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BLOOD before WINE

dominus book 3

Blood Before Wine
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BOOK REVIEWS

"It is glaringly obvious that author JP Kenwood knows and loves her Ancient Roman history. While that doesn’t mean her Dominus series is steeped in fact-based storytelling—author privilege is a right of passage and makes the characters and setting more interesting—there is little doubt that Gaius Fabius Rufus, the brash and bold and bigger than life Lion of the Lucky Fourth, and his Dacian slave Prince Allerix are inspiring the glory days of the Roman Empire in significant, albeit fictional, ways. That there is a murder mystery, political intrigue, and a bit of the paranormal mixed in with the forbidden love affair between master and slave gives the series a unique flavor that has now become even more complex.

Blood Before Wine is an angsty installment in the overall arc of the series. The relationship between Gaius and Alle is not only complicated by their stations but also by the thorny path they’ve been led down by way of their deepening feelings. They are tangled up in duty, loyalty, desire, and Alle’s thirst for vengeance, among other things, and this book leads readers through the myriad disasters that could occur should identities be revealed, blood and secrets be outed, and plans for revenge be realized. Kenwood relishes in the lusty sexual connection shared by her leading men, and allows her readers the opportunity to become invested in what seems as if it will be an impossible love story. The piquant emotional tone and the unraveling of what was only hanging on by the barest of threads at the end of this book leaves us on the hook for how everything will play out as the series draws closer to its inevitable conclusion. And I am here to see how it all resolves.

One of the things I have a tendency not to give enough appreciation to is the way the present and the past are being brought together through Professor Charles Hughes and a man he’s only recently become acquainted with, Yves Bouchard, so I want to do that now. The discovery of a relic that connects our fascination with history to the history itself through Gaius and Allerix is a clever way of teasing out how things will conclude. This is not a tragic romance and yet, given the commingling of the characters and their place in time with the modern day, there is a certain poignancy in knowing that while Gaius and Alle didn’t live forever, there are pieces of them that will outlive time. They are legend and the artifacts that offer them a semblance of immortality is a lovely and romantic twist.

There is a magic and mysticism that elevates the climactic scenes towards the end of the book, while fortune and fate deliver these characters to their final destinations at their godly wants and whims. There is a sort of fatalism to things, especially for Gaius and his tendency to throw caution and free will to the gods, which also affects the tone of the story. And sometimes it frustrates me, but in a good way—I appreciate any sort of emotional response an author elicits from me, because it means I’m invested in their characters, and I'm more than embedded in the lives of these two men. 

I have been and remain fully intrigued my Gaius and Allerix and am anxious to pick up with them where this book has left me hanging. Once again duty and loyalty come to the fore to complicate this romance, which is now a full-fledged and deeply mutual love, and I’d have to have a heart of stone not to have been touched by where they are headed next, whether by their own design, at the hands of others, or at the mercy of chance.
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The Novel Approach

"I'm a huge fan of this author and series. Each book is so packed with juicy historical details that I'm pretty much convinced these characters existed in history. (Yes, I'm aware they didn't but fantasy and historical romance is my jam). Even more than that, the plot thickens in a well thought out manner and the characters' personal journeys and growth were so intensely satisfying to watch play out.

The prologue and epilogue of each book are such an interesting and unique start and end to every book in a way I haven't seen before - with a current character in our timeline wondering about this story along with us. Kudos for the unique storytelling on all levels.

I'm left again a full heart and eagerly wondering how in the world this series will resolve in the fourth and final installment. While I realize this story has a poor review due to typos, the author uploaded a corrected version and it isn't something for new readers to be concerned with. Five stars for unique characters and storytelling and for really giving me historical insight into some fascinating world history."

Amazon reader

"This is the 3rd book of JP's that I've read. It's good. Bloody good. Well worth every penny.

The long series details the story of Gauis and Allerix, is filled with many twists and turns.

I loved the book, have loved the series, and would be very surprised if you don't also love it.

The quality of the writing is only outdone by the quality of the research that went into the story. JP is telling an erotic historical story, and if you want to read it one handed you could. But that would actually be a crime because its a damn good historical novel too.

I cannot wait for the next in the series."

Amazon reader

"If you like Ancient Rome, adventure and a healthy dose of romance as well as mystery then you’ve found yourself the right series. Beautifully written with so much roman infused into it that you feel that Ancient Rome has come to life.

Complex characters with gorgeous story arcs and plots and sub plots that kept me turning the page.

I want the next book as well as go back to book 1 and re-read it all. Cannot recommend this enough!"

Amazon reader

"I had this book on my kindle the day it's been released.....and didn't read it. Why?
Hm...several reasons.
I knew the story wouldn't be finished and I hate cliffhangers.
I knew it would be brilliant and I was afraid to start it because then I would want to read and read and then it would be over.
I wondered if I shouldn't reread the first books before starting this one.....

Oh well - a few days ago I NEEDED something really good, something gripping, something "high quality" and I cracked - I opended the file and fell into the story.
Sigh...and now I've read it. And now I'm waitig for the next book. But it was soooo worth it, I loved it.
J.P. Kenwood creates an excellent historic background, which is not built just by mentioning a few historical buildings and characters but permeates the whole book with the way her characters talk, how they act, their mindset and their surroundings. She obviously has worked her whole love for ancient Rome into the books, it's really throughout and amazing without ever drifting off.
She also gave her characters real personalities. I appreciated in this book that we got to learn more about Alle and Gaius than in the books before.
I've been glued to the pages and I'll be waiting anxiously for the next book. Btw. the cliffhanger made me cry but knowing there will be a next book I hope it's not a permanent thing ;)"

Amazon reader

"After three months of hard labor in the slave quarters, Gaius releases Alle from his punishment for stealing a dagger, and welcomes him back to his bed. As the two grow ever closer to acknowledging their feelings for each other, it also becomes clear to Gaius that there are people, some of them apparently quite powerful, who know Alle's secret, and then there's the emperor himself, who takes an uncomfortable interest in Alle as well.

This third book of the Dominus series focuses even more sharply on Gaius and Alle. There's not much to move along the mystery of Lucius' death, although there's palace intrigue aplenty, and it all begins to seem like part of a grand plot.

Master and slave love stories are always tricky, at least in a historical setting where the slave has generally not entered into the arrangement voluntarily, and whose people may be sworn enemies of their master. That certainly describes this case, where Allerix is a warrior prince of the Dacian people, taken captive and sold to Gaius as a slave when Gaius' army invaded Dacia. Over the course of the three books, Alle's initial determination to kill Gaius turns to acceptance that it wouldn't change anything for his people, and then into strong feelings for his master.

What makes Alle's conversion convincing is that his attitude doesn't change completely. He may be falling in love with a Roman, but his hatred of the empire, and particularly the emperor, remains. He is even willing to give up his own life to kill Trajan. But, will he risk Gaius' life and future to take his revenge when he gets the chance? That question provides one of the more interesting dramatic points of the book.

The laws and customs of ancient Rome always provides an interesting backdrop to master and slave love stories. To our way of thinking, if a master truly loves his slave, then he should set them free, but in those times, while it was fine for a patrician noble like Gaius to share his bed with a slave, it would be a huge scandal if he had a relationship with a free man. Granting manumission to Alle would mean giving him up, not to mention subjecting him to greater danger if anyone found out who he really was. All this is used to great effect in the story.

The ending of this installment is quite interesting. If you didn't know there was one more book in the series, and ignore the archeological mystery set up by the prologue and epilogue of each book, you might think this was the end of the series. It certainly makes you wonder more about how the next and final book will play out."

Amazon reader

"Blood Before Wine delivers more of the intrigue, action, and heat of the Dominus series. As Gaius fights to maneuver himself into position as Emperor Trajan's heir, he finds it more difficult, and all the more important, to hide the dangerous identity of his slave Allerix. Meanwhile, Allerix must face the near impossible decisions of following his destiny or his heart. The superb characters and intricately drawn settings of the ancient Roman empire make this series a un-putdownable read."

BookBub reader

"It is difficult to express how much I enjoyed and became immersed in this third installment of the Dominus story arc, which finds Alle and Gaius reunited following Alle’s imprisonment for stealing a dagger… they’ve truly missed each other, and their reunion sets the stage for a new understanding between them.. There is a lot going on here in over 16 hours of audio (masterfully done I might add), and when the action moves from Rome to Dacia, the story definitely goes in a direction I wasn’t expecting. All of the plot points from the first two books are brought forward (i.e. Lucius’s murder investigation), but full resolution is promised in Book 4, not here. All of the colorful members of Gaius's extensive household family appear, and the ending, which took me by complete surprise, is all the more reason to await Book 4 with much anticipation!"

BookBub reader

"This is such a good series. I can’t wait for the next book. It is Gay Erotica with a major MM love story . But is also an amazing story on Rome in the 2nd Century AD. The knowledge and the story are fabulous."

Goodreads reader

"Like all the books in this series, you'll find no fluff here. The books are gritty, compelling, and hard to put down. Also, like the other installments, there are two stories: a professor from modern times and our couple in ancient Rome.

This one kept me conflicted with what would be best for the couple vs what would be best for them as individuals. I'm so invested in the characters at this point, both primary and secondary, and I can't wait to find out how their story ends. 

Not a spoiler, but I cried at the end of this one."

Goodreads reader

"I love how this series mixes real historical facts and realistic habits and customs of ancient Rome with the romance part of Gaius and Allerix, which is now a love story much more than just erotica (don’t misinterpret, there is still a ton of pure, unadulterated and intriguing erotica, but their relationship has grown beyond just the physical factor).
With this third instalment we are transported into an adventure where Gaius and Alle have to hide, connive and fight to survive and to be together. 
The story is well developed, intriguing and absolutely captivating! The only thing I am not one in love with is the fact that I will have to wait months for the next book ϑ.
I love the double narration by Hannibal Hills and Nick J. Russo. The fact that Nick narrates the modern portion at the beginning and the end of the book, makes me feel like he is sort of making an introduction, and then I am immersed in this wonderful historical fantasy masterfully narrated by Hannibal, and then I am transported back to reality by Nick’s voice again."

Goodreads listener