REVIEW: Dominus by JP Kenwood

In AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky Fourth Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake.

Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a sex slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the hated Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master.

Warnings: sexual slavery, violence, mentions of csa, noncon

Category: M/M

Dominus is the first instalment in a series of slavefic m/m romance/erotica novels. It is set in historical Rome, during the reign of Emperor Trajan. It’s a highly explicit and highly drama driven narrative that paints a vivid picture of life in Rome for it’s titular character, Gaius Fabius. Juggling relationships, affairs, and a position of authority all against his libido and his responsibilities, Gaius’s life and Allerix’s captivity are driving points of the narrative. If you read Captive Prince and wished for more smut, this book covers a lot of similar themes and beats while also delivering a smorgasbord of poly sex dynamics.

This is a very well written, and well plotted out story, and I applaud the author for a narrative that is immediately gripping. There’s an awful lot of charm to the prose and characters and I really enjoy how Kenwood writes. It’s a beautifully composed story that transports you to ancient Rome and encompasses political intrigue, interpersonal relationship developments, and sinister plots. It also has, at the start of the book, a scene that feels more or less directly lifted out of The Robe by Lloyd C Douglas, which was a delightful find as The Robe is one of my all time favourite non-horny novels, and the scene in question was one that stuck with me ever since I was young as something that could have lead into a more sensually driven narrative. I was quite chuffed at finding a hardcore kink novel that pulls from that.

All of the characters in this book have incredible amounts of charm and personality. Gaius, our lead POV, is especially charismatic, and hard not to fall in love with as he is equal parts as kind and tender as he is strict, firm, and authoritative. Everyone in his harem as well has their own unique personalities and charms. That said, with a harem dynamic, it can be a little difficult to become invested in everyone’s perspectives. Gaius is the most commonly seen POV, and we do sometimes see things through Allerix’s eyes as well. But Allerix mostly remains an enigma while Gaius’s viewpoints, which are often incredibly flawed and selfish, take centre stage. He does have charm, but he’s also an arrogant bastard and I think I may have preferred less of his POV since it is dripping so blatantly with self entitlement. It was hard to figure out if I loved or I hated him, meanwhile Allerix was so briefly touched on that I could barely even get to know him. This is perhaps a personal preference; as I feel I may have liked it a lot more, as a submissive myself, to have been more in Allerix’s POV than Gaius’s.

This is set of course in ancient Rome, and I will say that while I do not know how accurate the author’s portrayal of ancient Rome really is, I was impressed with how immersive the book is into the setting. It drops you right into Rome’s bustling streets, exploring it’s politics and the lives of various people from those in power to those very much not.

What can be a bit distressing in this romantasization of ancient Rome, is in how the narrative fails to really portray slavery as a bad thing. It’s a neutral vector, at best, here, and actively lauded by the characters within the story to potentially unsettling levels. The amount of characters that tell Allerix that his sexual assaults were not abuse and that Gaius is, in fact a Good slave owner simply because he doesn’t beat his slaves for no reason, all the while failing to understand the inherent horror of a life with no agency, where Gaius has the power to discard people who love him at a whim because they got too old and then move on fucking their (now adult) children instead, would all have been less distressing to me as a reader if it had been presented as being horrific instead of through the rose coloured glasses that the narrative seems to see it. For that reason, I would argue that Dominus, while an interesting book, is too romantasizing of the subject of slavery for my speed.

The author has a very good handle on writing sex scenes, and this is chock full of some incredibly steamy ones. If you’re looking for some really good porn with Master/slave kink this will deliver in spades; lots of threesomes, bondage, flogging, public sex, blow job training, ect. Unfortunately for me, it hit a lot of my own squicks and was a frustrating read because of it. I had hoped the story would be a one on one between Gaius and Allerix, but instead it is a harem dynamic and full of all the tropes that go along with it from jealousy and rivalries among slaves that have to compete for their Master’s favour (huge no for me) and slaves being made to do things with each other (also no for me). So while I cannot fault it’s content’s quality, and indeed even recommend it highly if a huge poly sex romp where everyone is fucking everyone sounds like your kind of thing, it killed the story for me personally as well as the sex appeal. I can’t handle power exchange in my poly or poly in my power exchange, alas.

All in all I did want to love this book, but it ended up being a bit too dismissive of it’s subject matter while also including a lot of my squicks. That said, it didn’t squick me as hard as some other titles like Tribute or Cethe did, but rather it failed to keep my interest. Which makes it strange to say that I do recommend it, I think it is well written and if the things I detailed in this review do not bother or squick you, and especially if you loved Captive Prince but wanted more sex, I would say to give this a go. It ends on an incomplete note; clearly setting up for the next book without providing a conclusion, but it certainly hints to a lot more drama and relational development to come.

Have you read Dominus? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!

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