This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Released on August 28, 2020
A gentle blacksmith turned vengeful gladiator and a fiery clan chieftain’s daughter from rival clans must navigate a few storms to love in the medieval Scottish Highlands. Highland Gladiator caught my eye both for its title and author. I’ve been meaning to read something of hers since spotting fabulous reviews from fellow book lovers.
Lor comes from a small Highland village and is content to learn his grandfather’s blacksmith trade and stay out of the always boiling clan conflicts until the day a vicious attack on his village sets him on a new path- the path to future revenge and the Ludus Caledonia. He once heard of this old Roman-style fight training school and he is determined to learn to fight and take an exacting price for the loss of his grandfather. It is only when he has a second encounter with the fiercely independent Isabail Keith that an equally strong conflicting emotion enters him and the straight path starts to twist and give him choices.
Isabail is taken with Lor from the beginning. He sees her warrior’s heart and doesn’t judge, but accepts. She sees his gentle soul, but also the steel running through him so doesn’t underestimate him like her brother and others. Her clan needs fighting men and a visit to the gladiator school brings her face to face with a now grown up and trained Lor who is hardened and determined. Can she make him see that they belong and that he can get to the heart of the betrayal by joining with her people instead of against them?
Highland Gladiator seemed like a great blend of two historic worlds that I enjoy. I loved that the setting is medieval Scotland, but the Ludus Caledonia also brings a smidge of the Roman Empire to things. This was my first experience with the author’s writing and I loved her attention to historical setting and that the gladiators side wasn’t just a flash in the pan. There was good action and fighting in the story and a good villain that had Lor fooled. That said, it was a well-built love story and character journey. The author paced it well and didn’t stint on developing an all-around strong first in series.
I liked both lead characters from the beginning. Lor was a sweet heart and I just knew this guy was going to go through some heartache. He wanted to be left alone at his simple life and it was obvious that some villain was going to come along and smash all that. It happens swiftly and Lor loses his grandfather in it all. He thinks he knows who is responsible, but to the reader, there is enough to see that it’s not cut and dry and that adds to the action side of the plot. Lor is willing to take a long-term approach by getting taught how to fight so he can do the job right. And, yes, he’s convinced that it’s Isabail’s clan and, that’s fair, because I wasn’t sure at first, either. They are a rowdy fighting group. I thought his training time and time with the other men was as fascinating and engaging as I hoped it would be while it set up for the rest of the series.
As to Isabail, she’s pretty special, too. She is a warrior at heart and it was funny how she has all the men cowed because she’s skilled and good at the craft, too. She has a good head on her shoulders though and is a worthy leader. I loved that she fell for Lor when she first thought he was a poor village blacksmith and then didn’t let this background change her feelings about him years later. They really saw each other and there was respect even when they were from rival clans and Lor was dead-set on his revenge. There is no sappy Romeo and Juliet going on here and I was grateful for that, but we do get some good spicy sexy times.
Highland Gladiator was even better than I anticipated and I was pretty excited about it. I can’t wait to see the other men of the Ludus Caledonia getting their stories. I loved the way the author blended action, suspense, historical backdrop, complex characters, and romance all together. I’ve had her books on my shelf for years and now I know what I’ve been missing. I can definitely recommend this one to other Highland romance fans.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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