few fight scenes were vividly done and I think you have a flair for them. The book does have nice period descriptions in it. I like the fact that you use a setting other than Rome and show us life in the countryside which is something I’ve not seen in a romance book before. Do you plan to expand on the glimpse you gave us of the interest between Lelia’s gladiatrix friend and Marcus’s soldier friend? Since what we saw was so brief, I hope so.
While I did have some problems with the book, it held my interest and kept me reading. The setting gets bonus points and I’d like to see what you have in store for Severina. C+ for this one.