The best novels that put the Roman in romance

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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Enslaved: An Ancient Rome Romance

Nancy Kimball Why did I love 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.  

By Cassandra Dean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enslaved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tale of breathless passion, constant devotion, and all-consuming love from Award Winning Australian Author Cassandra Dean

I was to teach a slave.

Marcus, a gladiator in my father’s ludus, was compelled to my presence to learn of Rome’s gods, her legends. When first he came, fear consumed me – fear of this silent, resentful slave who burned with his anger.

Time, though, changes much. Marcus softened and I grew unafraid. As we became closer, I grew more than merely unafraid – I grew to love him. Never did I think we would be separated.

I was wrong.

I forced…


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

Nancy Kimball Why did I love 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.  

By Carla Capshaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He won his fame—and his freedom—in the gory pits of Rome's Colosseum. Yet the greatest challenge for once-legendary gladiator Caros Viriathos comes to him through a slave. His slave, the beautiful and mysterious Pelonia Valeria. Her secret brings danger to his household but offers Caros a love like he's never known….

Should anyone learn she is a Christian, Pelonia will be executed. Her faith threatens not only herself, but her master. Can she convince a man who found fame through unforgiving brutality to show mercy? And when she's ultimately given the choice, will Pelonia choose freedom or the love of…


Book cover of From the Ashes

Nancy Kimball Why did I love 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.  

By Melissa Addey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Ashes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rome, 80AD. A gigantic new amphitheatre is being built. The Emperor has plans for gladiatorial Games on a scale no-one has ever seen before. But the Games don't just happen. They must be made. And Marcus, the man in charge of creating them, has just lost everything he held dear when Pompeii disappeared under the searing wrath of Vesuvius. Now it will fall to Althea, the slave woman who serves as his scribe, to ensure the Colosseum is inaugurated on time - and that Marcus makes his way out of the darkness that calls to him.

First in the Colosseum…


Book cover of Love and Vengenace

Nancy Kimball Why did I love 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.

By Gina Danna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love and Vengenace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Under the heel of Mighty Rome, this gladiator must win this battle over love and vengeance!

Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.

Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can…


Book cover of A Voice in the Wind

Nancy Kimball Why did I love 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. 

By Francine Rivers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Voice in the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book 1 in the 3-book historical Christian fiction series by the New York Times bestselling author of Redeeming Love and The Masterpiece.

The first book in the beloved Mark of the Lion series, A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget―Hadassah.

While wealthy Roman citizens indulge their every whim, Jews and barbarians are bought and sold as slaves and gladiators in the bloodthirsty arena. Amid the depravity around her, a young Jewish slave girl becomes a light in the darkness. Even as she’s torn by her…


You might also like...

The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of The Edge of Too Late

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

What's the point of having it all when you have no one to share it with? Brandon Miller has everything—except a commitment from the woman he loves. Angela Cooper has deep scars from a previous marriage. She's not interested in a do-over with Brandon or anyone.

Yet, he arranges a romantic getaway to the historic Harbor Pointe Inn, where he plans to propose. Angela's got her camera in hand and ghosts on her mind, but they arrive to find a much more tangible horror. Accident or foul play? Angela becomes the next target, and when suspects can be worldly or otherworldly, danger and secrets lurk everywhere. Poised at the perilous edge of too late, Angela and Brandon face the fight of their lives.

The Edge of Too Late

By Jan Sikes,


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Rome, gladiators, and ancient Rome?

9,000+ 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 312 books about Rome
Gladiators Explore 19 books about gladiators
Ancient Rome Explore 283 books about ancient Rome