Of Love and Treason

Written by Jamie Ogle
Review by Anne Leighton

Rome, 270 CE, the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The Roman Empire is beset with threats from Germanic tribes as well as other peoples around the vast territories under its control. There are also threats to Claudius’s power in Rome itself. He needs a constant supply of fresh troops to offset battlefield losses and the reluctance of Roman men to enlist. As part of his recruitment policies, Claudius outlaws marriage. He believes that single men are better soldiers, as they will not be thinking of their families instead of concentrating on fighting. And he would not have to pay widows’ pensions and benefits for wounded soldiers.

This is an unpopular edict. People have heard of a notary named Valentine who will perform clandestine marriages despite the danger to him personally. Increased numbers of people come to Valentine requesting a marriage ceremony. Valentine is also the leader of an underground Christian church.

Roman officials deem Christianity a threat to the security of the Empire. The Roman authorities imprison Valentine for his activities. He meets Iris, the blind daughter of a Roman jailer, who believes this new Christian faith may help her regain her sight. She converts to Christianity, and she and Valentine hope they may have a future together. But fate has another tragic outcome for the couple.

Ogle provides an illuminating peek at the lives of ordinary Romans. It is far from the MGM depictions, instead showing them in their everyday activities, including love stories and amusing tavern scenes. The author creates a fully dimensional St. Valentine, as well as feasible supporting characters and settings. Don’t look for a Hallmark rendition of Valentine’s life, but focus on a well-plotted story of politics and love set against the drama of the early Church.