The Gladiator's Mistress was two firsts for me. A first read about a romance in ancient Rome, and a first read of Jennifer D. Bokal's. I've always has an interest in Roman and Greek mythology so this book caught my interest immediately. It was a little slow at times, and I didn't fully understand a lot of the rules governing their society. The main two characters didn't interact as much as I would have liked, so I wasn't feeling the love very much.
Due to financial constraints, Phaedra is forced to marry a Senator who is older than her father. She is troubled by the man's lack of interest in her. At their wedding celebration her father decides to have two gladiator's fight to first blood as entertainment. Phaedra had never been too interested in gladiator fighting, but she became entranced by the Champion of Rome, Valens.
Valens had been a gladiator since he was young in order to help his family financially at home. He has become the Champion of Rome by being undefeated and lasting longer than most gladiators do in the arena. He meets Phaedra after his fight in a garden away from the rest of the party. The two decide to make a promise to each other and take more control of their lives. He to earn his freedom, and she to be able to choose her next husband since hers was along in age.
The couple meets once more before Phaedra leaves Rome for about four years. Her husband passes which saddens her because she came to love him in a way. Valens and Phaedra meet again, and cannot help but be drawn to each other. There are many obstacles that prevent them from being together like their station differences and more financial problems.
There was a lot of action in this story and I really enjoyed it. Jennifer Bokal did a great job of describing the fighting. She also did a great job of immersing the reader into the world of ancient Rome. The only thing that I wish had been different was the interaction and build up of the two falling in love. I just wasn't convinced, and so I didn't feel that urge to read continuously. I did like it enough though to be interested in reading the rest of the series when it becomes available.
**ARC provided by Publisher**