Title: The Gladiator’s Bride
Author: Nhys Glover
Release Date: November 1st
Genre: Historical Romance
Crippled by shyness, shunned for being not-right-in-the-head, gifted artist and Roman noblewoman, Marcia Mica, has only two people in the world who truly love her – her teacher, Daedalus, and her childhood friend, Asterion, both slaves in her father’s household. But when forbidden love blooms between the unlikely friends, only disaster can come of it. That disaster leaves Marcia horribly scarred and Asterion sold into the arena as a gladiator.
Years later, Daedalus brings a broken Marcia to Britannia, and Sabrina, the healer who saved his life when he was a boy, works miracles on the scarred girl. However, not all scars are physical and those Sabrina has no ability to heal.
When Sabrina and Marcia are kidnapped by a Celtic leader bent on revenge, Asterion must depend on the dreams of a Celtic Seer to find the love of his life and help foil a revolt that threatens the fragile peace in Roman Britannia. But even if he and his friends succeed, can scars that are more than just physical ever really be healed and can those whose lives are owned by others ever truly be free to follow their hearts?
As he took the shortcut through the forest, heading for home, a shadow flitted through the trees and appeared at his side. He was so shocked by her sudden appearance that he dropped the sack of flour.
‘Marcie, what are you doing here?’ he demanded as he tried to get his heartbeat under control again. ‘You shouldn’t be out here alone.’
‘You were with her again, weren’t you?’ Her delicately beautiful face was twisted in fury, honey-brown eyes flashing fire at him.
‘What? Who? What are you talking about? Don’t come up on me like that. I might have hurt you.’
‘That widow. The one the boys all talk about. I heard them. They think I don’t understand, but I do. You go to her house and do things to her!’ Her accusations stung and he felt guilt morph instantly into fury.
‘Mind your own business. It’s nothing to do with you!’ He slung the flour-sack onto his back again and stomped off down the narrow trail.
‘Don’t you talk to me like that, Asterion! You’re my slave and I have the right to know what you’re doing with your time. You aren’t free to go where you like, see who you like!’ she snarled at him.
He stopped and looked down at her in shock. In the last year he’d grown taller by almost a head than she was. Now, the year’s difference in their age seemed insignificant. In fact, after spending time with the widow, he felt much older and more worldly-wise than she was. Marcie was still a child, even though her sixteen-year-old body said otherwise. This little display of temper only went to prove it.
‘Oh sorry, mistress, I forgot my place for a moment. Of course you have the right to know that I’ve been sharing the widow’s bed. Do you want the details? How I make her scream and pant? How she sucked my cock until I came in her mouth?’ He knew he was stepping over the line, but so had she.
Their relative stations in life had always been ignored by mutual, unspoken agreement. They’d always been equals. But now, by throwing his servitude in his face, she’d crossed the line. She’d showed him how she really saw him. How beneath her he really was.
Marcie’s mouth dropped open and he was immediately aware of the seductive draw of it. Those red lips were so full and sweet, covering perfect white teeth that looked just like rows of pearls. By brushing back a stray tendril of glossy brown hair, she drew his eye to the seductive softness of it, made him itch to bury his fingers in its lengths.
But honey-brown eyes that were usually filled with warmth when they gazed at him were now wide with astonishment and pain. And he suddenly realised what he’d done.
In that moment, he wanted to call back the words and go back in time to do this all again.
‘She sucked what?’ she gasped, her cheeks flaming red.
‘Nothing. Forget it. I shouldn’t have said anything. You just made me mad. Let’s get home. Daedalus will be wondering what happened to you.’
‘He’s gone to the coast to check on our cargo. Pater went with him,’ she said absently, clearly not focused on the information she was imparting.
‘Then it’s me who has to get back. I’ll be in trouble if I’m much later.’
‘You wouldn’t be, if you hadn’t gone to her. How could you? How…How could you?’ Her eyes filled with tears and his heart felt sick in his chest. In that moment, he wanted to cut off his cock for making him cause her this pain.
‘Marcie, don’t. You don’t understand. I’m a man now. I…I have needs I can’t control. The widow helps me. Haven’t you noticed the difference in me the last few months?’ He was almost pleading with her for forgiveness. And that was stupid. What had he done wrong except take an hour a week for himself? He deserved that, didn’t he?
‘Yes, I’ve noticed. You look so smug and cocky, swaggering around the place. The boys say you’ve got too big for your own sandals now. They say that the widow has played with more than your prick. She’s played with your head. Made you think you’re better than them.’
‘I am better than them. And it didn’t take the widow to make me know it. What do you want from me Marcie? Tell me – ’
She launched herself at him so fast that he again dropped the sack of flour. Her tightly closed lips butted against his in a fiercely innocent kiss. It smashed her teeth into his, cutting his lip, and it felt nothing like the soft, seductive caresses the widow gave him.
But it was like putting a naked flame to tinder. Like a lightning strike to a tree. The very fact that her lips were sealed to his blew every thought from his head and brought his cock to instant, painful attention. Blood pounded in his ears, his legs grew weak. Air evaporated from his lungs.
Fighting for control, he pushed her away. ‘What are you doing? Stop!’
‘You don’t have to go to her. If kissing is what you want, I can give you that. You don’t have to go to her!’
‘Yes I do!’
‘Why? Aren’t I good enough for you?’
He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her in fury. His head felt ready to explode.
‘I need more than kisses! Don’t you get it? We aren’t children anymore. And I need more than friendship and kisses. And you can’t give me what I need. You’re the little mistress and I’m the slave. They’d cut off my balls if I so much as looked at you the wrong way!’
Her eyes filled with tears again and she sobbed so hard it felt like her searing pain came from his own chest. Looking at her hurt too much, so he dragged her into his arms and pressed her to his aching heart.
Interview Questions: Nhys Glover
Q: What made you write ‘The Gladiator’s Bride’?
A: I had already written several books in this period with characters who kept popping up from one book to the next like old friends visiting, so this time I decided to bring in more of that visiting and catching up. In real life we don’t have a HEA. Life goes on and it isn’t always smooth. So I wanted to show that, particularly for my ‘White Raven’s Lover’ characters, Gaius and Brennwen. Then I wanted to explore a little of my residual pain and grief over my own son’s life and then death 12 years ago. Not by tell his story, but by exploring a similar story with a mother who shared the same kind of pain. So Sabrina was born.
Q: What about the other major characters in the book. How did they come into being?
A: Often I like to explore what it would be like to be someone in the past. Like what would it be like to be a slave without any rights to even your own body? That led me to contemplate the worst case scenario: being a sex slave, or used essentially for sex by your master. Not my fantasy I can tell you. I’m not a ‘Shades of Grey’ fan, I’m more than happy to admit. And I wanted to experience it from a male perspective. Women have been sex slaves in one way or another since the beginning of time. But men? Not so much. So Allyn and then later Vali got to live that kind of life and I got to feel and understand a little of the damage that life must have wrought on their souls.
When I got to Gladiator I was ready to explore what it might have been like to be an intelligent, ambitious and not damaged slave in the Roman Empire. Nexus had done it, but in a limited way. I wanted to see what a really ambitious slave might do. So I created a Norseman like Vali from ‘The Barbarian’s Mistress’, and I made sure he didn’t get used as a sex slave like Vali. And Dathor or Daedalus (his slave name) was born!
For my young lovers… they came from somewhere else, with no input from me. That happens sometimes. It’s like some long-dead souls want their story told and their HEA, even if they didn’t get it in real life. I doubt I would have created quite as horrific a situation for poor Marcia and Asterion otherwise.
Q: Why Ancient Britannia for the setting?
A: I’m an Aussie, and yet I was raised by an English father and grandparents to believe England was home. The Scottish side of my heritage was ignored, like a skeleton in the closet. So I came to England for a working holiday, to cross an item off my bucket list, if you will. And I couldn’t leave. It was like I’d been a rolling stone all my life and had suddenly found my roots. They sank in deep and fast. So when I started writing my Roman Historicals bringing my characters HOME to England seemed a natural thing to do. They might start out somewhere else and/or wander the Roman Empire, but they all finally settle in Britannia. This country calls to me. The past is so interlaced with the present here, it’s almost like you can see people from the past walking down the old cobbled streets or along the ridge of the moors. That’s incredibly inspiring to a writer, so that’s why I explore this country’s past so much, digging down into the layers like an archaeologist.
Q: Which brings me to the question: How accurate is your picture of Ancient Britannia? Is it based on archaeological evidence?
A: It is as accurate as I can make it. As an ex-historian, I like to keep my facts straight, even if they are largely a stage on which my characters get to perform. I do a lot of research before and during the writing of a book, and I guess another reason I like writing in this Roman era is that I can cheat and use past research when building the stage for the next novel. Oh, and Stanford University’s Orbis Project made the logistics of travel around the Empire so much easier and more accurate. I could type in any place, and then plot a journey to any other place, to find out how long it would take by different means of transport and the season, and how much it would cost. Pity we don’t have a modern day version of this. It would make taking trips across the world a lot less challenging.
Q: So that’s your book. Let’s move on to you. Tell me a little about Nhys Glover, the person.
A: Does she even exist anymore? LOL! If she does she lives a pretty tame life these days. And aren’t I glad of it. I had a pretty ‘interesting’ life before, living in Outback Australia, working in a male prison, teaching Kids at Risk, married and divorced, raising a son with physical, learning and behaviour disabilities who died at 20, getting breast cancer and fighting through it while I dealt with the grief of losing my son. Lots of challenges.
Now I live alone, (I did have a stray, largely feral cat for a while but, as I rent, landlords weren’t happy to have that kind of Plus One on the lease,) in a lovely old coach-house conversion, attached to a heritage listed property, in a quiet little hamlet on the edge of the North Yorkshire Dales. It’s quintessentially England, complete with rose-covered cottages, and I have a great view from my window of the barren moors above. Perfect for inspiration.
I work a few hours a week as a Project Worker for a mental health charity in the area. It keeps me from becoming a total recluse. I have a lovely bunch of friends I keep in contact with via email, a group that is increasing with readers who write to me from all over the world. I have a lovely new friend from Portugal. She reads my books in English to practise, and I was the first author she ever felt like writing to. How great is that!
And except for weak attempts at socialising and exercise, the rest of my time is doing what I love: Writing. I feel incredibly gifted to have the chance to live this lifestyle after my previously full-on, way-too=challenging life. Some people think I’m crazy living like I do. Maybe I am, but I’m happier this way than most sane people I know.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I started a new paranormal romance series called Scorpio Sons. Genetically engineered cloned warriors with panther DNA who are saving the world. They find their genetically engineered mates along the way. It’s a lot of fun and I’m racing through them to find out what happens next. I’ve published the first, the second is close to finished, and the other four are waiting on the sidelines to be written. As I’m a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of gal, I don’t get to know what happens until I’ve written it. Great impetus to keep writing.
Interview Questions for Characters: SABRINA
Q: Tell me about growing up as a Celt in Ancient Britannia
A: Most of my memories of my childhood are good ones. There were plenty of challenges, what with the invading Romans and clashes between tribes and even clans; shortage of food in certain seasons; that sort of thing. But there was always a lot of love. Not romantic love. What you’d call romantic love. We were too pragmatic for that. You have to be to survive. But love from my parents and brothers and friends. That made life good.
Q: No one married for love? That sounds very sad.
A: I don’t think I ever met a couple who married for love. Some grew to love each other, but mostly the best you could hope for was that you got a partner you could respect and like, and wasn’t too ugly. My parents got the respect bit right, but I don’t think they ever really liked each other. My father was too… gruff and stern for that. He was the leader of our clan and we lived just above what you now call Newcastle on Tyne. He considered softer emotions dangerous, as they made you weak. Probably I was the only one he showed those softer feelings to, being his only daughter. But even then those feelings were surrounded by gruffness.
Q: So you weren’t angry with you father for giving you to Jarnus? He wasn’t any woman’s romantic hero.
A: Of course not! My brothers had arranged marriages so I expected the same. Jarnus wasn’t much to look at, but he was the leader of his people and seemed friendly enough at the time. I thought I’d come to respect and like him, eventually. In a way, I think I always knew that I’d already given my heart away, back when I was a child. No one was ever going to measure up to that tall, blonde-haired boy with bright blue eyes, so why try?
Q: That’s Dathor, isn’t it? You met him when you healed him of his asthma, right?
A: Right. Of course we didn’t call it asthma. We didn’t really have a lot of labels for the different sicknesses that claimed us. We just called it by the major symptom. In his case it was the breathing ailment.
Q: What was it like to be a healer right from an early age like that?
A: I didn’t think about it, really. It was what I was born to do. My gift from the Goddess. It felt strange, sometimes, but never bad. And it was wonderful to see people healed by my hands. And I liked the respect and awe I got in my village. It was hard to go from that to Jarnus’ village where my skills were feared and abused.
Q: Life with Jarnus must have been awful. How did you stand it?
A: At first I tried to make the best of things. I expected to have children I loved that would make up for the rest. And though Las gave me love, and me him, it was always a painful love. And then my other sons… well, it’s hard to be a mother and not be able to love your own sons. It makes you feel as if there’s something wrong with you. But how did I stand it? I lived for my son, Las. He was everything to me.
Q: So his death was hard?
A: In a way, his death was the easy part. It was his life that was hard. For him, because he lived it, and for me, because I watched him live it and could do nothing to really change or improve it. I was a healer, but I couldn’t heal him. That broke my heart many times. As did not being able to stop Jarnus and my sons hurting him. I felt helpless and useless. A bad mother.
Q: And when Dathor came back into your life?
A: Well, by then life had changed a lot for me. I had loving people around me, even if some of them were Romans. I was respected for me skills. I was content. Then Dath came back and stirred everything up again. I’d seen loving couples by then, during my time in the South. Couples like Brennwen and Gaius, Ninia and Braxus and Lara and Vali, but I never expected or even wanted that kind of love for myself. I considered I was too old for all that.
Q: You were only in your late twenties. Hardly old, even for those times.
A: I know. But I felt old. Life with Jarnus sucked all the youth out of me.
Q: So you didn’t want to love Dath?
A: No. He was going to go away. He was a slave and his life wasn’t his own. I thought that loving him and losing him would be too much like Las. I didn’t want that.
Q: But eventually you gave in?
A: Eventually I accepted that no matter what I wanted, I loved him. And it was better to make the most of that love while I had it. Life was so fragile, so transient. Brennwen made me see that it was better to love, rather than not to love out of fear.
Q: What was it like being a mistress surrounded by slaves when you were growing up?
A: Like I was weird, but people had to be nice to me because of who I was. They had to put up with me. I hated that.
Q: You were weird because you were so shy and stuttered.
A: And I drew on anything that kept still long enough. People didn’t know what to do with a kid who could draw better than any adult they knew. I wasn’t supposed to be able to draw like that. I was a patrician, meant for other things.
Q: But Dathor saw beneath the weirdness?
A: Daedalus, that’s what we called him back then, Daedalus saw my skill and valued me for it. He gave me… me, for the first time. I don’t think anyone can really understand what that’s like. Drawing was like breathing to me. I had to do it to survive, and yet every breath I took was seen as something to be ashamed of. Then Daedalus came into my life and encouraged me to breathe deeply. It was exhilarating. It was freeing. People think the only people in my world who weren’t free were the slaves. That was not true. I was never free. But when I learned to give free rein to my art I felt free.
Q: But you weren’t a slave. No one owned you, body and soul.
A: I was a woman of noble birth. I would have been given to a suitable husband at a suitable age, who might or might not allow me to keep painting. Just like my father allowed me to paint. Indulged my strange whim. I might not have had to work like the slaves did, but my life was just as narrow and limiting. I couldn’t even be with the boy I loved.
Q: Because Asterion was a slave.
A: Yes. But it would likely have been the same if I’d fallen in love with a pleb. Or a noble with even less money than we had. But yes, loving a slave was far worse. I could have been put to death for that.
Q: But I thought the slave owners all had sex with their slaves back then.
A: The men could. Women of my class couldn’t. It was unthinkable. Like you committed bestiality or something. But of course, some women did it. It was all hush-hush, but they did it. Not for love, but for sex. That’s what happened to Vali, so I was told. It was considered exciting by the more jaded women of my class. Some even went to the gladiators before they fought. Dressed as prostitutes and poor women of course, never as themselves. But they did it. I never asked Asterion if that happened to him. I never wanted to know.
Q: He was a bad boy back then, wasn’t he?
A: That’s your term for it. He was very…damaged. I wore my scars on the outside. He wore his on the inside. And mine made me pull back from the world. His made him fight it. He hated everything, especially himself, and he channelled that into rage.
Q: He didn’t hate Braxus or the other’s on the estates where the Gladiator School was located.
A: No. I guess not. But he kept a wall up between himself and them. That’s what Ninia told me. And Sabrina said something similar. He seemed to boil with pent rage even when he was with people he liked.
Q: But you had physical walls, didn’t you?
A: When my uncle married me to that merchant? Yes. I had walls. He locked me in a dark room like a crazy woman. He wouldn’t even allow me anything to draw or paint with. I don’t remember much of that time. It’s all a bit of a d-d-dream. Oh, I’m s-s-stuttering again. I s-s-still do that when I get ups-s-set.
Q: So let’s move on, then. You lived through that terrible time and Sabrina healed your scars. What did that feel like?
A: Like gentle yet powerful, warm light flowing into my body. Like water soaking into parched land. Sometimes it tingled a bit. But mostly it felt wonderful.
Q: I guess I was asking about what it felt like to have no scars after having them for so long.
A: Ah, sorry. I don’t think I noticed at first. The process was very slow. I think I wouldn’t let the healing happen fully until I was healed on the inside. And that required Asterion’s love. When I started to see myself as he did…as beautiful, even with the scars, I started to let more of Sabrina’s healing take effect. I can remember being very relieved when I could kiss Asterion with a normal mouth again, though.
Q: I bet. But it must have been wonderful to have a man love you like that, even when you were so badly scarred.
A: Wonderful, yes. But very, very difficult to accept. I couldn’t really believe it at first. It felt like it wasn’t real. That he was just feeling sorry for me or guilty, or it was loyalty. How could someone love someone as ugly as I was? But then he reminded me that he’d loved the weird little kid other people thought wasn’t-right-in-the head. So why would his feelings be any different now? Or then. So I…let him in. Let him love me, scars and all. And though it was hard to do at first, it became easier over time. But by then the scars had gone anyway.
After a lifetime of teaching others to appreciate the written word, Aussie author Nhys Glover finally decided to make the most of the Indie Book Revolution to get her own written word out to the world. Now, with almost 100,000 of her ebooks downloaded internationally and a winner of 2013 SFR Galaxy Award for ‘The Titan Drowns’, Nhys finds her words, too, are being appreciated.
At home in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales of England, Nhys these days spends most of her time “living the dream” by looking out over the moors as she writes the kind of novels she loves to read: The ones that are a little bit steamy, a little bit different and wholly romantic.
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