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The Left Hand of Calvus

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Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista. But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name. When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena. This novel has been previously published under the pseudonym L.A. Witt, and has been lightly revised.


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Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista. But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name. When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena. This novel has been previously published under the pseudonym L.A. Witt, and has been lightly revised.

30 review for The Left Hand of Calvus

  1. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Oh boy. This was the mother of all plot twists. Like seriously... I feel a tiny bit betrayed, because I had some expectations for this story that turned out COMPLETELY different, but judging this story objectively, it is actually very good (and I should have read the goodreads entry properly, I know :-P). My one and only complaint should be: The lack of sex. I've actually never read a m/m novel without ANY sex. I understand *why* the author avoided it, but still. I mean, a gladiator story in Ancient Oh boy. This was the mother of all plot twists. Like seriously... I feel a tiny bit betrayed, because I had some expectations for this story that turned out COMPLETELY different, but judging this story objectively, it is actually very good (and I should have read the goodreads entry properly, I know :-P). My one and only complaint should be: The lack of sex. I've actually never read a m/m novel without ANY sex. I understand *why* the author avoided it, but still. I mean, a gladiator story in Ancient Rome (or Pompeji, in this case) and no sex?! Disappointing, right? Former gladiator Saevius is looking forward to spend the rest of his life well off as a rich politican's bodyguard in beautiful Pompeji (obviously before the famous disaster...). However, Fates have a different path in mind for him, so his new master sends him back to the local ludus in order to find out which gladiator beds his wife and report the name back to him. Saevius' new ludus is run by a cruel young lanista named Drusus, whose name is whispered in fear among the men of the familia. Despite Drusus' cold demeanor, Saevius develops a weakness for the handsome lanista and feels his obligations to his (real) master crumble. The more Saevius investigates into the people living and fighting in Drusus' ludus, the darker a conspiracy he is slowly unveiling - threatening not only his own worthless life, but the lives of the people he has come to care about. And then... wham. A plot twist as big as the Titanic. I can't really say anything else about the plot. The big all-encompassing spoiler would be: (view spoiler)[This story features a trans character (hide spoiler)] I was pretty speechless at the end, but thinking back - and trying not to be disappointed about what this story wasn't, it's a very heart-warming tale. I don't really know much about this kind of theme, but I admired the way things ended, especially Saevius' loyalty. So yeah, I did enjoy it! 3,5 stars (because: no sex, duh!)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sunne

    I'm not sure what to say about this book. I was hesitant to start because the set-up didn't appeal much to me. On the other hand, L.A. Witt generally has the ability to draw me in, no matter what she is writing about. So - I started reading and as anticipated, I liked it. Saevius is a good MC, a bit jaded, street smart in his surroundings and honorable. And soon enough I started to like Drusus who obviously was the "other man" in the hopefully soon to come couple. And the built up for the "romanc I'm not sure what to say about this book. I was hesitant to start because the set-up didn't appeal much to me. On the other hand, L.A. Witt generally has the ability to draw me in, no matter what she is writing about. So - I started reading and as anticipated, I liked it. Saevius is a good MC, a bit jaded, street smart in his surroundings and honorable. And soon enough I started to like Drusus who obviously was the "other man" in the hopefully soon to come couple. And the built up for the "romance" was slow...oh so slow...well, after a while too slow for me. In the end ... I wonder if I missed somewhere the note that this book isn't ment to be a romance - don't get me wrong, there is a love story included but for me it wasn't enough, not because that even at the end there hadn't been any sex - I can live with that - but these few emotional stong moments are enough to alter lives? The other story about the spying order of his master is entertaining but not enough to make a mystery story out of the novel. And I'm not even get started on the whole "identity"-thing - those who have read know what I mean and I wonder how to word it without giving away a MAJOR spoiler. Hm...I think I can't so this is really a MAJOR SPOLIER and if you don't want to know, don't read it. (view spoiler)[ Saevius says in the beginning he is about as enthusastic about any woman's lips as about spending the rest of his days as a slave - that makes him gay as it gets in my opinion. Yes, he sleeps with woman when ordered but not once is he positiv about it. Drusus is..not what he seems to be..or well, he is, he is a gay man in a female body...okay, I admit..I'm confused. I know there are people who exactly feel that way. It's not that what bothers me. I just can't see how it works between them. Or maybe it's just that I'm to fixated on the apperances and logistics. Maybe I should concentrate on just the emotional bond...but for that I didn't get enough of it. Obviously Saevius regards Drusus as a man and he feels a deep loyaltiy to him, mixed with some hot tingling sexuel desire and in the elation to find him still alive it didn't matter that he has a woman's body. Maybe the "no sex" in the book was the way of L.A. Witt to show that the love was there regardless of body, gender, orientation. But for me it was not enough. I'm more than willing to wrap my head around unsual pairings but the author must make me believe it, want it. This time...sorry... (hide spoiler)] So..for the writing, the characters - it was a good book. For the lovestory - I missed more. Makes all in all thre stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Coco.V

    🎁 FREE on Amazon today (12/9/2019)! 🎁

  4. 4 out of 5

    Manfred

    Honestly I wished I had chosen another book as my first read in 2017. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book, actually it is quite good and I was definitely hooked. Saevius is a slave and ex gladiator who is brought to Pompeii to serve his new master Calvus as a bodyguard. But then he is sent to train with the gladiators again with the purpose to spy on his fellow gladiators who might be involved with his masters wife. Between all chairs things get even worse when the master of the ludus Dru Honestly I wished I had chosen another book as my first read in 2017. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book, actually it is quite good and I was definitely hooked. Saevius is a slave and ex gladiator who is brought to Pompeii to serve his new master Calvus as a bodyguard. But then he is sent to train with the gladiators again with the purpose to spy on his fellow gladiators who might be involved with his masters wife. Between all chairs things get even worse when the master of the ludus Drusus is not as terrible as everyone suggests and Saevius feels a strange and unwelcome attraction. The book is a page turner. There is so much going on, I really needed to know what happened next and could hardly put it aside. If I had found that anywhere but in m/m romance I would have been thrilled and completely happy, but unfortunately as a gay romance this does not work. I don't want to spoil too much, please read this if you like a good thriller, a great historic story with really good description of Roman everyday life, or an interesting mystery story, but don't read it if you want man to man romance or you might be really disappointed at the end. I felt a little betrayed and even if I would still rate it above average I was not completely happy with how things turned out... 3.5 stars and a little question mark from me!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea AKA Catsos Person

    Good period detail, but too short This book is by LA Witt writing under the pen name Ann Gallagher. I think this is an “alter ego” for writing M/M novels where no sex takes place. Now about the book: I have mixed feelings about the book. The historic setting and detail in the life of a gladiator. This historical element attracted me to the book in the first place and the author uses a lot of period detail about gladiators etc, and there is a handy glossary at the end of the book, though I looked u Good period detail, but too short This book is by LA Witt writing under the pen name Ann Gallagher. I think this is an “alter ego” for writing M/M novels where no sex takes place. Now about the book: I have mixed feelings about the book. The historic setting and detail in the life of a gladiator. This historical element attracted me to the book in the first place and the author uses a lot of period detail about gladiators etc, and there is a handy glossary at the end of the book, though I looked up a lot of unfamiliar words on my iPhone. There were interesting supporting characters, villains and an interesting plot that should have been nail-bitingly thrilling. I was unsatisfied with the tenuous connection served up between the Searvus. I couldn’t think of any reason why Saervus and that other individual should be kissing. The connection wasn’t working for me. Perhaps it suffered because of the short length of the book. There was a twist, but that alone couldn’t make this book into the more satisfying read that I wanted it to be. It was too short. There weren’t enough pages for all that was going on and felt rushed. I’ll try something else by LA Witt writing as Ann Gallagher.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Serena Yates

    It’s been a while since I read a good gladiator book, except ‘The Left Hand of Calvus’ is that and so much more. It’s intense, suspenseful, has more twists and turns than I was able to keep track of, and it’s full of intrigue, betrayal, and backstabbing. Set in Pompeii around 78 AD (about a year before its destruction), it is the tale of a former gladiator, Saevius, who thinks a powerful politician has hired him as a bodyguard, stopping him from attaining his freedom after years in the area. Sae It’s been a while since I read a good gladiator book, except ‘The Left Hand of Calvus’ is that and so much more. It’s intense, suspenseful, has more twists and turns than I was able to keep track of, and it’s full of intrigue, betrayal, and backstabbing. Set in Pompeii around 78 AD (about a year before its destruction), it is the tale of a former gladiator, Saevius, who thinks a powerful politician has hired him as a bodyguard, stopping him from attaining his freedom after years in the area. Saevius faces subterfuge and attempts on his life, the consequences of powerful men’s machinations, and a blossoming romance where he least expected it. It’s a fascinating story that may be set in ancient Europe but shows how little humans have changed in the last two thousand years. Saevius tells the story, and I was fascinated from the start. He faces challenges both in and outside the arena; in fact the confrontations away from the games are what keep him busy. Yes, there is a lot of training, fighting, and many scenes take place inside the gladiator’s cells and the arena. Since Saevius has been sent to the arena and its cruel master, Drusus, to spy on his fellow gladiators, his life is in danger if they find out. Saevius soon finds himself torn between the master who sent him on this mission and the master who holds power over life and death in the arena – and I didn’t envy him his choice. Aside from all the political intrigue, Saevius also faces a slowly developing and entirely unexpected romance. It is unusual to say the least, and not at all what I expected – but I can’t say more for fear of spoiling the surprise. It may be quiet and sort of sneaked up on me, but it is one of the most compelling love stories I have ever read. On top of the extremely well-researched setting that contains lots of historical detail, the result makes for formidable reading. If you like gladiators and their masters, if you want to find out more about a man who sees freedom snatched away from him at the last moment only to find an alternative way to get what he has always wanted, and if you’re looking for an intense, sometimes violent, action-packed, and intriguing read that is cleverly put together and very moving, then you will probably like this novel as much as I do. It’s an excellent story about characters I won’t soon forget. NOTE: This book was provided by the author for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eed99

    I really enjoyed this book for the story it told. It was unique I think to both M/M romance and general period story telling. I enjoy books set in ancient Rome-straight historical to erotic stories. If a reader is looking for a book with lots of really hot sex scenes this book isn't going to ring that bell, but I am a reader far more interested in the story telling than hot sex (I like hot sex, but I want the hot sex to fit in the context of a good story). This story also goes in an interesting di I really enjoyed this book for the story it told. It was unique I think to both M/M romance and general period story telling. I enjoy books set in ancient Rome-straight historical to erotic stories. If a reader is looking for a book with lots of really hot sex scenes this book isn't going to ring that bell, but I am a reader far more interested in the story telling than hot sex (I like hot sex, but I want the hot sex to fit in the context of a good story). This story also goes in an interesting direction with a very big secret revealed. I don't want to spoil this, but I will say that I thought it was a daring place to take the story-especially for one in a historical setting. Things I really liked about the book: The main characters-I thought they were well developed and I liked the fact that the decisions they had to make weren't easy or necessarily clear-no easy black and white answers. The gladiator aspects were interesting. The story was well researched, and I thought Witt included aspects of gladiator schools and life and of course combat to be very realistic without going overboard on the violence. The mystery. I am an avid mystery reader, and I thought some of the mystery in this story was well done-and while I saw some things coming others surprised me. Descriptions. This story used the eyes of the main character to draw a picture of Pompeii and Rome in a way that didn't feel like information dump. Cons: If I have any beef, I would have preferred that some of the secondary characters be better developed. The ending. It sort of felt like it was abrupt and I was left wondering just what happened to the characters in their new circumstance. Even an epilogue would have worked. I don't want to go into detail here either due to spoilers, but I was left wondering how things would work out, because they didn't seem to have too many prospects. Great book over all and my only complaints weren't enough to make me think it was short of a 5 star book-I highly recommend it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Good God, this book. This book. I adore L.A. Witt for having written this book. First off, this isn't an erotic romance, though the author does write erotic romances. This is historical fiction with light romantic elements and no sex. So set you expectations. If you're looking for bow-chicka bow wow, there isn't any. There's some kissing, but that's it. What you get instead is a fantastic novel full of intrigue, action, and a darn fine fine tale. The writing is gripping. I generally don't like book Good God, this book. This book. I adore L.A. Witt for having written this book. First off, this isn't an erotic romance, though the author does write erotic romances. This is historical fiction with light romantic elements and no sex. So set you expectations. If you're looking for bow-chicka bow wow, there isn't any. There's some kissing, but that's it. What you get instead is a fantastic novel full of intrigue, action, and a darn fine fine tale. The writing is gripping. I generally don't like books written in first person present tense because it's a hard POV to pull off. I didn't even notice it was in present tense until 30 pages into the book. Ms. Witt doesn't just pull it off, she owns it. Saevius's story and his voice had me from the first paragraph and I was there with him, seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, and smelling the odors of ancient Rome. And then there's the story which is so much more than it seems. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't explain that, except to say if you like historicals set in Rome, read this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kazza

    Another good L A Witt book. A great start to the Warriors of Rome series. A very interesting, enjoyable read from start to end. Full review at On Top Down Under Book Reviews http://bookreviewsandtherapy.blogspot... Another good L A Witt book. A great start to the Warriors of Rome series. A very interesting, enjoyable read from start to end. Full review at On Top Down Under Book Reviews http://bookreviewsandtherapy.blogspot...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Skirmish

    Book Reaction: https://neverhollowed.com/2019/06/26/... Rating: 4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away Book Reaction: https://neverhollowed.com/2019/06/26/... Rating: 4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

  11. 5 out of 5

    DayDreamer

    Errr... what? Not what I expected, to be honest.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ery

    4.4 stars. What a wonderful, enjoyable story! In a departure from the style or topics of her previous books LA Witt takes on historical Pompeii, gladiator style. Although there is romance, this book is much better classified as general (gay?) fiction. Saevius is a veteran gladiator who has known nothing but slavery. A few fights from obtaining freedom, he is sold to a politician in another city as a bodyguard. Unfortunately, when he gets there, he finds that his true purpose is not to serve as a 4.4 stars. What a wonderful, enjoyable story! In a departure from the style or topics of her previous books LA Witt takes on historical Pompeii, gladiator style. Although there is romance, this book is much better classified as general (gay?) fiction. Saevius is a veteran gladiator who has known nothing but slavery. A few fights from obtaining freedom, he is sold to a politician in another city as a bodyguard. Unfortunately, when he gets there, he finds that his true purpose is not to serve as a bodyguard but to serve as a spy in a local arena. He soon finds himself not only caught up in a world of intrigue and political games, but also with a growing attraction to his lanista. As the intrigue grows, Saevius struggles to find a way out of a lose-lose situation and uncovering secrets that may best be left alone. Left Hand of Calvus (oh how wonderfully titled!) is a plot- driven story with only a simmer of romance- which very appropriately fits the style and setting of the story. The story maintains a low-thrumming tension throughout, making it difficult to put down. The author expertly holds you in her thrall, while engineering a sneak-around attack to catch you unawares. Still, if you are looking for some hot man love, this may not be the story for you. Warning, sex is off-page and minimal. The romance or love feels almost more like the loyalty a dog has for its owner ( in a good non-degrading way!) than dramatic passionate love. Further, there are significant m/f-ish interactions, even between some MCs. Still, I wouldn't let that put you off as this was a highly enjoyable story!

  13. 4 out of 5

    G.B. Gordon

    Whoa. Brilliant. Read a few reviews and am floored by how many reviewers don't consider this a 'true' romance. It's a quiet book, for sure, and it takes a while to build up steam (though the second half has very good pace and tension IMO), but if this isn't romance, then the romance genre has strayed from the original sense of the word beyond any recognition. For me this is a romance in the most classical sense of the word. Whoa. Brilliant. Read a few reviews and am floored by how many reviewers don't consider this a 'true' romance. It's a quiet book, for sure, and it takes a while to build up steam (though the second half has very good pace and tension IMO), but if this isn't romance, then the romance genre has strayed from the original sense of the word beyond any recognition. For me this is a romance in the most classical sense of the word.

  14. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Witt

    Re-release. Previously under my other pseudonym, L.A. Witt. Re-release. Previously under my other pseudonym, L.A. Witt.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

    $0.99 right now at Amazon US! 11/6/16!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This book was provided for free by the author and Love Bytes in exchange for an honest review. This review was first posted to Love Bytes: LGBTQ Book Reviews. It has been slightly edited here for content. There’s a really, really good twist in this story. It’s proving to be challenging to write a good review about it without spoiling it, but I just had to start the review by saying that the plot twist really blew me away! Days after finishing the book, I found myself wanting to re-read it and look This book was provided for free by the author and Love Bytes in exchange for an honest review. This review was first posted to Love Bytes: LGBTQ Book Reviews. It has been slightly edited here for content. There’s a really, really good twist in this story. It’s proving to be challenging to write a good review about it without spoiling it, but I just had to start the review by saying that the plot twist really blew me away! Days after finishing the book, I found myself wanting to re-read it and look for clues and signs. That’s how you know an author has written a carefully planned and penned mystery that keeps readers on edge right until the end. For the first half of the book, I was enjoying this story just fine for what it was—a violent, slightly dark, forbidden romance between an enslaved gladiator and his feared lanista (owner/slaver of gladiators). I was a little wary in regards to the power imbalance, but the moral grey areas intrigued me, and I could tell Gallagher put in the research without making the story too densely historical. And once the mystery began to come together, so many more layers were added to the plot, increasing my enjoyment tenfold. This isn’t too long of a book to begin with, but it feels very short because it’s so accessible and readable as both a romance and a mystery. The plot builds at a rapid pace and the pieces fall together neatly without being predictable. Saevius, our main character, is a bit of a blank slate—he’s tough and strong and cunning, but he spends the majority of the book quiet and hidden, watching and biding his time as Pompeii and the bloody reality of gladiator life move around him. Only when he’s alone with Drusus, his cold and calculating master, does he start to shine. If you enjoy historical mysteries, you’ll love this one. There’s plenty of intrigue and second-guessing. There are layers of story without it becoming too tangled up in itself. The romance is pretty tame compared to the violence—nothing beyond a few kisses—but the chemistry between Saevius and Drusus burns slow and steady. This review may seem a little too vague, but this is one of those stories that is best to dive right into. So if the general plot and setting fascinates you, I suggest you jump in right away!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    4/29/19 Currently FREE via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01... 4/29/19 Currently FREE via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laurie | LOHF

    3 1/2 Dominus Saevius is a gladiator just three fights away from freedom when he is sold as a bodyguard to Pompeian politician Junius Calvus Laurea. Saevius is not thrilled with this turn of events but is relieved he will no longer have to risk his life in the arena. Or so he thinks. He soon learns he was purchased under false pretenses when he is thrust into a far more dangerous situation. Calvus thinks his wife is cheating on him with a gladiator and he won’t stand for it. He orders Saevius to 3 1/2 Dominus Saevius is a gladiator just three fights away from freedom when he is sold as a bodyguard to Pompeian politician Junius Calvus Laurea. Saevius is not thrilled with this turn of events but is relieved he will no longer have to risk his life in the arena. Or so he thinks. He soon learns he was purchased under false pretenses when he is thrust into a far more dangerous situation. Calvus thinks his wife is cheating on him with a gladiator and he won’t stand for it. He orders Saevius to infiltrate and train as a gladiator in the group his wife is rumored to visit. I didn’t know this, but it seems that it was commonplace for wealthy women to find sexual satisfaction with a gladiator or four back in ancient Rome. Not only were the gladiators forced into the ring to fight for their lives but they were also prostituted out by their owner, the “lanista”. Saevius has always done his duty even though he prefers men so his re-entry into another slavery contract is particularly disheartening. If he gets caught spying he will be slain but if he doesn’t co-operate with Calvus he’ll likely be slain anyway. So he does what he must. Then things get even more complicated for Saevius. His new lanista called Drusus is rumored to be a madman who kills for the pleasure of it. Drusus takes a special interest in Saevius and asks him to spy for him because he feels something fishy is afoot among his gladiators. This pulls him even further into the intrigue mess. But even more troubling for Saevius is the fact that he finds himself inexplicably attracted in the sexual way to Drusus. “He’s like a god strolling among those who think they’re gods.” And Drusus seems to return those feelings. Uh ohs. Riptide publishes some unique work that always draws me to their titles. The few that I have read focus on the darker edges of sex and usually feature very complicated relationships. This one is no exception but you should know that this story isn’t a sexual fantasy and there isn’t much in the way of a romance. It’s more of an action intrigue, danger filled look into the life of a gladiator. Truly fascinating, even for one such as me who isn’t normally into this sort of thing. The characters and plot are intricate and complicated and though Drusus and Saevius are drawn to each other there isn’t a lot of room in this story for romance. It ends at the very beginning of a very complicated love story that never progresses further than a few sexy kisses and some stealthy longing looks. I would love to read a sequel some day because there is a huge game changer of a reveal that comes along (and NO I’m not telling) and I’d like to see how the characters worked it all out. But sequel or no, this review is based on what I just read and it feels a little too rushed at the end and a wee bit unfinished.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nerine Dorman

    Saevius is a veteran of the arena, but as a gladiator, he’s not master of his own fate. When he’s sold to a Pompeiian politician to work as a bodyguard, he’s cautiously optimistic about his future. But this good fortune doesn’t last, as he soon finds out that Calvus is playing a dangerous game, which might have fatal consequences for Saevius. Caught up in the sticky web of intrigue, Saevius is tasked to discover with which gladiator Calvus’s wife is having an affair. Saevius now finds himself act Saevius is a veteran of the arena, but as a gladiator, he’s not master of his own fate. When he’s sold to a Pompeiian politician to work as a bodyguard, he’s cautiously optimistic about his future. But this good fortune doesn’t last, as he soon finds out that Calvus is playing a dangerous game, which might have fatal consequences for Saevius. Caught up in the sticky web of intrigue, Saevius is tasked to discover with which gladiator Calvus’s wife is having an affair. Saevius now finds himself acting as an agent for Calvus in the ludus of the lanista Drusus, who has a reputation for being cruel. Yet Saevius is unaccountably drawn to the master on whom he’s been employed to spy. No man can serve two masters, and at some point Saevius will have to betray one of them. But making that decision is not going to be easy. While this is ostensibly a m/m tale, if you’re looking for scenes of hot, pumping action, you’re going to come away empty-handed. (No pun intended, LOL.) What you will get, however, is a story brimful of tension, and that is, in itself, a reward. Also, kudos to the author for dumping a huge reveal later on in the story. I totally did not see that one on the horizon and it put an entire different spin on the tale that left me grinning like crazy. Most of all, I loved Saevius as a character. He’s been there, done that, and bears the scars. He’s a man who gets on with the job and has realistic expectations about people and situations. Much of his conflict is related to loyalty. Scenes where he has to get over being the new guy in the ludus and wins the grudging respect of his fellow gladiators – that was awesomely done. Also, the careful dance he has keeping both Calvus and Drusus happy – nerve-wrecking. LA Witt makes me feel like I’m *there* in the story, that these things actually happened to *real* people. Which means that you’re not going to find larger-than-life characters here with epic stories of derring-do. Everyone’s got flaws. Everyone’s got issues. Pompeii is dirty and full of perils for the unwary. And Saevius is a man who’s trying to do the right thing while keeping his head on his shoulders, almost literally in some situations. In any case, if you’re a big fan of historical stories set during ancient times, be it watching Spartacus on telly or reading classic Mary Renault, then this story will possibly bite you in all the right places. I am loving the living hell out of Riptide’s Warriors of Rome series, and this title just underscores the fact that they’re onto a very good thing. More please!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa theJeepDiva

    The Left Hand of Calvus is a wonderful masterpiece by L.A. Witt and the first book in the Warriors of Rome collection. I was intrigued and held captive from the first page. The story takes place in ancient Rome when Saevius, a gladiator, is exploited by his current master, Laurea Calvus to spy on his wife, the Lady Verina. Laurea believes that she is having an affair with someone under the house of Drusus, a powerful lanista, and Laurea want his name. As a fan of L.A. Witt and mystery and intrigu The Left Hand of Calvus is a wonderful masterpiece by L.A. Witt and the first book in the Warriors of Rome collection. I was intrigued and held captive from the first page. The story takes place in ancient Rome when Saevius, a gladiator, is exploited by his current master, Laurea Calvus to spy on his wife, the Lady Verina. Laurea believes that she is having an affair with someone under the house of Drusus, a powerful lanista, and Laurea want his name. As a fan of L.A. Witt and mystery and intrigue, this book was perfect for me. Add in a heavy dose of Roman history and I knew that I had to read it. The story takes the reader through all the malevolent manipulation that can be found in the world of the gladiators; their training, fighting, and surviving. The viciousness of the ludus and the arena emanated through the pages and I felt every slice of the flagellum or slash of the sword. Seduction and intrigue are the framework for the novel, as Saevius returns to the ludus and attempts to fit into a new familia, all the while spying on his new master and lanista under false pretenses. His character was resilient and masculine, not only battling the enemies of the arena, but also the familia that does not trust him. Additionally, he is torn in his loyalty to his ruthless master Laurea and the feelings that he is developing for the brutal Drusus. Women of all statures throw themselves at the gladiators’ feet as do men of prominence. The story takes the reader through twists and turns that are not expected, but could easily fit into any Roman setting. As the story unfolds, Ms. Witt surprises the reader with even more intrigue and a completely unexpected ending. The novel contains no sex scenes, but Ms. Witt’s writing made the story intimate in its settings along with stolen kisses and yearning desires. I was enthralled and hope that she aspires to write more historical fiction. A highly recommend this book for lovers of L.A.Witt, Roman history, and brawny gladiators. reviewed by Zafira

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sineala

    This was surprisingly fun, and if all the rest of the books in the Warriors of Rome collection are as good, I will be pleased. Our hero Saevius is basically a spy-gladiator in Pompeii. How does that work? Well, he is bought by a man named Calvus and told to go undercover at the gladiator school of this famous trainer Drusus, because Calvus thinks one of Drusus' gladiators is sleeping with his wife. Because that would be far too simple as-is, Saevius ends up befriending Drusus and becoming a doub This was surprisingly fun, and if all the rest of the books in the Warriors of Rome collection are as good, I will be pleased. Our hero Saevius is basically a spy-gladiator in Pompeii. How does that work? Well, he is bought by a man named Calvus and told to go undercover at the gladiator school of this famous trainer Drusus, because Calvus thinks one of Drusus' gladiators is sleeping with his wife. Because that would be far too simple as-is, Saevius ends up befriending Drusus and becoming a double-agent spy-gladiator. Ooh. Intrigue. And naturally Saevius is very attracted to Drusus, although there was actually more focus on the intrigue than the sexual tension. I would perhaps have appreciated more sexual tension, although what we got was very good. Then at the end the entire plot does something completely unexpected. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't really foreshadowed much (although thinking about it I see where the hints were) and I suspect some people are going to find this breaks their suspension of disbelief. But I thought it was pretty cool, actually. On the historical-accuracy front, it's about as accurate as I was expecting. Some of the names are wrong, but no one ever gets Roman names right and I should give up hope. Several background Carthaginian characters were named after famous Carthaginians from the Punic Wars, which made me snicker a little. Overall, I really liked it, though I would have liked to have seen a little more of the Saevius/Drusus relationship.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vero

    This was a bit strange. The story felt kind of convoluted to me, and the big surprising revelation? Very obvious from the hints (from the ever-present breast plate to the piercing blue eyes as a family trait...).   I also felt a bit strange about the whole who is into whom and is that really what you want? I didn't really understand the attraction - and that had nothing to do with the "revelation".   Also it felt a bit as if gladiators were more working as whores than anything else. And according to This was a bit strange. The story felt kind of convoluted to me, and the big surprising revelation? Very obvious from the hints (from the ever-present breast plate to the piercing blue eyes as a family trait...).   I also felt a bit strange about the whole who is into whom and is that really what you want? I didn't really understand the attraction - and that had nothing to do with the "revelation".   Also it felt a bit as if gladiators were more working as whores than anything else. And according to that book all Roman women had endless sex with slaves. That seems a bit strange - given that the Romans knew how sex and procreation are related - that men would be cool with their women having sexual relations with slaves? Not very likely. It has been a man's world back then, and most husbands wouldn't overlook that kind of transgression from his wife who didn't have many rights anyway...At least it wouldn't happen that openly... That's my problem with historicals - I learnt a lot of history in school, and especially of Rome, as Latin was one of my master classes. So I feel confused reading this. I am just not sure if the author did a lot of research or just created the world to fit the story.   So, a bit disappointed as the characters didn't really appeal much to me.    

  23. 5 out of 5

    Agnes

    One of the best books I've read this year and definitely one of my favorite historical novels in general. I'm already tempted to re-read it. The book is very well written, and as someone who enjoys historical novels, I can see the author did a lot of research to realistically portray the period. The main character is relatable, and I was sucked into his world from the beginning. Trapped in an impossible situation, Saevius needs to maneuver the intrigues he's forced to participate in. The plot is One of the best books I've read this year and definitely one of my favorite historical novels in general. I'm already tempted to re-read it. The book is very well written, and as someone who enjoys historical novels, I can see the author did a lot of research to realistically portray the period. The main character is relatable, and I was sucked into his world from the beginning. Trapped in an impossible situation, Saevius needs to maneuver the intrigues he's forced to participate in. The plot is very well executed: easy to follow yet not too straightforward, with enough twists to keep the reader interested. The Left Hand of Calvus also has a romantic subplot, with lots of UST, just as I like it :D There's nothing better than forbidden attraction, and I absolutely loved how the author describes Saevius's confusion about what it is he feels. And no wonder, Drusus is fascinating both as a person, and as a character. I liked that from the very beginning, even before he actually entered the scene, he was portrayed as an outsider, someone a bit mysterious and untouchable. It made everything that was unraveled later so much more fulfilling to read. It's a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-researched historical fiction set in Ancient Rome.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aija

    Bloody brilliant! Loved every single moment of it. *happy sigh*

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elisa Rolle

    2013 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention (5* from at least 1 judge)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Walford

    Well written. Good period. Enjoyed. Took off a star because of a plot twist I didn't believe in (and that wasn't satisfying to me personally: your mileage may vary). Well written. Good period. Enjoyed. Took off a star because of a plot twist I didn't believe in (and that wasn't satisfying to me personally: your mileage may vary).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mari Cardenas

    3.75 Stars I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into when I requested this book, but I thought the premise was intriguing and different and the book was both of those things, as well. Saevius was a gladiator, until he was sold to a prominent politician in Pompeii to be his new bodyguard, but his new owner has other ideas. Calvus is determined to discover who is his wife's lover and for that, he wants Saevius to pose again as a gladiator under Drusus' command. Saevius has to obey his master, but 3.75 Stars I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into when I requested this book, but I thought the premise was intriguing and different and the book was both of those things, as well. Saevius was a gladiator, until he was sold to a prominent politician in Pompeii to be his new bodyguard, but his new owner has other ideas. Calvus is determined to discover who is his wife's lover and for that, he wants Saevius to pose again as a gladiator under Drusus' command. Saevius has to obey his master, but when he meets Drusus, his loyalty is divided. I really liked Saevius and I found the whole gladiators' storyline very interesting. I enjoyed the training and fighting aspect to be well researched and well-written. I wasn't too sure about Drusus, he seemed likable for the most part, but it took me a bit to warm up to him. I had my suspicions concerning Lady Verina, but I think I can safely say that when the big reveal came, it definitely wasn't what I was expecting. I found Saevius and Drusus' chemistry a bit forced, and other than a couple of kisses, you won't really find much romance in this book. However, it was a good, fast read. Recommendable! *** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tinnean

    Can I give this six stars? 8 stars? 10 stars? I enjoyed this more than I can say. I had no trouble following along with the Latin words, and although I'm not fond of present tense, this worked well. The characters were amazing, and I felt I knew even the most minor of them. That twist, though... I really didn't expect it. So take my advice. Get a copy of this book and read it! Can I give this six stars? 8 stars? 10 stars? I enjoyed this more than I can say. I had no trouble following along with the Latin words, and although I'm not fond of present tense, this worked well. The characters were amazing, and I felt I knew even the most minor of them. That twist, though... I really didn't expect it. So take my advice. Get a copy of this book and read it!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Izzy

    3.75* I do not read many historicals, but if I did ancient Roman Empire would attract me. The author creates the feel of living in Pompeii, and the world of the gladiator very well. I could taste the sand and sweat, feel every bruise, of which there were many. The story is quite involved, an intelligent device to draw the reader even further into this world of ancient history. Having said this, I found the world building and historical detail overwhelmed the story a little. The novel revolves arou 3.75* I do not read many historicals, but if I did ancient Roman Empire would attract me. The author creates the feel of living in Pompeii, and the world of the gladiator very well. I could taste the sand and sweat, feel every bruise, of which there were many. The story is quite involved, an intelligent device to draw the reader even further into this world of ancient history. Having said this, I found the world building and historical detail overwhelmed the story a little. The novel revolves around Saevius and is written in first person from his point of view. He is a very likeable character and I felt totally invested in his struggle to obtain peace in his life, after so long living and fighting for masters in the gladiatorial ring. He presents himself as a shrewd judge of character, which I suspect very necessary for survival in his world and never acts hastily or without a survival strategy, which makes his position in this story so unfortunate. He is manipulated and asked to spy for two powerful men from opposing camps. If he betrays either he will end up dead or worse, but to be true to either is to betray the other. One man is a highly corrupt politician, the eponymous, Calvus the other is the master of the gladiatorial school, Drusus. The real excitement and twists in the story do not occur until 80% in the book, and from then on I was very intrigued as to the outcome, and how the story line would progress. Unfortunately, the twists and chases with elements of real emotion and drama are all over and done with very quickly in the last 20% of the book. I would have preferred a little less word building and a little more time with the heart of the drama. As this book was the Rainbow Award winner for trans fiction, I presume it is not too much of a spoiler to talk about the trans character. I admire L.A.Witt for making the transgender character the centre of the story without needing to put the whys and wherefores of being transgender in the spotlight. I liked the idea of him being not only accepted in the physical and brutal world of being a Lanista, but feared and respected. I really liked the use of a breastplate as a sort of Roman ‘binder’. However, the very things I admired were also in my opinion its downfall. Drusus is a very physical character. He is physically feared by gladiators! The mentioning of his strong charisma and personality takes this so far, but when Drusus is seen by Saevius in the brothel it is his physical fragility and slenderness etc., which is described. I’m afraid I could not accept this trans man as being physically capable of the feats demanded of him in the story. One example would be the scourging of Saevius. Although, nowhere near the toll it takes upon the victim’s body, the act of whipping someone’s back to shreds is very physically draining, and requires an awful lot of strength and practice. Having said this I did enjoy this novel and congratulate L.A. Witt for introducing a trans main character in a historical setting. I also greatly admire that sexual desire is never in doubt but there is no need for explicit sex, which would have been wrong and too problematic in this story. We are left in no doubt as to Saevius’ feelings for Drusus, or that they are returned and the completion of the book leaves the story slightly open-ended in a way that could see the return of these characters. Review on www.prismbookalliance.com

  30. 4 out of 5

    Beta

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Gladiators! Fights! Loyalty! More gladiators! What's not to love about this book? ;) I knew the oh-so-secret plottwist beforehand and it made me probably notice all the hints compared to an unspoilered (is that even a word) reader. The big reveal was a little hasty, but I have to admire the authors talent to capture Saevius thoughts. That few moments, rapidly changing pronouns and then settling for the truth, as it had been before and still was. I can just imagine what it must have been back then, Gladiators! Fights! Loyalty! More gladiators! What's not to love about this book? ;) I knew the oh-so-secret plottwist beforehand and it made me probably notice all the hints compared to an unspoilered (is that even a word) reader. The big reveal was a little hasty, but I have to admire the authors talent to capture Saevius thoughts. That few moments, rapidly changing pronouns and then settling for the truth, as it had been before and still was. I can just imagine what it must have been back then, without any medical help, in a world that not only oppressed any female-born human but surely had no understanding of people like Drusus. Or maybe it was not so bad after all, we'll never know. Besides all that glorious stuff, it was also an exciting and fascinating book, with lots of insight into the world of gladiators and the culture of Rome. Fights! More gladiators! "And the gods can have Pompeji." Yes, they certainly have plans.

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