4.4 stars. What a wonderful, enjoyable story! In a departure from the style or topics of her previous books LA Witt takes on historical Pompeii, gladiator style. Although there is romance, this book is much better classified as general (gay?) fiction.
Saevius is a veteran gladiator who has known nothing but slavery. A few fights from obtaining freedom, he is sold to a politician in another city as a bodyguard. Unfortunately, when he gets there, he finds that his true purpose is not to serve as a bodyguard but to serve as a spy in a local arena. He soon finds himself not only caught up in a world of intrigue and political games, but also with a growing attraction to his lanista. As the intrigue grows, Saevius struggles to find a way out of a lose-lose situation and uncovering secrets that may best be left alone.
Left Hand of Calvus (oh how wonderfully titled!) is a plot- driven story with only a simmer of romance- which very appropriately fits the style and setting of the story. The story maintains a low-thrumming tension throughout, making it difficult to put down. The author expertly holds you in her thrall, while engineering a sneak-around attack to catch you unawares. Still, if you are looking for some hot man love, this may not be the story for you.
Warning, sex is off-page and minimal. The romance or love feels almost more like the loyalty a dog has for its owner ( in a good non-degrading way!) than dramatic passionate love. Further, there are significant m/f-ish interactions, even between some MCs. Still, I wouldn't let that put you off as this was a highly enjoyable story!