The Roman Slave is a 395 page historical erotic novel set in 161 B.C., the era of the Roman Republic. I particularly mention the number of pages because, to be honest, I struggled to get through them. I tend to read in bed, and alas, I fell asleep more than once with my eReader open during my perusal of this book.
The problem was not a lack of plot. The Roman Slave starts with the focus on a hot-headed, ambitious tribune, Messalla, who has been exiled to the hinterland of Macedonia as a punishment for raping a noblewoman. Messalla, with the help of his battle-scarred centurion Procinus, devises a scheme to attack and plunder a remote but wealthy village during a wedding festival. He reasons that the gold he can supply to Rome's coffers, plus the many slaves he will capture and sell, will both make his fortune and restore his reputation.
The story then shifts to the peaceful village of Therapnae, where the reader meets Lavinia, the tomboyish eighteen year old who is the intended bride as well as a future queen, and her family of Spartan warriors. (I could not quite figure out what Spartans were doing in Macedonia, but I let that pass.) Lavinia receives training in both pugilistic and erotic arts in preparation for her nuptials. On the eve of the wedding, Messalla and his men swoop down on the unprepared village, capturing Lavinia, her heroic grandfather and village headman, Leonidas, plus her grandmother, her mother and brother and a host of other unfortunates. The captives are divided and reach Rome by separate routes, but eventually all are reunited in the Imperial City. Leonidas and Lavinia literally beat some sense into Messalla's head. He is nursed back to health by a Spartan sex trainer, with whom he falls in love. He sees the error of his ways and makes amends to the noble Spartans he had enslaved. Everyone lives happily ever after.
Between our initial introduction to Messalla and his ultimate conversion into one of the good guys, Alexandros introduces characters with an abandon worthy of Tolstoy: slaves, merchants, cooks, centurions, gladiators, consuls, street punks, sausage vendors, wives, mothers, sisters, cousins, and aunts. All right, I don't recall anyone being explicitly identified as an aunt, but I could not begin to keep track of all these people. For the most part they were one-dimensional cut-outs with few individual attributes, although sometimes they have their own plots and plans which the reader is expected to follow.
The most prominent character trait, shared by almost all the characters in The Roman Slave, is inexhaustible horniness. Women and men couple, often with multiple partners, at the drop of a tunic. In fact, many characters habitually walk the streets of Rome naked. Public orgies are routine. Women have pleasure slaves to keep them satisfied, but don't disdain the erotic attentions of other women as well. Hardly a page goes by without a phallus finding its way into a cunnus, or some other convenient orifice. Jealousy hardly exists, as husbands and wives both recognize the primacy of lust.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the author's treatment of sex is so superficial that I found it tedious. He dwells only at the physical level--which body parts are being inserted where, who is covered with come, who is climaxing and how many times. He seems to view sex as something of an athletic performance, or a contest, one in which his main characters Leonidas (who has the physique of a giant and a cock as thick as a normal man's forearm) and Lavinia (who is graced with a clitoris three inches long) are always the victors.
Here's an example, more or less randomly chosen (from page 212):
“This is Leonidas, and this girl here is Lavinia. Lavinia, remove your tunica and get on that table there. I want to see what you can do.”
Valinus stripped off his knight’s tunic, more comfortable than the toga he wore earlier, saying, “Let’s start, as I have a long day ahead. Leonidas, I want you to go with Livia and choose some women. I really want to have a firsthand look at your erotic skills, so don’t hold back.”
Livia had already begun to undo Leonidas’ subligaculum. She gasped when she saw his cock, which sprang erect and well above his waist.
“Look, Master Valinus,” she said, indicating Leonidas. “It is so much like my husband’s, but much bigger.”
“Quickly, Livia, time is money for me,” said Valinus, as he climbed on the wide table where Lavinia already waited for him, lying on her back with her legs held high up and spread out.
Valinus reversed himself on her and buried his face between her legs, licking all around her clitoris and pushing his fingers deep inside her cunnus, while she reached up and swallowed his cock to the root. Gratianus and the Egyptian girl joined them soon on the table, excited by the loveliness of Lavinia. Gratianus knelt near them, using the tip of his tongue to probe her anus, while the Egyptian girl sucked him to an erection . Once he was hard, he positioned himself before Lavinia, driving his cock deep into her ass, even as Valinus continued to suck on her clitoris like a ripe fruit.
In the meantime, Leonidas picked out six women from the group Livia showed him and had them all climb on another wide table along with him. Taking three of them, he first stacked them one on top of the other. Kneeling, he began to stimulate their cunni alternately with his fingers and tongue, while Livia and the other three women swarmed under him. As he knelt, their tongues attacked his immense cock and roamed all around his huge testicles. Livia knelt behind him and buried her face between his cheeks, to tongue his anus. Soon, Leonidas made another stack of three women and repeated the same process. In a short time, he was on his knees before the first stack, driving his cock in and out of their cunni alternately, while his fingers continued to stimulate the women on the other stack. Although he couldn’t see, as Livia had climbed on his shoulders and wrapped her legs about his broad shoulders, he never missed his mark and continued thrusting alternately into the three women, before moving to the next stack, where he repeated the process.
Valinus, who had already ejaculated two times into Lavinia’s mouth by then, had stepped down to watch Leonidas at work with the seven women. He had never seen anything like it before and he watched him with mouth open, as did everyone in the room, except Lavinia and the six men who were pleasuring her. She fixed herself on Gratianus who lay back on the table, her sphincter tightly gripping his cock at the base while one man knelt over her and drove his member alternately in and out of her cunnus. Another slave knelt near her and sucked her elongated clitoris. Two others knelt on either side of her face, with a third kneeling over her chest and with a perfect rhythm, she turned her head from side to side or up and down in front, swallowing one or the other cocks.
I suppose that some people might find the scene above (and the dozens more very much like it that this novel offers) to be exciting. I have the notion that Mr. Alexandros was aroused when he wrote this, mostly because he repeated the overall pattern so many times. However, when he was penning this scene, he probably identified with one (or more) of the characters. He imagined their thoughts and their feelings. None of the inner life of any of the characters is actually expressed in the text. We don't know what they're feeling, even on the level of the senses, let alone emotionally. Perhaps the mere suggestion of such uninhibitedly lustful activity is enough to turn on some people. For me, piles of bodies are simply boring.
There are other problems with The Roman Slave. It takes more than a few Latin words and disparaging references to Cato's puritanical morality to establish a sense of place and culture. Like Mr. Alexandros, I've always been fascinated by classical Greece and Rome, but I don't feel that this book conveys the reader to a believable world of the past, as effective historical fiction should do. Blog entries by the author suggest that Lavinia's home, the lascivious city of Mithir, was located in Phrygia (central Turkey) but he never follows up on that cultural note in this book. In particular, he misses the opportunity to focus on the Phrygian tradition of worshiping the Mother Goddess, Cybele, though this would have fit very well within the confines of the story.
The Roman Slave does have some points in its favor. It is definitely sex-positive and has a feminist bent. Everyone participates willingly in the randy activities throughout the book. Everyone comes, many times. Women's sexual satisfaction is viewed as essential for health and harmony, and it is the women in Alexandros' Rome who keep the men as pleasure slaves. I'd love to have a more nuanced view of these women's experiences. Unfortunately, even Lavinia, the most fully realized female character, is rather shallow.
Secondly, I was relieved to find that this book was not another tired fantasy in which the slaves are bound, beaten and otherwise abused for the reader's titillation. Anyone who is at all familiar with my work will know that I love a well-written BDSM tale. However, the slaves-in-chains scenario has been so overworked that it is rare to find someone who can give it a fresh twist. Mr. Alexandros does not try. Aside from some incest (at least, I think the protagonists were brother and sister - it was hard to keep track!), there's little kinkiness in this book (By my definition. I suppose that not everyone would call orgies vanilla.)
In short, I applaud Mr. Alexandros' energy in penning this substantial work. I only wish that it offered the substance that its length requires.