Roman Discipline’s main feature is its historical setting, on which sex scenes are hung like clusters of grapes on a vine. To the author’s credit that particular metaphor does not appear, although the descriptions do go over the top from time to time. That’s pretty much inevitable when so many characters have so much sex in so many configurations within so few pages, with each encounter obliged to surpass all previous ones in order to provide for any story arc or structure, and on the whole the writing is quite good.
The story arc here works well enough for its purpose. Julia, a young Roman lady with an aristocratic husband, Marcus, and two infant sons, is despondent when that husband decides that he needs someone even younger for his bed. He graciously permits her to have discreet affairs of her own, as long as she helps him find a suitable slave girl or two and trains them in how to please him, since she already know his ways so well.
Julia does try, even though what she wants most is for him to want only her. She heartily enjoys a series of orgies, assignations with slaves and rentable athletes, and erotic adventures with a pair of slave girls from Lesbos who, of course, turn out not to be at all the willing and enthusiastic bed-partners Marcus hoped for. But in between the admirably varied and strenuous bouts of humping and spanking, Julia still longs for the love and undivided attention of her husband.
The characterizations are a bit tricky, but the author does manage to make Julia a fairly sympathetic figure. She’ll beat a slave in anger, then apply unguent to prevent infection in the whip marks, and even muses briefly but not too convincingly about the morality of owning slaves. It’s always hard to make the customs and attitudes of long-past eras mesh with those of modern readers, and in erotica of this sort I’m not inclined to be a stickler for historical accuracy in this area.
The book as a whole is reasonably good in terms of historical accuracy. The author has done her research when it comes to clothing and customs, as far as I can tell, and I suppose that when an occasional term sounds too modern we can shrug and admit that there was probably some similar term in Latin. The one thing I found unbelievable—well, all right, there were other things, but after all, this is erotica--was that Marcus would give his wife permission to fool around, with no apparent consideration that she might get pregnant. He saw no problem with producing bastards of his own with slaves, but no Roman of that standing would be happy if his wife did likewise.
Roman Discipline can’t be said to transcend the expectations of erotica, but it does fulfill them, with the added benefit of a setting portrayed with just the right amount of detail to maintain interest without being distracting. A short book, teeming with sex, with a nice bit of scenery and a hint of romance; not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. You might even learn a thing or two about ancient Roman garb and hairdos.