Title: Shepherd, Slave and Vow
Author: Lyn Gala
Length: 54 pages, 14,400 words.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M, historical
Blurb: Bored with the privileges and duties of a member of the first family, Ferro finds himself in the slave tents as a consequence of his antics, knowing he’ll be rescued before long. At least, that’s the way it’s always worked before. This time, though, Ferro finds himself sold as a sheep-tender along with an intriguingly mysterious slave called Lysias. For the first time, Ferro’s met someone who seems immune to his wiles, and he’ll soon learn that Lysias has more to teach him than just shepherding.
Review: This was a witty and mischievous story, where the entertainment hinges on the charm of the narrator.
Ferro is an irrepressible wastrel, or so it seems. He regularly breaks the rules, misbehaving or thieving and gets sent to the slave tents as punishment. However, we learn quickly it’s a scam: Ferro never actually gets sold as a slave, or not for very long, before his royal family sends someone to bring him home again. All he has to do is make himself unattractive to buyers, to play for time for his rescue. And Ferro is obviously well experienced in this game. The slave-master looked down on him with a weary expression that Ferro recognized well-enough from his own father’s face.
But this time is different. He’s paired up with a fellow slave Lisias, an animal tender. Ferro is attracted to him but never imagines they’ll have anything in common, let alone spend any time together. Ferro’s thirty years old but acts much younger, and definitely without the “commitment” expected by his family. But he’s bored and fractious rather than innately bad. He’s obviously clever, mouthy but witty with it: “Comfortable?” the slave-master asked with more sarcasm than the situation really called for. “I could use a couch, something in kid leather with a soft wool blanket,” Ferro suggested. However, he’s not totally insufferable, as shown in his kind treatment of his fellow slave Agnella. And in his defence, he’s been brought up with little respect in his family: he was the third son, unlikely to inherit any real authority, his parents had regretted having birthed him at all; Ferro could see that every time his father looked at him. His mother simply cried. It’s obvious that his attention-seeking is a reaction against this.
He meets his match in the strong, relatively silent Lisias. Ferro lets his insolence run away with him more than once, until Lisias takes him in hand. Ferro thinks it’s all a game, but Lisias has Ferro’s measure. He’s attracted to Ferro and sees strength of character in him, but is irritated by Ferro’s constant playing up. When Ferro offers sex, Lisias says: “I don’t want easy sex here.” “That’s amusing because I have a reputation for being fairly easy.” Lisias studied Ferro for so long that Ferro started to squirm uncomfortably. “I suspect you’re anything but easy,” Lisias finally said. Ferro finally discovers a man he can respect, and maybe more importantly, can’t manipulate.
The story is from Ferro’s point of view, and is all about his own, personal epiphany, but Lisias is a strong and sympathetic protagonist. It becomes clear that, rather than break Ferro’s spirit, Lisias seeks a more equal partnership, and an honesty that Ferro has been skirting around all his life. The author’s style is good, the sex very hot, and I enjoyed the read. I rate it A.
by pettyprose…my opinion alone.