– ‘The Magic Of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Aurelia’ blogtour, organised by Random Things Tours.
To promote Alison Morton her book I have an excerpt, but b
About the Author :
Alison Morton writes the Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. This springs from a deep love of Roman history, six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.
All six full-length novels have received the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO featured as Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans, social media and writing. Oh, and she gives talks.
She continues writing, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband. To get the latest news, subscribe to her free newsletter https://alison-morton.com/newsletter/.
• Paperback: 286 pages
• Publisher: Pulcheria Press (22 Jan. 2019)
• Language: English
• ISBN-13: 979-1097310165
• ASIN: B07MGJ6MJJ
1960s Roma Nova. Retrained as an undercover agent, ex-Praetorian officer Aurelia Mitela is sent to Berlin to investigate silver smuggling, but barely escapes a near-lethal trap. Her lifelong nemesis, Caius Tellus, is determined to eliminate her. When Aurelia is closing in on him, he strikes at her most vulnerable point – her young daughter.
A former military commander, Aurelia is one of Roma Nova’s strong women, but she doubts in her heart and mind that she can overcome her implacable enemy. And what part does the mysterious and attractive Miklós play – a smuggler who knows too much?
Fourth in the Roma Nova thriller series, where Roman fiction is brought into the 20th century through an alternative history lens and first of the AURELIA trilogy. INSURRECTIO and RETALIO complete the trilogy.
DURING THE BLOG TOUR – THE PRICE OF THE EBOOK OF AURELIA WILL BE REDUCED TO 99 PENCE/CENTS
I left my side arm in the safe box in the vestibule and walked on past the marble and plaster imagines, the painted statues and busts of Mitela ancestors from the gods knew how many hundreds of years. Only the under-steward was allowed to dust them; I’d never been permitted to touch them as a child.
My all-terrain boots made soft squelching sounds as I crossed the marble floor. This was the last private time I’d share with my mother and daughter for three weeks. A glance at my watch confirmed I had a precious hour.
Through the double doors, the atrium rose up for three storeys. Light from the late spring sun beat down through the central glass roof onto luxuriant green planting at the centre of the room like rays from an intense spotlight. My mother disliked the vastness of the atrium and had partitioned a part of it off with tall bookcases, to make a cosier area, she said. Unfortunately, because of the almost complete square of tall units with only a body-width entrance at the far corner, and the way the shelving inside was arranged, you couldn’t see who was there until you were on top of them. I’d been trapped by some of my mother’s tea-drinking cronies more than once.
My mother, sitting on her favourite chintz sofa facing the entrance, looked up as I appeared in the gap. Two tiny creases on her forehead vanished when she stood and walked towards me with her arms extended. She greeted me with an over-bright smile.
I bent and kissed her cheek in a formal salute then looked over her shoulder to where my daughter, Marina, was sitting quietly on the sofa. She was twisting her hands together and glancing in as many different directions as she could.
‘Marina, whatever is the matter, sweetheart?’ I strode over and crouched down by her. She stretched her hand out to grab mine and pointed at the chair in the far corner.
Hades in Pluto.
‘Aurelia, how lovely to see you,’ he said in a warm, urbane voice.
Taller than his brother Quintus who nearly topped two metres, Caius was well built without being overweight. Sitting at his ease, one leg crossed over the other, he ran his eyes over my face and body. His hazel eyes shone and his smile was wide, showing a glimpse of over-white teeth through generous lips. Nothing in his tanned face with classic cheekbones would repel you on the surface. Others considered him very good-looking with almost film star glamour and charm. I knew better what kind of creature lay underneath.
Even as a kid he’d had a vicious streak; I’d never forget his hand clamping my neck, forcing my face down into the scullery drain, him saying he’d drown me in filth. I’d retched and retched at the smell of animal blood, the grease and dirty water. In the end, the cook had found us and hauled Caius off. I’d crouched there sweating and trembling; only horseplay, Caius said and laughed. The cook had given him a hard look, but the other servants were won over by Caius’s boyish smile. But when he’d stuck his hand up my skirt and tried to force me at Aquilia’s emancipation party, I’d kneed him in the groin so hard he couldn’t stand up for hours. I’d been in the military cadets for a year by then. But the others, woozy from wine and good spirits, gave him more sympathy as he writhed around on the terrace, playing to the audience.
After I joined the Guard at eighteen, I hardly saw him except at formal Twelve Families events and even there, he’d smarm his way to the head of the food queues or make a beeline for the most vulnerable in the room, be it male or female. He was a taker in life, a callous one. I loathed him with all my heart and soul.
I stood up, shielding Marina behind me.
‘Dear me,’ he said, ‘are you off playing soldiers again?’
I should have been given top marks for not slapping the smirk off his face.
‘Caius,’ I said, keeping my voice as cool as possible. ‘We’re having a private family lunch before I go on an extended operation, so I hope you’ll excuse us.’
My mother cast a pleading look at me. I closed my eyes for a second. She’d invited him to join us. How could she have?
I chewed my food slowly to try to reduce my tension. I was irritated Mama had chosen the breakfast room – a private family place – to eat in rather than the formal dining room. The servants flitted in and out with the food, and I said very little except to Marina, who ate very little.
‘Aurelia, you’re quieter than usual. I hope nothing’s wrong?’ my mother said too cheerfully.
Before I could answer, Caius intervened. ‘She does look a little pale. Don’t you worry, Felicia, that she takes on too much sometimes?’ He tilted his head sideways and pasted a concerned expression onto his face.
I speared a piece of pork and sawed through it like a barbarian, scraping the plate glaze below. I knew Caius was trying to make me rise to his bait, but I refused to play. At least my work as a Praetorian soldier was serving the state. He served himself with his gambling and whoring. He put in just enough hours at the charity committees he nominally sat on to appear to be contributing to Roma Novan life.
My mother smiled at him. ‘Yes, I do wonder. She was so exhausted after that last exercise abroad. You really understand, don’t you, Caius?’
He extended his hand and grasped hers and smiled. I was nearly sick.
‘“She” wasn’t exhausted,’ I cut across. ‘It was food poisoning, as you know very well, Mama. And it was all over within thirty-six hours.’
Caius smiled at me this time, but it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘Your mother’s right, you know. You have a duty to look after your rather, er, small family.’
I stood up and threw my napkin on the table.
‘The day I need you to teach me my duty doesn’t exist, Caius. Keep your nose out of my family affairs.’ I held my hand out to Marina, but fixed my gaze on my mother’s face. ‘I’m sure Nonna will allow you to leave the table now, Marina. We’re going for a walk outside in the fresh air.’
My mother gave a brief nod. I caught Caius’s second smirk out of the corner of my eye.
One of these days…
The Magic Of Wor(l)ds