From the Ashes

(The Colosseum #1)

by Melissa Addey

56970973. sy475

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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. 

REVIEW

I love Roman historical-fiction. So many eras, earth shaking events, godlike personalities, and stories for an author to choose from. From the Ashes takes place during the reign of Titus, and the inauguration of The Flavian Amphitheatre. As for earth shaking, Mt Vesuvius blows up covering the landscape in an ashen shroud, choking and burning all in it’s reach. The story revolves mainly around Marcus and Althea, not the usual godlike characters, but two individuals who rise above the tearful, paralyzing grief brought about by Vesuvius, while faced with the daunting task of keeping the Emperor pleased with his father’s legacy. Vividly described, their journey to get to and then through Pompeii in a hopeless search, is one of the more heartbreaking storylines in a tale full of emotional upsets. It would take a very strong, determined person to navigate the many challenges faced in this page turning tale. The author has created just such a character. Althea, accustomed to taking orders, becomes adept at handling situations where failure to succeed would produce dire consequences. Beset with her own sorrows, Althea digs deep into her being placing the doubts and worries aside. The tortuous path to complete the Amphitheatre is strewn with seemingly impossible to overcome obstacles…and that is what makes this book so entertaining, so enjoyable to read. I cannot wait for the second book in the series. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sword of Rome

(Gaius Valerius Verrens #4)

by Douglas Jackson

18712878

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AD 68: The Emperor Nero’s erratic and bloody reign is in its death throes when Gaius Valerius Verrens is dispatched to Rome on a mission that will bring it to a close. With Nero dead, the city and the Empire hold their breath, pray for peace and await the arrival of his successor, Servius Sulpicius Galba, governor of Hispania.

But they pray in vain. Galba promises stability and prosperity, but his rule begins with a massacre and ends only months later in chaos and carnage. And so starts the Year of the Four Emperors: a time of civil war which will tear Rome apart and test Valerius’s skills and loyalties to their very limit.

Fortunate to survive Galba’s fall, Valerius is sent on a mission by Rome’s new Emperor, Otho, to persuade his old friend Vitellius to halt his armies, stop them marching in the north and therefore prevent inevitable confrontation and disruption.

In an epic adventure that will take him the length and breadth of a divided land, the one-armed Roman fights to stay alive and stave off a bloodbath as he is stalked by the most implacable enemy he has ever faced.

REVIEW

As this book as been read and reviewed by a substantial number of people, I am going to keep this short and sweet. A more compelling entry into the vast array of Roman historical fiction options we fortunate readers are blessed with I cannot imagine. The sheer number of conflicting emotions and choices Verrens faces propels this intense, exciting tale…and on top of all that there’s the reality TV show, Who Is Emperor Today? as the backdrop that creates all of those emotions and choices.

This is the 4th book in this series. At the time of this review, I have 5 more to go. That is something to look forward to. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Sword Among Ravens by Cynthia Ripley Miller – Tour Spotlight

Twitter Handles: @CRipleyMiller @maryanneyarde

Instagram Handles: @coffeepotbookclub

Hashtags: #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

Book Title: A Sword Among Ravens

Series: The Long-Hair Saga

Author: Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publication Date: 9th December 2020

Publisher: BookLocker

Page Length: 267 Pages

Genre: Romantic Historical Mystery

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In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.  

AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.

As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

A Sword Among Ravens / Cynthia Ripley Miller    

Excerpt from Chapter XI: Two Are Better Than One

AD 455: PALAESTINA, Jerusalem

HE

(Nemesis)

He sat alone. On the tree branch above him, a tribe of sparrows twittered. Their lush, rust-brown feathers and freedom struck him as beautiful. He often wished he could catch a bird and keep one. When he was a boy, he once held a she-dove. The tranquil bird cooed softly. He had contemplated the dove’s lucky existence but immediately felt sad. Soon his sorrow turned to envy. Anger filled him, and a sudden and powerful urge overcame him. What right did the dove have to be at peace—when as children, he and his younger brother were made slaves to a patch of farmland as fickle as the weather and the world around them? His father, mean and ornery, spending what little they had on drink. His broken mother, taking her husband’s beatings, letting him beat them. Why should anyone feel happy when his life reeked of misery? Twist the dove’s neck, shut her up, a voice whispered in his head. And Nemesis obeyed. Snap. An unexpected satisfaction glowed inside him. It had been so easy.

He met a girl when he grew older. She also had a beauty about her; she reminded him of the dove. Soft with milky skin, her hair smooth and fine. He first noticed her on one of his trips alone to market. She stood behind a table, filling a basket with apricots from a sack at her feet. As he pushed his cart laden with turnips and leeks past her family’s fruit stand, he stole a glance and was smitten. That was a glorious summer.

Each time he returned to the market, he would look for her and nod as he passed by. A pink flush on her cheeks, she always smiled back. After selling his produce, he’d stow his cart behind a stack of boxes, not far from her father’s stand. Hiding, he watched her, sometimes for hours—as he did the birds. Her fragile bones and glowing skin, the way she turned her head on a long, slender neck, her vulnerability and innocence all consumed him. He wanted to speak with her, hear the soft tones in her words.

But people and merchants surrounded and kept her from him. Bitterness found a pit in his stomach. His heart seethed in the hollow of his chest. Once, he followed the girl home and hid in a line of bushes near a window. When night settled, he peered through the lighted opening. Her parents and brothers sat around her with happy looks on their faces. Envy smoldered in him, and he hurried away. Here was not the time or place. He would wait and watch.

One sultry morning, when she tended the fruit stand alone, Nemesis stopped and spoke to her. He acted the customer and bought her figs—no point in being noticed. But when she placed the fruit in his basket, he whispered that she should meet him outside of town, later in the afternoon when most everyone rested.

She blushed, her eyes shining, and nodded her acceptance. She met him as planned, and he talked to her sweetly and held her hand. He told her he had a secret place with a view beautiful enough to melt a heart. Would she see it with him? She agreed, and he brought her to the tall juniper tree at the top of a ravine where a river ran below.

The day glimmered with light and heat. The sky reflected the blue in her eyes. He made a blanket of ferns cut with his knife from the bushes around them. They spread out like a willowy fan. “My lady?” he said, smiling, offering her a hand. She giggled and cooed, “My lord,” and wrapped his fingers in hers.

They sat, and he pressed his mouth to hers. Her lips were warm and full, almost sweet to the taste, and she smelled of figs and brought him peace. She kissed him back.

But the memory of the dove rose in his mind.

His heart, a moment ago so full and open, snapped shut. Fear and desperation filled him. Nemesis grabbed the girl tighter. She squirmed against him, but he fought to hold her—to possess her and her tranquility. She twisted harder. Anger flashed through his body and throbbed at his temples. The voice inside whispered again. What right does this farmer’s daughter have to refuse you? He frowned. Why would she deny him a moment of joy found in his brutal world? A worldsunk in poverty and ruled by a cruel father.

A dark and primitive growl rose in his throat. The blood in his veins boiled. Nemesis desired the farmer’s daughter, and he would have her. This time, he’d be the strong one. Dominate, possess something of his own—even if only a girl. 

She clawed and fought against him. He grabbed her wrists and subdued her. The gentle dove cried out, but he pushed to his feet and pulled her fragile body with him. She almost struggled free, but he grabbed her from behind. Wrapping an arm around her neck, he locked her against his panting chest. A plaintive, agonized wail burst from her lips upward toward the sky.

He hesitated and took a breath. Resist! He thought. Stifle your anger—find mercy. Fight the voice inside. Let her fly away this time—and not die like the dove.

He dragged her to the edge of the cliff. As his arm grew tighter around her neck, she choked. He thought he heard her gasp, “Noooo . . .” It didn’t matter. Her savior, he lifted her like an offering, and with all his strength, he tossed her into the air. Nemesis waited for her to soar upward and glide on the wind. Instead, she plummeted downward like a wounded bird. Her arms stroked the air, her long, brown tresses rippled behind her. He turned away.

In a few seconds, a splash vibrated on the breeze. He kicked at the ferns, destroying their nest. A brooding disappointment welling in him, he walked back toward town. He had lost another dove.

About the Author

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com,and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

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Masters of Rome

(Rise of Emperors #2)

by Simon TurneyGordon Doherty

55123694

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Their rivalry will change the world forever.
As competition for the imperial throne intensifies, Constantine and Maxentius realise their childhood friendship cannot last. Each man struggles to control their respective quadrant of empire, battered by currents of politics, religion and personal tragedy, threatened by barbarian forces and enemies within.

With their positions becoming at once stronger and more troubled, the strained threads of their friendship begin to unravel. Unfortunate words and misunderstandings finally sever their ties, leaving them as bitter opponents in the greatest game of all, with the throne of Rome the prize.

It is a matter that can only be settled by outright war

An Excerpt

Constantine

Land of the Seven Mountains, east of the Rhenus, 1St December 308 AD

The greatest affront happened at the imperial river city of Carnuntum. That day, in those marbled halls, the Lords of the Tetrarchy assumed they could strip me of my station. I had rebuffed their attempts and let them know in no uncertain terms that I was Constantine and I would remain Augustus of the West, heir to my father’s realm. A mere month had passed since that grand congress and my stubborn refusal. I must admit it had fired my pride to assert myself so and witness them gasping in ire. Yet what might those curs think were they to see me now: crouched in the musty ferns of a Germanian hillside nook like an outlaw, my bear pelt and black leather cuirass blending into the earthy hillside like my dirt-streaked face in the half-light of this sullen winter’s day?

A few shafts of watery sunlight penetrated the sea of freezing mist around me, illuminating the semi-frozen hillside: strewn with a frosty carpet of leaves, dotted with dark green spruce and skeletal brown larch. The valley floor below – the one clear path through these roughs – was carpeted with bracken. The cold gnawed on my skin and stung my nostrils, but not so much as to mask that ubiquitous musty stink of the Germanian woods. Hardy ravens cawed somewhere in the skies above the sea of mist, as if to remind me just how far I was from home, yet all down here was still and silent… eerily silent. Then the sudden, hollow drumming of an unseen woodpecker nearby sent an invisible lance of ice through my breast. With a puff of breath I cursed the winged menace, as if it were scouting for the enemy who had drawn me out here.

The Bructeri – one of the many tribes in the Frankish confederation – were on the move. Coming this way to cross the Rhenus and pour once more into Gaul… my realm. I only had myself to blame, for early last year I had put two of their many kings to death in Treverorum’s arena. Yes, it was in the name of vengeance that the tribes had mobilised. But now, of all times? Marching to war in the grip of winter? I seethed. And you wonder why we Romans call you barbarians!

I could not ignore the tribal threat, yet equally I could ill afford to be here. For back across the river and all over imperial lands, the hearsay and consequences of Carnuntum were already spreading like a plague. A chatter rose within my mind, each voice urgent and shrill, like hooks being dragged through my head, all demanding attention…

I closed my eyes and pressed the tip of my forefinger to my thumb. I fought at first to steady my angry breath. Soon, it slowed. The only noise now was that of gentle birdsong somewhere beyond the hills, and the distant gurgle of the Rhenus. I unlocked a precious vault of distant memories then; of Mother coddling me as a boy. Of Minervina, my sweet wife for precious few years before she had died in childbirth. The two people in my life with whom I had known complete peace. No, I corrected myself, for there was a third. His face ranged alongside those of the other two: Maxentius.

I thought of times long gone: the boyhood days when first he and I had met at Treverorum; Maxentius’ wedding celebrations at Sirmium – eventful to say the least; our paths crossing in Antioch and again in Nicomedia where our families spent a whole spring and summer as one. Golden times. Gone now… like our friendship. My eyes peeled open, a sour taste rising from the back of my throat.

Maxentius, I mouthed, bitterly this time. These days, there remained only two strands of commonality between us: our estrangement from the Tetrarchy – me as the ‘False Augustus’ and him declared as an outright enemy of Rome – and our will to each make the West our own. Yet it was duly mine. How could the man who had once been like a brother to me stubbornly believe it was his? How?!

An animal howl penetrated the fog from somewhere down on the bracken-strewn path: lasting, guttural and untamed, my thoughts scattering like birds.

REVIEW

It’s a struggle between two titans, my fellow readers, an extraordinary battle of epic proportions with only one winner. From chapter to chapter the battle intensifies, as each reacts in a manner similar to “I see what you did there, and I’m going to up the intensity. And of course there’s also the thing between Constantine and Maxentius. (editor’s note – I notice an attempt at humor there – or, maybe there is a growing irreconcilable chasm of envy, and the craving for creative superiority amongst our dynamic writing duo. You can imagine the verbal exchange at one of their ale filled get togethers – Gordon to Simon “Wow, that last bit you wrote really stunk. Did you write that with a used sponge on a stick?” Simon to Gordon “Better than that haggis induced flatulence you just created, you blue painted heathen.” ) Regardless of the veracity of this mano a mano writer’s tiff, the outcome of the collaboration, which is the most important part to us, is simply magnificent. The buildup of the enmity between Constantine and Maxentius, the shattering of their personal lives, the supplanting of the old gods, the constant threats from the East…man oh man there’s a lot going on in a three year period. Emotions so raw, so compelling that they leap off the page, pulling the reader into the ongoing internal and external struggles faced by the competitors for mastery of Rome. I love the way the authors have had the protagonists misconstrue the actions and motives of each other, and even given the chance to see past the misunderstandings….well, you’ll have to see for yourself how that works out. 😊 As will we all, though now we wait for our dueling authors to produce the last piece of the puzzle; the inevitable outcome, the winner. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the authors

Simon Turney is the author of the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series, as well as The Damned Emperor series for Orion and Tales of the Empire series for Canelo. He is based in Yorkshire.

Gordon Doherty is the author of the Legionary and Strategos series, and wrote the Assassin’s Creed tie-in novel Odyssey. He is based in Scotland.

Pre-order link

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZpfUJC

Follow Simon

Twitter: @SJATurney

Instagram: @simonturney_aka_sjaturney

Website: http://simonturney.com/

Follow Gordon

Twitter: @GordonDoherty

Instagram: @gordon.doherty

Website: https://www.gordondoherty.co.uk/

Follow Aries

Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

Blog Tour Hashtag

#MastersofRome

The Sky Worshipers

by F.M. Deemyad

55958570. sy475

#TheSkyWorshipers #FMDeemyad #HFVBTBlogTours
Twitter tags: @deemyad @ColinMustful @hfvbt  
Facebook tags: @HistoryThroughFiction @hfvbt 

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In the year 1398 A.D., Lady Goharshad and her husband, King Shahrokh, come across an ancient manuscript in the ruins of Karakorum, the Mongol capital. The manuscript chronicles the era of Mongol invasions with entries by three princesses from China, Persia, and Poland who are captured and brought to the Mongol court.

After being stolen from her family at the Tangut Emperor’s coronation, Princess Chaka, the Emperor’s youngest daughter is left with no choice but to marry Genghis Khan. Thus, the Tangut join Genghis as allies. She is the first to secretly chronicle the historical events of her time, and in doing so she has the help of an African eunuch by the name of Baako who brings her news from the war front.

Princess Reyhan is the witty granddaughter of the last Seljuk King in Persia. She is kidnapped by Ogodei, Genghis’s son and heir, who falls in love with her. The romance does not last long, however, since a Mongol beauty wins Ogodei’s heart, and Reyhan is sidelined. Reyhan continues the tradition of recording the events in secret, turning her entries into tales.

During the Mongol invasion of Poland and Hungary, Princess Krisztina, niece to Henry the Pious, is taken as a prisoner of war by the Mongols. Reyhan learns about Krisztina’s predicament through Baako and asks Hulagu, Genghis’s grandson, to help free her. Krisztina has a difficult time adjusting to life in Mongolia, and at one point she attempts to run away but is unsuccessful. When the child she is bearing is stillborn, the Mongol court shuns her. She is able to return to her homeland in old age but comes back to Karakorum and writes her final entry in the journal.

Through beautiful language and powerful storytelling, this fact-based historical novel lays bare the once far-reaching and uncompromising Mongol empire. It shows readers the hidden perspectives of the captive, conquered, and voiceless. It brings to light the tremendous but forgotten influence of Genghis Khan and his progeny, while asking readers to reconsider the destruction and suffering of the past on which the future is built.

REVIEW

A most interesting tale of the Mongol empire; not just the conquering, not just the brutality, but a look into the culture that bred such a mindset of war and conquest. What makes it even more interesting is that we’re seeing it through the lives of three amazing women; captives of the Khan’s, and subjected to a complete immersion in what to them was an alien world. The author brings to life the daily trials they faced; the loneliness; the relentless fact that there was no way to alter their fates. Each of them finding some solace, some sense of purpose as they compile a history of the Mongol people. It is there that they bare their souls while preserving a bit of literacy among a mostly illiterate people. I was kept entranced by the author’s varied styles of the three secretive journals; adding points of view of the cultures they came from while chronicling the expansion of the Mongol Empire. A page turning tale of an earth shattering time under the endless sky. 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the Author

F.M. Deemyad was born in Kermanshah, Iran. She grew up in the capital, Tehran, attending bilingual schools run by Christian and Jewish minorities. Her father, born and raised in India, had come to Iran when he was in his late twenties. Being the son of a linguist who had taught English Literature in India for a number of years, he exposed the author in her preschool years to the English language, and she learned to love classic literature under her father’s instructions. She received her Master’s degree in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. She currently resides with her husband in Maryland.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Praise

“The author’s in-depth research is evident throughout The Sky Worshippers. For readers who enjoy a lush blend of historical fact and fiction, this novel details the smells, sights, sounds of a pivotal era in time, uniquely told through the eyes of three captive princesses.” – Gina Wilkinson author of When the Apricots Bloom

“F.M. Deemyad immerses the reader into the 13th Century world of Genghis Khan. It’s an unforgettable story of survival and strong women as we experience life through the eyes of the conquered-and the conquerors. In The Sky Worshipers, history comes vividly alive.” – John DeDakis, Novelist, Writing Coach, and former Senior Copy Editor for CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer”, www.JohnDeDakis.com

“In this stunning saga, F. M. Deemyad takes us on a thrilling journey as Genghis Khan and his sons sweep across Asia and Europe, worshiping the sky while they conquer one nation after another and capture women to enslave and marry. The women’s stories, rich with architectural, historical and cultural detail, hold an important message for all of us who have inherited privileges as the result of our ancestor’s atrocities. A great read and a phenomenal debut!” – Raima Larter, Author of Fearless and Belle o’ the Waters

“The Sky Worshipers by F.M. Deemyad draws us into Genghis Khan’s conquests through the eyes of three women ripped from their homes and thrust into royal service. This lyrical novel is a vivid imagining of hearts and minds of women who left their marks on history, despite history’s failure to acknowledge their contributions. It allows us to connect with timeless striving for a world of compassion, equal opportunity, and celebration of diversity. A beautiful novel.” – Lisa L. Leibow, J.D., Co-Founder, Board President, Chief Operating Officer, The Scheherazade Project

“An illuminating telling of Mongol conquest and the people who lived-and died-making decisions that shaped half the world. The broad strokes of time are revealed through the perspectives of single bristles of the brush. Cleverly imagined and carefully rendered, The Sky Worshipers is an engaging, personal look at one of history’s momentous eras.” – Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Sky Worshipers! Two copies are up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

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