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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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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The Eagle’s Vengeance (Empire #6) by Anthony Riches

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The Tungrian auxiliary cohorts return to Hadrian’s Wall after their successful Dacian campaign, only to find Britannia in chaos. The legions are overstretched, struggling to man the forts of the northern frontier in the face of increasing barbarian resistance.
The Tungrians are the only soldiers who can be sent into the northern wastes, far beyond the long abandoned wall built by Antoninus, where a lost symbol of imperial power of the Sixth Victorious Legion is reputed to await them. Protected by an impassable swamp and hidden in a fortress atop a high mountain, the eagle of the Sixth legion must be recovered if the legion is to survive.
Marcus and his men must penetrate the heart of the enemy’s strength, ghosting through a deadly wilderness patrolled by vicious huntresses before breaching the walls of the Fang, an all-but-impregnable fort, if they are to rescue the legion’s venerated standard. If successful their escape will be twice as perilous, with the might of a barbarian tribe at their heels.

REVIEW

One of the drawbacks to my humble skills as a book review scribe, and the numerous requests I receive to apply those humble skills, is that there is often a long gap in my reading of some of my favorite long running series’. Such is the case with Anthony Riches Empire series. It had been a couple years since I had read book 5, The Wolf’s Gold, and it dawned on me rather quickly while reading The Eagle’s Vengeance that waiting so long was a mistake. A pulsating adventure pitting Corvus and his Tungrian mates against remorseless foes, not only the painted warriors of northern Britannia, but also the plotting Praetorian Prefect. It’s an understatement to say that the action is exciting, or that the plot with its twists and turns keeps the reader turning the pages. The climatic ending, without any spoilers, is a bit frightening in its outcome, but it also sets up nicely the next volume in the series, The Emperor’s Knives, which by the way I will not wait a couple years to read. 😎  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

War in the Wilderness (The Centurion’s Son Chronicles Book 2) by Adam Lofthouse

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Germania, winter, AD 168.

Balomar, King of the Marcomanni and leader of the united army of the tribes, broods and drinks his way through the long winter as his alliance falls apart. He won great fame when he destroyed the Fourteenth legion and brought his army to Italian soil. Rome will not let his victory go unanswered; new legions have been formed, and their spear tips point north.

Elsewhere Albinus braves the harsh weather and tribal hordes as he searches desperately for Licina, his lost fiancé. Once more he must play dice with Fortuna as he launches himself into the iron storm.

For Rome, and his father’s shade…

REVIEW

A sequel well worth the wait. The tale takes up where Centurion’s Son left off, so in no time the reader is propelled into an action packed drama pitting Albinus and his 14th Legion comrades against the elements and foe alike. As in the first book, we get a glimpse of life in a frontier/wilderness Roman legion; the camaraderie between Albinus and his mates, their absolute dedication to the Eagle despite the rigors, dangers, and discomforts.  The characters are full of the life of the period, their flaws, their doubts, their abilities are all on display; a feast for the readers. The tale, as the title indicates, is a war story replete with not only gladius laden battles, and skirmishes, but it is also one with elements of mystery and espionage. In what is a very striking and unexpected turn of events, Albinus finds himself once again in search of Licinia, but I will say naught of that. You, my fellow readers, will have to discover why for yourselves.  😊  4 stars

Praetorian: Lions of Rome by SJA Turney

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Rufinus is dead, crumpled at the base of a cliff in far-off Dacia. Or so the world believes. Back in the west, secretly in the entourage of the fierce Septimius Severus, the young hero moves in the shadows with fellow conspirators in an attempt to finally bring down the would-be tyrant of Rome: Cleander.

Under assumed names and in a variety of roles, the former Praetorian conspires with some of the most important men in Rome, bringing the city to the very brink of disaster in a grand and complex plot to cause the fall of the untouchable chamberlain.

And as governors, prefects, Praetorians and consuls work their secret plots in the seedy underbelly of Rome, Rufinus finds he has an opportunity to settle old scores along the way.

The empire is suffering. Rome is seething. Rufinus is back.

REVIEW

In the most complex Praetorian yet, Mr. Turney has delivered yet another masterpiece bringing together every element in the city of Rome, in a taut thriller to bring down the vile Cleander. There are a lot of moving pieces on the game board as the Septimus Severus led conspiracy plays a long waiting game; everything has to be right for them to succeed. It is this long wait that could have been a negative as far as slowing the pace of the narrative, a lessening in the number of stars awarded. But, my dear readers, just as Rufinus chafes at the wait, you must also. Like Rufinus, I was growing impatient, but like Severus, the author knew best…the last quarter is justification for the wait. In fairness, the drawn out grain part, while causing anxious moments for the conspirators, and the occasional sigh by me, is in retrospect necessary to the narrative. When you’re going after the most powerful “right hand man of The Emperor” since Sejanus, you better be sure all your plans are laid out in meticulous detail.  Besides, dear reader, the last quarter of the book is pure Turney excitement magic.

Book four of this series is also a prime example of the research that the author employs in all of his books. The descriptions, for example, of the streets of Commodus’ Rome makes the reader feel like he’s walking down familiar byways. In addition to that level of detail, you have a more complete Rufinus. He is now an elite warrior/spy exuding confidence in all of his tasks – a killer when necessary – a wearer of many masks – yet still possessing a compassionate outlook and a questioning mind. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, ready yourself for time well spent as you read Lions of Rome.  5 Stars

Mutiny (Mercenary of Rome Book 1) by John Stack

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Blurb – from the author:

I have always been fascinated by the tales of forgotten warriors, those whose names are unknown by the very history they shaped. The names of commanders ring throughout military history, but what of those whose skill, bravery and sacrifice are not recorded as individuals; the English longbow-man at Agincourt, the Russian infantryman at Stalingrad or the Irish rebel in the GPO in the 1916 Easter Rising. In creating Atticus Milonius Perennis I found such a warrior.

The inventor of the Corvus, the boarding ramp that allowed the Romans to deploy their legionnaires at sea, has been lost to time. Yet its introduction in the First Punic War, and its effectiveness in overcoming the Carthaginian navy, paved the way for the Roman Republic to break the boundaries of its shoreline and expand its influence over the length and breath of the Mediterranean. Through Atticus, I have sought to tell the story of that warrior in the Masters of the Sea series, the tale of a man who shaped the course of Roman history and yet whose name is not recorded.

The First Punic War was bitterly contested by both sides. Polybius attests to the ferocity of the conflict, and speaks of those who commanded in the field, and at the centre of power in each city. But it was galley fighting galley in the most pitched battles, with individual captains and centurions struggling for each hard fought victory. Atticus and Septimus were those men, individuals who propelled Rome into a new era of influence, and ultimately conquest.

The story of these warriors continues in my new series Mercenary of Rome. The Mercenary War was a direct consequence of the First Punic War and at a time of dire need, Carthage reached out to its former enemy, Rome for assistance. At first Rome was supportive, as was the city of Syracuse, recognising the value of a coherent Carthaginian state on their flank, and so Atticus and Septimus are once more drawn into war. The conflict that unfolded was fought with a violence and cruelty that marked the desperation of both sides, the Carthaginians and the Mercenaries, a divide so deep between former allies that Polybius described it as a ‘truceless war’.

It is into this maelstrom that our characters are thrown, and once again I have found in my research for Mercenary of Rome that behind the names of Roman Senators, Carthaginian leaders, and Mercenary commanders, it is the common soldier, the forgotten warrior, who ultimately sacrificed all for victory.

Review

An intriguing tale of one of the more ironic periods in Roman history. Carthage and Rome allied together to fight a mercenary army that threatens the stability of the Mediterranean area. This despite a fierce hatred, and total mistrust that existed between the two nations. This is no more evident than the relationship between the Roman commander Atticus and Hamilcar Barca. The author skillfully blends the history with a entertaining fictional rendering. The characters are vividly drawn, the action is exciting, in other words, it is what good historical-fiction looks like. The battle scenes are of the no holds barred variety; the sounds and smells, the battle lust seep through the pages. I was especially captivated by the naval confrontations; the snapping of the oars, the in rush of water as the ram tears through the hull – just the kind of page turning adventure I enjoy. Looking forward to book 2.      4 stars

The Senator’s Assignment by Joan E. Histon

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The Senator’s Assignment by Joan E Histon

Paperback: 272 pages

  • Publisher:Top Hat Books (26 Oct. 2018)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1785358553
  • ISBN-13:978-1785358555

 

BLURB: Being trusted by a Caesar makes him an enemy of the Roman who crucified Jesus Christ, and puts him under threat from Rome itself Rome 30 AD. A Senator is plunged into the dark heart of the Roman Empire, sent to investigate the corrupt practices of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem by Caesar Tiberius. In this tense historical thriller can Senator Vivius Marcianus outmanoeuvre charges of treason, devastating secrets resurfaced from his own troubled past, and the political snake pit of Rome to save himself and the woman he loves?

REVIEW: 

It’s one thing to be given a mission from Tiberius himself, it’s quite another when that mission is to find proof of treason on none other than Aelius Sejanus. The protagonist in this lively tale, Senator Vivius Marcianus, intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful – all qualities he needs to survive the shrewd, calculating Pilate and his equally conniving wife while in Palestine, and the ensnaring tentacles of Sejanus while in Rome. This particular rendition of Sejanus, his unfettered lust for power, is worthy of Sir Patrick Stewart’s portrayal in I, Claudius.  The environs of Rome and various Palestine locations, ripe with the smells, discordant with the noise, pulsing with intrigue, provide a perfect backdrop to the events, and activities Vivius endures in an ever deepening, and dangerous mission. A splendid, entertaining tale – another glimpse into the Tiberius/Sejanus relationship.

4 stars

 

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 

Joan Histon has a background as a professional counsellor. She began her writing career as a ghost writer when two clients expressed an interest in telling their own dramatic stories.

After the publication of Thy Will be Done… Eventually! and Tears in the Dark, she was commissioned to write the true story of ‘The Shop on Pilgrim Street’. Having also published short stories in several national magazines, The Senator’s Assignment is Joan’s debut novel.

As well as writing, Joan is a Methodist local preacher, a gifted story-teller, spiritual director, mother and a reluctant gardener. She lives in Hexham, Northumberland with her husband, Colin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vitellius’ Feast by L.J. Trafford

 

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First things first – I’m going to be sad for a long time. This is the final episode in this, ‘the year of four emperors’, and this makes me sad. Now whenever I get a craving for the author’s very creative writing style I’ll be forced into a rereading her books – oh, wait a moment, that is actually a good thing. 🙂  Alrighty then, glad to have thought this through, I feel much better; now onto the review of Vitellius’ Feast.

As with the other failed emperors, this particular failure is told from the perspective of the professional palace staff members, which means we get to follow the exploits of some of my favorite fictional characters (at least the one’s who have survived the previous failures). Philo, Epaphroditus, Lysander, Felix, Sporus, and Mina are all involved in various ways. At first, serving the new emperor, but in the end – well I best not go there, let’s just say that the author has once again bewitched me with her plots, subplots, and  surprises.  The interaction between the fictional characters and the historical figures is, as expected, flawlessly contrived; the description of Vitellius’ gluttony and abhorrent bedtime practices, the sometime comical interplay between Mina and Domitian, yes dear readers, the author is at the top of her game.  I expectantly await more from her.  🙂  5 stars

Rome: The Emperor’s Spy by M.C. Scott

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Well now, my faithful legion of readers, I am somewhat baffled. I actually started to read this novel about five years ago, but through the vicissitudes of life, I never finished it. I, as you may have guessed by now, have finished after finding it snugged up with my collection of Tom Clancy novels, and then re-reading the beginning chapters. The tale takes place during the reign of Nero and while there are many plots and subplots, the famous episode of the burning of Rome is the focal point of the narrative. Nero is often depicted as a spoiled narcissist caring nothing except for his own pleasure and power. The author does indeed include those elements of his character, but also shows a side that cares deeply, if a bit mercurial, about the well being of his people. As for the famous fire and who caused it, it has been speculated that Christians were the culprits. Here is where the author transcends the oft repeated cause and takes it further, having the fire played out as a Sibylline prophecy with some surprises as to who runs with that prophecy and seeks Rome’s downfall. Indeed, I was taken aback slightly with this particular look at what I was brought up to believe about God and Jesus…not that that is a bad thing, by the way. I hesitate to say more as to not be a spoiler. Hint – be sure to read the author’s notes at the end. So, my peeps and fellow travelers, I absolutely recommend this highly entertaining rendering of Nero and his fire. After all, not only do you get that aspect, but also a spy tale, a charioteer tale, and remnants of the Boudiccan revolt all wrapped up in a superbly written book guaranteed to keep you turning the pages. 5 stars

 

The Year of the Snake by M.J. Trow & Maryanne Coleman

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A murder mystery set during the enlightened reign of Nero (well, maybe not enlightened, more of a spoiled kid playing with power). An aged Senator, Gaius Nerva dies suddenly and it is assumed it was a natural death, but his devoted steward/slave Calidus thinks otherwise and embarks on an investigation. This search for the murderer leads in many directions including to the Imperial Court.  A cleverly concocted set of circumstances reveals many suspects and motives. Calidus, now a freedman, is persistent despite a lack of results, and an increasingly dangerous situation. The authors kept me engaged throughout this many faceted who done it including a look at Nero and the strange relationship he has with his mother, Agrippina; an interesting subplot to this enjoyable look at what Rome was like during this rather bizarre period of history. The characters, from the upper echelons of Roman society to the seedy underworld of the delightful cut purse thief, Piso are brought out in exquisite detail. The conclusion of the investigation and the resulting revelations is a top notch bit of creativity, though I will not say more about that.  🙂  4 stars