Commodus (The Damned Emperors #2) by Simon Turney

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Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire’s borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome’s history.

But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain.

The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus.

But Commodus is breaking up himself, and when the darkness grips, only one woman can hold him together. To Rome she was nothing. The plaything of the emperor. To Commodus, she was everything. She was Marcia.

REVIEW

Well now, that was certainly not the Commodus from Gladiator. Once again, Mr. Turney has taken on myth and misconception, and has brought forth a fascinating look at one of the more enigmatic of the Roman emperors. As in his other novels, the author relies on his ability to glean from contemporary sources those facts or myths, and turn them into a page turning (and to this burgeoning author), mind boggling tale that grabs the reader’s attention from page one, word one, and does not relent in it’s grip. Written from the perspective of Marcia, the narrative is rich in detail, poignant in its telling, and once again left this reader amazed at the creative talent of the author. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kado: Lost Treasure of the Kadohadacho by E. Russell Braziel

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Eighteen-year-old Tom Murrell could never understand his father’s dreams of carving a new life out of the wilderness. He wanted to do something else with his life besides spend it behind a plow, but with the family moving to the Red River in Arkansaw Territory, he was stuck.
Everything changes for Tom when he witnesses the death of Tiatesun, spiritual leader of the Kadohadacho tribe, and is drawn into a raging conflict between the Kado and their arch enemies, a renegade band of Osage.
His new friends Mattie and James say there is no alternative. They must use a cryptic map, drawn in a bible by Tiatesun in his own blood before he died, to find this place called Na-Da-cah-ah. Only then can Tom be sure that his family and friends will be safe.
But it is a race against time—a race against Wey Chutta’s Osage. Dangers are everywhere. The only chance to save his family is for Tom, Mattie, and James to join with six Kado warriors, make sense from the many clues they uncover on their quest, and discover the real Na-Da-cah-ah.

REVIEW

When I was asked to review this book I was intrigued by a couple of things; namely the locale/time frame, and the native inhabitants of that locale/time frame. Both items were new reading territory for me; the Red River area of Arkansas and the Caddo Indians. The author has geared this exciting tale towards the Young Adult age group, a genre I don’t usually read, but I found it to be well written, well researched, and certainly a book that will not only entertain, but also educate. The characters are strong; they have to be given the uncertainty, and almost constant danger that comes with a frontier existence. Kado also gives the reader a glimpse of a centuries old culture coming to grips with the reality of a new age disruption of their traditions, and their very existence as a people. A page turning adventure awaits you.

4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War by Michael Ross

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Lexington, Kentucky, 1859. After saving John Hunt Morgan from a puma attack, fifteen-year-old farm boy Will Crump joins Hunt’s militia, the Lexington Rifles. Morgan mentors Will and enrolls him in the local university, where he hopes to study law. As tensions rise between the North and South, Will is torn between his loyalty to Morgan and his love for his family. Will’s father, sisters, and sweetheart follow the Union, while Morgan and Will commit to the South. As part of Morgan’s band, Will participates in ambushes and unconventional warfare until his first real battle at Shiloh. He fights bravely, but increasingly questions what the war is accomplishing, and whether his devotion to honor has led him astray. And where is God in all this killing?

Will’s sister Albinia, friend of the Clay family, becomes increasingly aware of the plight of the slaves. When she finds Luther, a slave she knows, trying to escape, she must decide between her conscience, and her friends. She becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves to freedom – but will it cost her love and her freedom?

Will’s other sister, Julia, is approaching spinster status and despairs of ever meeting a man who can give her more than life on a farm until she meets Hiram Johannsen, a son of immigrants who owns a steamship company. They marry and she makes a new life in the North. When Hiram answers the call to fight for the North, Julia runs the steamboat company in her husband’s absence and uses her boats to help Albinia ferry escaped slaves to freedom. Her business relations put her in the perfect position to spy for the North. When the Confederates capture her, will she survive?

Luther is one of the first slaves Albinia helps flee the South after his master cruelly abuses his mother and sister. He escapes with his family, and when war breaks out, he fights for the North as an auxiliary of the Third Ohio Cavalry, alongside Julia’s husband, Hiram, and against Morgan and Will. Luther has to confront the demons of his past, an abusive master, and a slave catcher that kills his little sister. Will the desire for revenge destroy him?

Throughout the war, Will is forced to examine and question everything he believes in—his faith in God, his love for his family, his loyalty to Morgan, and his worth as a human being.

Will and his family must somehow mend the torn fabric of relationships to find peace, and reach Across the Great Divide.

REVIEW

An emotionally charged tale reflecting the divisive times of The Civil War. With the ‘neutral’ state of Kentucky as the backdrop, the author paints a vivid picture of life and issues confronting his characters. The issues involved are meticulously described – slavery, states rights, the North as invaders, the Underground Railroad – a story told from the perspective of the people who are faced with impossible decisions and see their lives ripped apart by the storm of war.  Strong characters, a steady flowing narrative, and intriguing story lines following the Crump family and associates make this a definite page turning tale.

4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories. He’s a retired software engineer turned author, with three children, and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of 39 years. Michael graduated from Rice University and Portland State University. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. He’s written short stories and technical articles in the past. “Across the Great Divide: Book 1 The Clouds of War” is his first novel.

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Nexus (Roma Nova #4.5) by Alison Morton

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Mid 1970s. Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London. Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear.

But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation. Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die.

But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…

Set between AURELIA and INSURRECTIO in the Aurelia Mitela Roma Nova adventures

REVIEW

I have read all of the Roma Nova stories, and have enjoyed them all immensely. It’s one of those series that although it is an alternate history, a made up geo-political world; it rings so true as to seem real. In this backstory novella, the author has not diminished that effect at all.  Nexus gives us another chapter in the life of one of my favorite fictional characters, Aurelia Mitela. An exciting tale that follows Aurelia on what started out as a  search for a missing person and becomes a roller coaster ride of adventure, and danger…two things that are sure to bring out the Praetorian in our heroine. So, my fellow readers of Roma Novan history, prepare to be entertained, and to learn a little more about Aurelia Mitela.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Priestess of Ishana (Tesha #1) by Judith Starkston

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A curse, a conspiracy and the clash of kingdoms. A defiant priestess confronts her foes, armed only with ingenuity and forbidden magic.

A malignant curse from the Underworld threatens Tesha’s city with fiery devastation. The young priestess of Ishana, goddess of love and war, must overcome this demonic darkness. Charred remains of an enemy of the Hitolian Empire reveal both treason and evil magic. Into this crisis, King Hattu, the younger brother of the Great King, arrives to make offerings to the goddess Ishana, but he conceals his true mission in the city. As a connection sparks between King Hattu and Tesha, the Grand Votary accuses Hattu of murderous sorcery and jails him under penalty of death. Isolated in prison, Hattu’s only hope lies in Tesha to uncover the conspiracy against him. Unfortunately, the Grand Votary is Tesha’s father, a rash, unyielding man, and now her worst enemy. To help Hattu, she must risk destroying her own father.

Step into this exotic world of historical fantasy, with its richly imagined details of the Bronze Age, evocative of the Near East. In a whirlpool of magic, politics, family crisis and love, Tesha pursues justice over the dark forces arrayed against her.

REVIEW

An entertaining tale – historical fiction mixed with magic and sorcery in an alternate Hittite world prior to the Achaean Invasion (Trojan War).  Priestess of Ishana is not only a captivating look at that ancient empire, it is also the story of a young woman and her struggle to serve her goddess while in the middle of an investigation that could see her father and family destroyed. It is a complex plot, a conspiracy of hate and revenge, that had me engaged from the start. Characters that fit the time and place, giving the tale a realism. Even the magical element feels right; the sorcery believable and real, the demons full of power, the invocations full of danger to the user, the goddess a demanding one. It is also a tale of intense emotions, stressful situations. One in which Tesha must find strength she never knew she had, steadfastly clinging to her faith in Ishana in order to come to the truth whatever the outcome. 4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Emperor’s Sword (Imperial Assassin #1) by Alex Gough

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A desolate wasteland. A mission gone wrong. An impossible goal. A gripping new series of Ancient Rome

Roman scout Silus is deep behind enemy lines in Caledonia. As he spies on a raiding party, he is abruptly discovered by an enemy chief and his son.

Mounting a one man ambush, everything quickly goes wrong. Silus must run for his life, the head of the enemy leader in his hands. Little does he know the price he will pay…

As Silus is inducted into the Arcani, an elite faction of assassins and spies, he must return to Caledonia, back into the wilderness, and risk everything in the service of his Caesar. The odds don’t look good.

Failure is not an option.

REVIEW

What we have here is an example of an author using the historical research, or lack thereof, and combining that with a creative flair to produce an exciting story of loss and courage. A no holds barred sweep of competing forces bent on total destruction of their foes, Emperor’s Sword is also a glimpse into the human soul as Silus copes with the guilt ridden hopelessness that underlies his life, and is a driving force in the revenge he seeks. I love Roman fiction, there are so many eras, places, and people to bring to life on a written page, and this one is spot on. Caracalla in Caledonia, oh what fun. A page turning, heart pounding tale awaits you, my fellow readers.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lion of the Sun (Warrior of Rome #3) by Harry Sidebottom

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It’s Mesopotamia, AD 260. Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you …But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.

REVIEW

Another exhilarating episode … another drama packed tale … another seamless melding together of history and fiction … another reason to read the Warrior of Rome series.

5 Stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Quest for the Crown of Thorns (The Long-Hair Saga #2) by Cynthia Ripley Miller

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AD 454. Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic’s farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted, when a cryptic message arrives from Rome, calling Arria home to her father, the esteemed Senator Felix. At Arria’s insistence, but against Garic’s better judgment, they leave at once.

Upon their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and the dangerous mission that awaits them. The fate of a profound and sacred object–Christ’s Crown of Thorns–rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain.

But an even greater force arises to derail their quest–a secret cult willing to commit any atrocity to capture the Crown of Thorns. And all the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria’s thoughts.

Arria and Garic’s marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history’s most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.

REVIEW

A tantalizing adventure awaits you my fellow fiction aficionados as Arria and Garic take on the perilous mission to deliver a relic so precious that people will kill to possess it. A story line with many strands, believable characters, intense drama, and engaging love story. As the journey progresses, it becomes harder to put the book down as the Crown gets closer to Constantinople. Excitement at every turn of the page including an intriguing teaser at the end. Settle back with your beverage of choice and enjoy an exciting look at the Roman world of the 5th century.  4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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About the Author

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew, it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.

She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus

Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.

On the Edge of Sunrise is the first in the Long-Hair Saga; a series set in late ancient Rome and France and published by Knox Robinson Publishing. The second book in the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, was released in June 2017.

For more information please visit Cynthia Ripley Miller’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

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A Conspiracy of Wolves (Owen Archer #11) by Candace Robb

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1374. When a member of one of York’s most prominent families is found dead in the woods, his throat torn out, rumours spread like wildfire that wolves are running loose throughout the city. Persuaded to investigate by the victim’s father, Owen Archer is convinced that a human killer is responsible. But before he can gather sufficient evidence to prove his case, a second body is discovered, stabbed to death. Is there a connection? What secrets are contained within the victim’s household? And what does apprentice healer Alisoun know that she’s not telling? Teaming up with Geoffrey Chaucer, who is in York on a secret mission on behalf of Prince Edward, Owen’s enquiries will draw him headlong into a deadly conspiracy.

REVIEW

My first foray into the author’s Owen Archer mystery series, A Conspiracy of Wolves is a very satisfying, and entertaining whodunit. I enjoyed the camaraderie between Owen and the crew enlisted to solve the grisly murders. The plot kept me intrigued as each new chapter revealed some new information or twist to the case, shedding light on the complex revenge taking place (I can say no more about that). As this is the first of the series that I have read, I was pleased that the author left enough hints in the narrative to give me some of the back story to Owen’s life and adventures. Another aspect of the tale is the doings of the village and the folk who live there, a creative way to help the readers immerse themselves in the story. The characters are a joy to read…the author has left nothing out in their development. My only problem (and it’s a good one to have) is that I have so many books to read…now I have another series to delve into.  4 Stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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About the Author

I’m Candace Robb, a writer/historian engaged in creating fiction about the late middle ages with a large cast of characters with whom I enjoy spending my days. Two series, the Owen Archer mysteries and the Kate Clifford mysteries, are set in late medieval York. The Margaret Kerr trilogy is set in early 14th century Scotland, at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. Two standalone novels (published under pseudonym Emma Campion) expand on the lives of two women in the court of King Edward III who have fascinated me ever since I first encountered them in history and fiction.

I am a dreamer. Writing, gardening, walking, dancing, reading, being with friends—there’s always a dreaming element.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER  | BOOKBUB

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Masters of Rome (Vespasian #5) by Robert Fabbri

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Britannia, 45 AD: Vespasian’s brother, Sabinus, is captured by druids. The druids want to offer a potent sacrifice to their gods – not just one Roman Legate, but two. They know that Vespasian will come after his brother and they plan to sacrifice the siblings on mid-summer’s day. But to whom will they be making this sacrifice? What were the gods of this land before the Celts came? Only the druids still hold the secret and it is one of pure malevolence.

Vespasian must strive to save his brother whilst completing the conquest of the south-west of the haunted isle, before he is drawn inexorably back to Rome and the heart of Imperial politics. Claudius’ three freedmen remain at the locus of power. As Messalina’s time as Empress comes to a bloody end, the three freedmen each back a different mistress. But which woman will be victorious? And at what price for Vespasian?

REVIEW

Due to circumstances beyond my control – well maybe I have some control – I have been subjected to a plethora of authors penning marvelous books, looking to me for reviews. In the long run, this is a good thing, but it has meant falling woefully behind, e.g. Robert Fabbri’s Vespasian series. On the plus side, Masters of Rome reminded me that I need to lessen the time before I read the next one. In this tale, or rather, two tales, Vespasian is wrapping up his time serving in Britannia (tale 1) and preparing to return to Rome to further his career (tale 2) The situation in Rome at the time – Messalina’s grasp for power – is what he returns to, as well as a devastating possibility that his brother Sabinus will be implicated in the assassination of Caligula.

The action is pulse pounding stuff…the characters are more than believable – the formidable Druids , the streetwise Magnus, a way more wicked Messalina than the Messalina of I, Claudius fame, and she was definitely wicked.  The political machinations of Narcissus, Pallas and Callistus…this story has it all and then some. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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