I hope the author forgives me for my speculations, but I am just sharing my personal impression of the book.
It seems to me the story was started some time ago, like a decade or two. When the author came back to it, tho, she did with gusto and somehow propelled the time period from regency or maybe even early 20th century to 2013 without a single glance back. All that I like had ended with Chapter 12. Chapter 13 welcomed us with a very sudden and very vicious addiction to cell phones, texts, voicemail and turning the damn thing on and off. Energy bars, credit cards, modern technology and modern jargon (started with "dunno") is suddenly all over the place.
Everyone is high on caffeine and sugar, hence, I assume, all the giggling, chuckling, laughing, smiling and so on (thesaurus was thoroughly exploited in this story). MC did a 180 and turned into a complete gigglepuss by 60%.
Then, there is all that food and clothes. The author is like a vice, she latches onto a subject and can't let go even after a new shiny pops up :(
Consort/Master dynamics, inappropriate and overused crude dirty jokes appeared to be all wrong to me. Maybe I am overly PC, but I cringed most of the time when Julian stepped in to discuss his responsibilities as a consort. Why is he even male? O.o Alex's "mounds" got pretty old and overused pretty fast; several characters managed to come off as sexist as**oles.
I started the book looking forward to a mystery. I got over my disappointment on that matter very early in the book and decided to enjoy fantasy of manners, magic and The Courtship instead. Chapter 13 (yes, I know, I already mentioned it), disappointed me again. The Courtship stopped. The old charm disappeared. Modern world and modern jargon with multiple new inane characters, whose names mostly start with J, took over.
Means of communication: first it was just a messenger or an occasional phone call, then it was cell-cell-cell, and t-h-e-n, because Alex/Julian relationship is not cheesy enough, we got Horace, The Messenger bird, who carried Alex's and Julian's letters in his chest where its heart supposed to be.
I did enjoy bits of a story, finding the courtship and magic fascinating, too bad it was given up for clothes, food, drinks and endless empty banter. Is ever a revised, well edited version comes out, I will give it a second chance. For now I can only give it one star.
A very quick read. Cut out headache-inducing bickering and meaningless dialog and the story shrinks from 224 pages to about 124. Cut out rivers of blood and gun-waving, and you get it down to about 70 in no time. Then tune out the descriptions of posh surroundings and you are looking at mere 60. Pull out and burn the bush that the author beats around instead of moving the story forward and you can get maybe 40 pages of the actualstory.
I am not going to review that story, just want to mention that yet another creature went through pain and suffering and was almost destroyed emotionally and physically so we could read about Arman and his guns.
This was a great book until the last 25% or so.
Extra points for excellent russian here and there, tho I still can't figure out why stupid typos were left untouched. "Pecherskaya" was spelled "Pe r cherskaya" literally half the time. No matter the language, it's an annoyance. "The band was called "Gryaznykh Angelov"...". Say what? @.@ A minor mistake, sure, but on top of interchangeable peRcherskaya it screamed "I don't really care. they won't get it anyway.", not to mention the name is such a cliche. What else... "'mu'dak' means 'asshole'". Sure if "asshole" means "meany". Let's be nice, I guess. So, that was the minor stuff.
My major complaint - and it's me, probbly, since I like sex in my books in very moderate amounts - is that the last 20% turned into pure porn. I really don't care who topped whom in the end, how many times and how sticky the stickiness got. Both characters, especially Zak, were crazed enough on sex from the very beginning, but by the end the lust came out full force without MCs surfacing for air for 20% straight. I lost all interest in the book and going to DNF it at 93%.
That leaves me with - what? 75% is pure awesomeness, save for the typos. I can easily dish out 5 and more shiny stars. The last 25% tho? A star and a half maybe.
In all fairness, gladiators are not my slice of salami.
I read this book for a challenge because of the Mars character. He disappointed me a quite a bit, since his true nature never got a chance to shine. As for the mortals, as entertaining their relationship was in the beginning, it all turned to lust and then love all too quickly, at the same time failing to produce any hint of chemistry between them.
The book is short, and of course, it limits the opportunities for the characters and relationships to develop fully. The plot was a bit of a cliche, the chemistry, like I said, was non-existent, the sex was meh.