Column

GAMES of ROME

dominus book 2

Games of Rome
Column_edited.png

BOOK REVIEWS

"I love when a book meets every one of my expectations. I love even more when a book exceeds them, and JP Kenwood’s Games of Rome does just that in every way. I was so impressed by the author’s Dominus, and now, that book’s sequel has proven Kenwood’s talent for solid storytelling, building beautiful settings, offering the perfect amount of historical context, creating engaging and layered characters, and tapping into readers’ emotions. I don’t mind admitting this book wrung a few tears from me either. When an author can accomplish that, forming those sorts of attachments between reader and characters, it makes the reading all the more rewarding.

Gaius Fabius Rufus, the Lion of the Lucky Fourth, is many things–Commander, war hero, husband, master, and friend and former lover of Lucius Petronius. Where this book exceeded my expectations is not only that the historical setting is portrayed in such a way that grounds the reader in what feels like an authentic Ancient Rome, but that the book also is a compelling mystery–both in the past and in modern day Rome. Lucius’s murder becomes a central focus of Games of Rome as we watch Gaius grieve, promise retribution, seek absolution while often seeming a walking contradiction–warm and tender one moment, cold and commanding the next, charming and sometimes cruel. Gaius is nothing if not a mercurial man whose arrogance seems to know no bounds–if I’m being honest, he isn’t always easy to like–but is tempered by that ability to charm. Where the book offers a bit of the unexpected, however, is in its supernatural elements. This was so unexpected that I wasn’t certain how I felt about it at first, but it was woven into the storyline in such a way that became integral to the plot, and now I can’t imagine how the story would have been better without it. As for the modern day mystery, this is being teased out in the tiniest of morsels, and this installment has only served to pique my interest even more. Archeology uncovers its share of secrets from the past, though it doesn’t always provide answers. There are definitely more questions than answers right now surrounding the pair of skeletons discovered at a dig site, and I haven’t a clue what JP Kenwood will reveal in further storylines. All I know for sure is that the author baited that hook and I’m hanging on gladly. 

From the Emperor to clients to slaves, Gaius has a life filled with a variety of diverse people and experiences, all entrenched in the Ancient Roman culture and portrayed beautifully in these books. I don’t know much about this historical period but can say Kenwood seems to have not only an interest in but an affinity for the era. Ancient Rome dominated, it was the seat of some of the world’s most impressive art and architecture, and the Romans were responsible for many advancements in civilization at the time, but, to our sensibilities, it was also a barbaric time in which people sat in arenas and watched prisoners of war be eaten for sport. Slavery was commonplace – both household servants and pleasure slaves, male and female, owned by both Gaius and his wife, Marcia – and these books feature several prominent slaves in key roles. Sex, for Gauis, is a near sport in itself, where he can display his prowess and dominance and, with one slave in particular, his benevolence, and those moments of contradictory cruel tenderness come to the fore. Alle, a Dacian prince, war prize, and now, Gaius’s most prized possession, has captured his Dominus’s heart and has added another dimension of intrigue to the plot. Their relationship is fraught with complications and questions and potential hazards. Can either of these men manage not to betray each other? I can hardly see how it will be avoided and am anxious to see how their relationship progresses.

One of the more interesting characteristics of this series is Gaius’s marriage, as well as the social contradiction of men having sex with other men. There is no expectation of monogamy in the marriage as is certainly portrayed on Gaius’s part; nor is bisexuality strictly taboo. It was, however, unacceptable for men to engage in a sexual relationship with a peer. Same sex encounters were left strictly between slave and master, which is what adds such a poignant end note to Gaius and Lucius’s affair. I love that these books are informative but not in a textbook way. The author weaves these small details into the plot in a way that makes them all the more interesting, and, when it comes down to it, makes this series unique in the LGBT fiction genre.

If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough."

The Novel Approach

"Games of Rome is the second book in the Dominus series, a historical series set within an alternative timeline of ancient Rome. I highly, highly, highly recommend reading Dominus, the first book in the series, before reading Games of Rome. There are a lot of important plot points and character development that happens in the first book that is carried forward into this book.

One of my favorite elements about Games of Rome, and the Dominus series as a whole, is the INCREDIBLE world building based on accurate historical information. These details really bring the book to life and I love how certain plot elements tie in with major events that actually happened in history. I can tell the author is an expert in this subject and used her expertise to craft this rich and intriguing story. I also adore the characters – their morals and cultural norms definitely reflect the time period they are set in (which can be hard for some readers), but I found this fascinating. All the characters have depth and layers to them, and their emotions and reactions are powerful and tangible. The intensity that flows through this book made it hard to put down. This book has it all – action, drama, political intrigue, suspense, and some delicious steamy moments."

Amazon reader

"Excellent writing. Characters who are well-developed (even the secondary ones). A love story. A murder plot. Lush detailed settings.

I loved this book. The writing is so delicious I can feel, smell and taste the characters' surroundings while reading.

I loved the eroticism. It is sweet and passionate when it needs to be, rougher and sexy when called for. What I also admire is the author's ability to write the erotica without the scenes seeming repetitive, and every sex scene furthers the characterization (or plot).

There is a little paranormal in this one, and it was perfect, even believable. I loved the ghost so much.

I don't want to give spoiler details away, but I will say that one character has never experienced a certain sexual position, and he gets to. I was thrilled about that (it might seem a small thing, but I loved that he got to do it). Read the book to find out what that is.

I highly recommend this series and cannot wait for book 3. Well done!"

Amazon reader

"The mystery deepens in the incredibly exciting book 2 of the Dominus series. Games of Rome takes us further into the Roman traditions as we follow along the journey of Alle, Nic, Simon, Max, and the powerful, incredibly handsome, sexy Roman Commander Gaius Fabius Rufus.
Lots of plot development occurs in his book, some good things happen, some bad things happen, and of course, sexy times happen. I gained extensive knowledge on the Roman ' s sexual appetites, the food they ate, and the way they prepared their homes for guests. Roman politics plays a central role in this tale, involving well written characters that we love to hate, and ache to love. I cheer with the character's triumphs, and weep with their heartbreaks. JP Kenwood kept me riveted to the pages of book 2, and left me wanting more.
So, as I raise my glass of wine, I cheer the fabulous characters, and well written story of the Roman and his slaves. May he find peace, love, and vengeance for the murder of the first man he ever dared to love, and the new man teaching him to love once again.
Salute!"

Amazon reader

"A great sequel to Dominus. Fast paced, lots of plot and great characterisation, I enjoyed this read immensely. What I particularly liked about this book - and indeed the first - is how well all the characters are drawn and as a reader I got a good sense of who they were and what made them tick. Whilst this can be read as a stand-alone, I would advise that the first in the series, Dominus, is read first. This is only because you get the backstory in book one which means a more in-depth understanding of all the characters by the time you get to Games. All in all a good read, and thoroughly recommended."

Amazon reader

"This is one of the best male to male series I have read. I can't wait for book three. I have read the first and second book several times. I wish there were more period novels out there."

Amazon reader

"This is a continuous as story, must read Dominus (book 1). The story line becomes more intriguing and addicting. Allerix and Gaius relationship becomes more complex, steamier, and tense. The secondary characters are just as well developed as the first and add much to the story. There's a death of a much loved character but he refuses to go away until his final wishes are realized. I loved the little paranormal twist added to this story. The suspense had me seating at the edge of my seat and the heat had me fanning myself (so hot!). There were so many plots happening that every page has you filled with suspense, but all is written in a way that the story pulls you in without confusing or overwhelming the reader. I don't want to give any spoilers away, just know that it will keep you invested from beginning to end. And the details to the Roman world are very interesting and make the story so realistic. The story does continue to book 3 but definitely worth it because there's is so much to see and learn from this wonderful world of Gaius and his slaves."

Amazon reader

"I liked this series right away and now I'm completely in love after reading the second in the series. The characters are so rich and easy to love and yell at, the plot is engaging and interesting and there's sex scenes a plenty!
100% worth snagging."

Amazon reader

"Part murder mystery and part slow burn romance, this sequel to DOMINUS Book 1 brings the story forward, and further immerses the reader in the world of Gaius Fabius Rufus’s “family” of servants and pleasure slaves in Rome and Campania in the time of Trajan. I really love these characters and the developing relationship between Gaius and his Dacian slave, Allerix. The ongoing investigation of Gaius’s friend Lucius’s murder is compelling, and as a reader I find myself very invested in how this will resolve in the larger story arc which continues in Book 3. The story of an archeological dig in modern Rome which bookends the main story (and continues from Book 1) is an added treat."

BookBub reader

"In the second installment, Rome's heroic general, Gaius Rufus finds his life on and off the battlefields in a tug-of-war with his emotions and his ambitions. He must make a very important and possibly life altering decision to either return to Rome for his well-deserved accolades or stay with his beloved slave, Prince Allerix. Another tragedy occurs and makes his decision even more difficult. What will Gaius do? Can he save and protect his precious Allerix? 

Gaius the beautiful, powerful, strong commander and ex-lover of Lucius. Lucius murder becomes the center point in this installment and Gaius is completely shocked by his former lovers death and it sends him on a road of grief and revenge. Gaius marriage comes into the story a bit more and of course the act of sex with men which is common in this time even though it is not in the history books. As long as men did not have gay sex with men of their social stature as it has to be with men who are lower than their social standing as this way it's not looked at having a relationship but more of just pure sex. 

I thought it would be impossible to top Dominus but apparently no as the author has another huge hit on her hands with Games of Rome. The character of Gaius keeps getting more intense and we learn more about him. I love this guy and he's such an interesting character to read about. The author’s knowledge of the Romans is completely remarkable and how she makes you feel like you're actually in this time goes to her brilliant writing. The great twist in the series is that the author writes these books in both past and present Rome and it was so unique that I really love this kind of format.

I love how Gaius treats sex and he looks at it more of a sport to display his beautiful and powerful attributes. That is until his slave, Allerix actually gets into Gaius heart. The relationship comes with many troubles that need to be handled or both men have so much to lose. I hope they can weather what's coming their way and not sacrifice each other. Gaius is a man you don't want to cross and no one is his complete match but Allerix comes very close. Will these men find their HEA with each other? If you ever wanted to know what life was for a gay Roman then you MUST read Games of Rome as I couldn't highly recommended it enough and if I could give it more than five stars trust me I would!"

Goodreads reader

"If you haven’t read any book in this series, yet, I strongly encourage you to start either with ‘February and December’ (A collection of two Stand-Alone novellas set before ‘Dominus’) or ‘Dominus’. Don’t start with book two. 

It took me a while to read ‘Dominus’, the first book in this series, because I felt uncomfortable with certain aspects of the historical setting. There is a lot of historical accuracy in this series, because the author has done a lot of research and knows what she is writing about. Still, some of the realities of the time are difficult to swallow for a modern reader. In the beginning Gaius seemed cruel in the way he thought about his friend, his brother, this emperor and in the way he treated some slaves with what seemed unnecessary cruelty or as things to be used for sexual pleasure.

Reading ‘Games of Rome’ was a very different experience for me. I knew that Gaius and his ‘brother’ were given to the emperor as boys and were sexually abused by him. While being his adopted son brings Gaius money and power, I understand the hatred he has for his father and the difficult relationship he has with his entire family. While I do not approve how Gaius has treated Bryaxis, his friend Lucius’ slave, I now understand his reaction. Gaius was truly in love with his friend Lucius, but after their studies in Greece, the love between two men of the same station was strongly forbidden and they had to continue their affair in secret and were never able to enjoy their relationship. It must have been hard for Gaius to watch his beloved friend fall in love with his slave Bryaxis. I also saw the love, loyalty and protectiveness Gaius has for his slaves and everyone in his household, even though I of course strongly disapprove of slavery. Gaius is a man of his time, but he treats the people around him well and has a good heart.

I deeply cared for Gaius and the other characters by the end of book one and I truly devoured book two, because I had to know how the story would continue. There was no need to get to know characters or to get used to the setting. Book two continues just where the book one cliffhanger left off. Gaius knows the identity of Prince Allerix and his friend and lover Lucius was brutally murdered.

The stakes are very high as he has to keep Allerix safe, grieve for his best friend, and revenge his death.

Keeping Allerix safe is not an easy task, as he was a Dacian prince and thus should have been killed. The fact that Gaius knows who he is, but is still hiding him is very dangerous. Hiding Allerix is also dangerous, because the young man also carries revenge in his heart, even though Gaius’ feelings are not one-sided.

The emotional fallout from Lucius’ murder made the entire book even more intense and emotional. It is an interesting mystery that has a deep impact on Gaius and leads him to Rome, the city he hates because it is full of power games and intrigues. It is important for him to go there, if he wants a chance to solve his lover’s murder and it was fascinating for me to see him back in the city. Knowing him much better now, the way he interacts with the people of Rome was very interesting to me. He is playing a dangerous and deadly game.

As in book one, I loved Gaius’ interactions with his wife. They are both very smart and know how to play the political game well, but their marriage is very much political. They do not love and desire each other, but they have a lot of trust and respect and are a fierce power couple in the ancient city.

There are also some fantasy aspects in this book that were very unexpected for me, but were interesting and handled well. While I did not anticipate these ‘magical’ scenes, they have an emotional payoff and were not just randomly added.

I am still uncertain how the contemporary story that frames the ‘Dominus’ books will tie in with everything in the end, but the author has earned my trust and I am looking forward to discovering what she has planned for readers of the series. Though given that there are VERY heartbreaking scenes in this book, I am glad to know that the author has a wonderful HEA planned for Gaius and Allerix.

I love the author’s unique style of drawing readers into a different time, while using modern language to make them feel more comfortable there. JP Kenwood has the rare ability to portray a historic setting authentically and make it come alive for readers.

If you liked ‘Dominus’, you will LOVE ‘Games of Rome’. It features the same interesting and complex characters, but the stakes are higher, the story is more emotional and there is more political intrigue, even as the beautiful and unlikely love story between Gaius and Allerix at the heart of the books never falls out of focus.

Rating: 10/10 Pots of Gold"

Goodreads reader

"A constant challenge to put this book down, which was read as I moved to a new city (making it harder to focus on reassessing priorities). A jewel of a masterpiece from Kenwood, who enthralls the reader from start to finish. Rufus is less insufferable here than previously, and it warms the heart to see him fall in love. The suspense is gripping, Bryaxis chortles his way through Simon's adoration, and tragedy strikes. Feeling for these characters is an experience of naked joy, which can hardly be masked by lofty ideas of moderation. Applause is thoroughly merited for the steamy intimacies that the reader is introduced to, with more than one giggle - and moan, needing stifling at times. Much love to the author for this pearl; here's to all those looking forward to the next one in the series."

Goodreads reader

"The mystery deepens in the incredibly exciting book 2 of the Dominus series. Games of Rome takes us further into the Roman traditions as we follow along the journey of Alle, Nic, Simon, Max, and the powerful, incredibly handsome, sexy Roman Commander Gaius Fabius Rufus. 
Lots of plot development occurs in his book, some good things happen, some bad things happen, and of course, sexy times happen. I gained extensive knowledge on the Roman ' s sexual appetites, the food they ate, and the way they prepared their homes for guests. Roman politics plays a central role in this tale, involving well written characters that we love to hate, and ache to love. I cheer with the character's triumphs, and weep with their heartbreaks. JP Kenwood kept me riveted to the pages of book 2, and left me wanting more. 
So, as I raise my glass of wine, I cheer the fabulous characters, and well written story of the Roman and his slaves. May he find peace, love, and vengeance for the murder of the first man he ever dared to love, and the new man teaching him to love once again.
Salute!"

Goodreads reader