Saturday, January 14, 2017

Louise Allen - Virgin Slave, Barbarian King

Julia Livia Rufa is horrified when barbarians invade Rome and steal everything in sight. But she doesn't expect to be among the taken! As Wulfric's woman, she's ordered to keep house for the uncivilized marauders. Soon, though, Julia realizes that she's more free as a slave than she ever was as a sheltered Roman virgin. It would be all too easy to succumb to Wulfric's quiet strength, and Julia wants him more than she's ever wanted anything. But Wulfric could one day be king, and Julia is a Roman slave. What future can there be for two people from such different worlds? 

Comment: I think I saw a reference to this book at a forum a couple of years ago and the theme seemed interesting. I'm not usually a fan of slaves and masters tropes but the fact this was set in the Ancient Rome was what made me intrigued, especially because of the romance factor. I know slavery is never romantic but this is fantasy and I was interested in seeing how the author would play the romance.

This is the story of Julia Livia Rufa, a citizen of Rome who is kidnapped by a barbarian to become his slave. Rome is in chaos because the Emperor hasn't honored the deal with the so called barbarian people who help the empire to protect its borders. Now the Visigoths are going through Rome to get what they believe is their by right and Julia is taken at that time.
However, living with her kidnapper proves to be more fun and interesting that the type of life she used to have and now Julia makes friends and finds something that makes her feel good. But her relationship with Wulfric, her master, isn't what she expected as he never treats her badly and only acts to rile her up. Can Julia find a new life and forget her past as a Roman?

Apart from all the things that would annoy a person in these modern times, this story wasn't too bad for the most part. Yes, it has situations that aren't easy to romanticize but if one can put aside reality, this fictional story is quite cute. The author didn't try a too heavy tone or a dramatic take on the overall story and that makes it easier to follow and accept. I was actually amused by the antics between Julia and Wulfric and the fact this is simply a fictional story focused on these two turns this into a sweet romance, even if not perfect.

The relationship between the two protagonists was what really made this book different. Yes, they were master and slave but he never treated her badly and he never beat her, for instance. His feelings for her (and hers for him) seemed to happen a bit too quickly considering the whole concept of slavery but the proximity and the attitude of the Visigoths seem to be quite obvious in its difference to Romans so we kind of accept they could be, believably, falling in love.

The plot isn't too complicated, although it has some interesting scenes with the dilemmas Wulfric must deal with because of the poor health of his leader and what will happen, who will succeed when and if he dies. Wulfric's choices are consistent to what we learn of his character and I'm surprised this wasn't portrayed in a more violent way...I suppose the fact this book is published by Mils and Boon and has a specific public target has something to do with the page count and general sense of things, but I'm glad we didn't have to go through too much drama and angst. 
In the end, I don't know if the HEA achieved was good enough for what become the expectations we create but I was glad enough things worked out.

The main characters are interesting, Julia seems too difficult to approach at first but I grew to like her and feel happy by how she decided to become a strong woman and I think her decisions, in a way, reflect that.
Wulfric is everything we expect from a hero warrior and his honor speaks for him.
The secondary characters were constant and offered interesting interactions with the main ones and I liked knowing them for the time we got to see them on the page.
All in all, this was a good book, a story I felt entertained with and for that alone, it was totally worth the reading.
Grade: 8/10

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