Thursday, February 5, 2009

Historical Romance--Way, way, way, way back


I adore ancient history. Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece.

(Which is why I snuck some ancient Egyptian and Greek history into my Berkley Heat books, Mortal Temptations and Mortal Seductions.)





Yesterday, I finished one of Lindsey Davis’s wonderful Ancient Rome mysteries: One Virgin Too Many. If you loved HBO’s Rome (and even if you didn’t), Davis’s series is a must-read.



Her hero, Marcus Didius Falco, leads you through the Rome of the early 70s AD, during the reign of Vespasian and his son Titus Caesar. While the HBO series Rome dealt with the harshness of life and the rise of the empire, Falco lives in (more or less) peaceful times, after the wildness of Nero was vanquished and the sensible, steady Vespasian took his place.

Falco’s dry wit always has me laughing out loud; I love his parents, his overbearing Italian mother and his roguish father Geminius.

His girlfriend/wife Helena is his perfect foil: well-born, intelligent, beautiful, capable (and she gives him a hand solving the mysteries--a meek little wife she isn't).

The story is rounded out by Helena's family, Falco's army buddy Petronius, Falco's many sisters and their children, the duplicitous spy Anacrites, and other colorful characters.

The mysteries run from simple whodunits, Agatha Christie style, to plots abroad to undermine the emperor's power.

Though laced with humor, the stories aren’t romps or zany slapstick comedy. They’re thoughtful stories, portraying Rome vividly, as a real place. You laugh, but at times you also cry.

If mysteries aren’t your thing, how about an Ancient Roman romance? Lindsey Davis penned the romance between the emperor Vespasian and the slave woman he loved, Caenis, in the book The Course of Honor.



Their story starts during the reign of Tiberius and endures through Caligula, Claudius, Nero, the chaos of the year of the four emperors and ends with Vespasian’s rise to power. It’s more historical fiction than romance, in my view, but the romance is sweet and strong.

I first stumbled upon the Falco mysteries because a friend of mine recommended Course of Honor. The store I went to didn’t have it, but did have The Silver Pigs, the first Falco mystery. I read it and was hooked!

I’m admittedly way behind on the series—I think I have eight more to go to catch up to the new one coming up this spring: Alexandria. I’ve been eager to see Falco go to Egypt, so I will read up to it as soon as I can.

For the series order, check out http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/d/lindsey-davis/

For more about my Heat series (Mortal Temptations and the upcoming Mortal Seductions): See http://www.allysonjames.com



Happy reveling in ancient history!

4 comments:

Terri February 5, 2009 at 2:26 PM  

If you are into that era, let me recommend a new book that is coming out in April. I just finished reading it for review and found it written very well. (Something I'm not doing right now!) Anyway, the book is Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield. It's about women gladiators but so much more.

Terri

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner February 5, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

Hmm, sounds intersting! I'll take a look at it.

EmilyBryan February 5, 2009 at 5:40 PM  

My friend Lynn Randall had a Harlequin historical out a couple years ago about a gladiatrix heroine. WARRIOR OR WIFE was the title.

I think the Romans were fascinating, Jenn. I don't have HBO, so I haven't seen that series, but when my DH was making business trips to Europe on a regular basis, I used to try to find Roman sites near where ever he was working. I almost always could.

And actually, part of my upcoming VEXING THE VISCOUNT takes place in Roman Britain. 405 AD, just when Rome was beginning to implode and in only a few more years, the hapless emperor Honorius would tell the Romans on Britania to defend themselves against the Celts because he would send no more troups north. A fascinating culture and time.

Thanks for sharing all these great books!

Gerri Russell February 6, 2009 at 8:17 AM  

Jenn,

Thanks for sharing all these great books. You know me, I ~love~ ancient history. Fiction, non-fiction, it's my favorite read. In my next life I think I'll be a history professor. :-)

What a great cover for your Allyson James book. Tiger-man. Made me smile.

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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