The best novels that put the Roman in romance

Nancy Kimball Author Of Unseen Love
By Nancy Kimball

Who am I?

When I watched the Ridley Scott film Gladiator for the first time, I knew then my heart belonged in Ancient Rome. Countless books, films, research papers, museums, and shenanigans later, that is still true. I was a master of make-believe by age ten, and when the time was right, both passions fused into my debut novel, also set in Ancient Rome. I don’t want to just read or write a good book. I want to experience Ancient Rome vicariously through powerful characters that linger in my memory long after the last page. If that’s you too, give these a try. 


I wrote...

Unseen Love

By Nancy Kimball,

Book cover of Unseen Love

What is my book about?

In the shadows of pagan Rome, Laelia Ricarri’s recent blindness destroys her hopes of a betrothal to escape her abusive father. For Drusus, his new mistress is more capable, and beautiful, than she knows. She has an uncertain future. He has a hidden past. Can a forbidden romance set them free?

A literary agent told me in a face-to-face conversation this novel would never sell because “if your heroine is blind, there can never be a happy ending.” Full stop. Yeah, I know. I was pissed off too. However, the readers and reviewers of Unseen Love continue to answer for me that not only did this incredible love story deserve a place at the table, but also on the keeper shelf.

The books I picked & why

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Enslaved: An Ancient Rome Romance

By Cassandra Dean,

Book cover of Enslaved: An Ancient Rome Romance

Why this book?

I am so thrilled this author is rereleasing this novel and am stoked to revisit Lucia and Marcus’s story. When I first agreed to participate with this list, it was the first book that came to mind. Dean’s storytelling is so powerful. She plays to the history of Rome, and the conflict and dynamics unique to the time period so well as you journey through an impossible romance that refuses to die, much like its hero and heroine. What I appreciated most about this novel is how Marcus is allowed to be more than a slave and gladiator and how Lucia does what she must to survive her situation while always holding fast to the defiance and strength she shared with Marcus in their early days.  


The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1)

By Carla Capshaw,

Book cover of The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1)

Why this book?

This novel was one of my comps when marketing my own book to publishers, and I love, love, love how salty the heroine Pelonia could be at times. Caros, the hero (because can we please name the heroes something other than Marcus now and then, ya’ll?) sorry, not sorry, but Caros gets a surprising amount of depth for a shorter read. He loves his freedom, his pet tiger, and the peace he’s earned as a retired gladiator, all of which Pelonia basically wrecks in pretty short order. This is a Love Inspired Historical, so readers looking to avoid explicit content can do so with a very satisfying love story with this Roman and his lady—if they don’t kill each other first, LOL.  


From the Ashes

By Melissa Addey,

Book cover of From the Ashes

Why this book?

For as many fiction novels surrounding the Colosseum as I have read, this was the first one written from the stagehands, if you will, and I devoured it in a single sitting. I almost passed on it because the model on the cover is a stock photo that’s everywhere in the genre covers but I'm so glad I didn’t. Experience Pompeii’s destruction, and the building and inauguration of the Colosseum, like never before. Althea and Marcus will drag you through some of the most well-written world building and seamless research into these two events as you face calamity after calamity with them. This novel is both absolutely a romance, and barely a romance, which will make sense when you’re in the final pages of this unforgettable story.  


Love & Vengenace

By Gina Danna,

Book cover of Love & Vengenace

Why this book?

If Game of Thrones and the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand had a baby, it would be this novel. I know that’s a Greek Spartan on the cover, but if you can overlook that, there’s a very good story weaving through the horrible fates being thrown at Marcus and Gustina. And I mean seriously horrible. What this story lacks in deep point of view, and strong characterization, it makes up for with well-written, albeit very, very graphic, sex and violence. Part of me died when Andy Whitfield did, so this story in its own way is a road back to what was the absolute best, and worst, depending on your perspective, of the decadence and brutality that was Ancient Rome.


A Voice in the Wind

By Francine Rivers,

Book cover of A Voice in the Wind

Why this book?

This is the gold standard of Ancient World Christian Fiction for a reason. The author is an RWA Hall of Fame recipient and ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award winner. This first book in the Mark of the Lion series is so much more than a book about early Christianity and why Rome hated it. Words to describe Hadassah and Marcus’s story are… epic, profound, life-changing, powerful, captivating, and I could go on and on. It still freaks me out and totally awes me when reviews for my novels mention her in the same sentence. I want to be flattered and offended on her behalf at the same time, which is completely crazy. If you’re only going to invest in one book from my list, it should be this one. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Rome, gladiators, and ancient Rome?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Rome, gladiators, and ancient Rome.

Rome Explore 204 books about Rome
Gladiators Explore 16 books about gladiators
Ancient Rome Explore 122 books about ancient Rome

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Captive Heart, Port Royal (Buccaneers, Book 1), and Dreamspell if you like this list.