Title: February and December (Dominus Calendar: Book One)
Author: JP Kenwood
Length: 92 Pages (Kindle)
Category: Historical, Erotica
At a Glance: Loving the Dominus series the way I do, February and December was a welcome between novels treat.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: As a lifelong passion continues to fade, another love deepens… two stand-alone m/m stories of love, lust, and friendship in ancient Rome.
February: Home from the first war against the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius ignores his obligations in Rome and returns to his secluded seaside villa in southern Italy. Under the pretense of a holiday trip, his best friend and secret lover, Lucius Petronius, surprises him with an unexpected visit. Later that evening, the lusty masters share the delights of Gaius’s blond pleasure slave, Nicomedes.
December: With whispers of an embezzlement scandal floating through the capital, Lucius Petronius and his beloved concubine, Bryaxis, celebrate the raucous winter solstice festival of the Saturnalia with Luc’s family. After a joy-filled evening of food, gifts, and stories, Lucius and Bryaxis reverse roles in the master chamber.
Warnings for explicit language, filthy loving, and daft shenanigans
Review: I have a couple of opposing thoughts about reading February and December as a standalone novella. Sure, yeah, you could do it if you love a quick bit of historical erotica to spice up your day. It is a sexy bit of fiction, no doubt, but I have to say that knowing these characters and the events that have shaped them into who they are when these stories take place adds something so much more to the sexuality and emotional intimacy of each scene. Considering these stories can technically work as standalones, but also work as complements to the series, I’d say it’s a win-win. Knowing the characters, though, was also a big bonus for me.
If you haven’t read the first two books in the Dominus series, let me tell you that Gaius Fabius, Lucius Petronius and their respective slaves, Nicodemus and Bryaxis, are so much more than just names on the page: charming, absolutely; vibrant in their lust for each other and the pleasures of the flesh, without a doubt–Gaius especially seems to approach sex much like he does battle, like the warrior he is. But there’s an emotional current woven much deeper in the series’ novels between Gaius and Lucius that meant something more to me as I was reading about these two men who’d loved each other—and still love each other, though in a way far different from the freedom their youth had allowed, the only way their society permits. They now deal in stolen and secretive moments peppered throughout a life of duty and marriage, and this is one of the greatest ironies of the time in which these stories are set; that it was acceptable for a man to have sex with his male slaves but not with a male peer, and in this book we see that irony on display.
Nicodemus plays a different role to Bryaxis in the Dominus series, though they are both slaves. That difference is evident in their servitude and what they each mean to their masters. Where Nicodemus is treasured for his beauty and body and sensuality, Bry is prized by Lucius as a friend and confidant, and cherished as a lover—outside of the public eye, of course. In public Bryaxis can never be more than Lucius’ property, which is what make their private moments resonate in an overtly romantic way. Knowing what I know about Lucius and Bryaxis made their story, December, ring with a deeper layer of poignancy and emotion, and of the two scenes, I loved this one the best.
The history of bisexuality and slavery offers some food for thought in the ways that law and society in Ancient Rome dealt with its contradictory moral codes, and how the caste system pervaded. Though, that’s not really the focus of February and December. These stories are all about the erotic moments shared between friends whose relationship is marred by an undercurrent of jealousy and frustration, and the way they relate to not only each other but the slaves who serve them. And then, there’s Lucius and Bryaxis and the forbidden love they share, which makes this novella (and the series) well worth the reading.
You can buy February and December here: