Merrimon Book Reviews

Julius Caesar

Mosaic of a retiarius (net-fighter) fighting a secutor. In the bottom image, secutor is covered in net. In later image, he is on the ground and raises his dagger to surrender. Inscription above it shows the sign for "null" and his name, implying that he was killed.

Circus Maximus in Rome
The Circus Maximus site was first utilized for public games and entertainment by the Etruscan kings of Rome. After Julius Caesar expanded the Circus in 50 BC the track could hold an estimated 270,000 spectators.

Gladiator mosaic. The gladiators are (from left) a disarmed and surrendering retiarius and his secutor opponent, two gladiators of unknown type, a Thracian and his surrendering opponent of unknown type, and the referee.
From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Gladiator's Honor

by Michelle Styles


Passionate thrilling Roman romance
The year is 65 B.C. and Aedile Julius Caear is assembling the largest troop of gladiators Rome has ever seen.  Julia Antonia couldn't help but look at heart-stopping sexy man standing in the portico of the baths.  A Roman matron she might be, a woman not caught up in the gladiator cult like her friends, but some men are more than eye candy.  Even before they meet, the pure maculinity of this man awakens the woman in Julia, inspiring her to act in ways she never has before.  Valens the Thracian, a hardened gladiator survivor, is accustomed to the idolization of women everywhere he goes.  One sentence spoken by Julia, however, unnerves him more than the mist strenuous gladiator match.  With scandal from her past already threatening Julia's position in upper eschelons of Roman society, Julia nevertheless feels irrestibly drawn to this man, a man considered no better than a slave by the Romans.  Sold into slavery, Valens left all his past behind when he was initiated into the Strabo school of gladiators.  Determined to finally win his freedom and gain the rudius, a wooden sword with all its rights and priviledges, Valens cannot afford the distraction of the passion he feels for Julia or the sedrets of his past her presence threatens to unveil.  To claim her as his own, he must risk his very life in a test that will challenge body and mind alike.

THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR is a wonderfully intense romance! Michelle Styles takes the reader right up to the edge until the very last pages.  The passion between Julia and Valens runs so deep that both are drawn to each other despite the inner and outer obstacles in their path.  As magnetic chemistry draws Julia and Valens together, the political undercurrents and inner wounds of these two characters add several intriguing twists to their romance.  For those put off by the bloody noisy gladiator movies, Michelle Styles' THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR is a refreshing look into the culture and politics of the time without the assault on the ears.  Michelle Styles does not gloss over the realities of the gladiator life. Indeed, she does an excellent job at delving into the reality of that job from the politics, to the entertainment value, to the social place to the games within Roman society.  Hearing the crowds within the imagination is entirely different in THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR than the gladiator movies that make me reach for the mute button.  THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR is the perfect example how books can be more satisying than television at times. Indeed, Michelle Styles well researched historical details instill a curiosity to learn more about a culture whose distance in time often feels alien and remote.  Michelle Styles does an excellent job at detailing the differences in Roman society while also making the period accessible to modern readers by showing the similarities that transcend time.  For example, the dog Bato is an integral part of both her plot, the character building, the emotion and even a bit of the humor. In addition, Bato creates a connection with readers who live in a very different world and time  by allowing today's readers to see the common loves and concerns people share throughout the ages.

In her debut romance, Michelle Styles' THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR foreshadows some of the trademarks that readers will discover in some of her later romances --- a deep understanding of the peiod in which she writes,  romance that reaches into the darker areas of family and the heart, truly wicked villains who raise the danger level, and a special place for pets within the families of her characters.  Moments of tenderness and riveting dark danger combine to make THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR a deeply emotional romance.  In THE GLADIATOR'S HONOR, Michelle Styles keeps the reader in suspense until the very last page as the final gladiator games have several surprising twists.  No skimming over those last pages because the resolution is lackluster with this romance!  Fantastic!
Publisher: Harlequin Historical (September 2006)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews

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