The Quest for the Crown of Thorns

Written by Cynthia Ripley Miller
Review by J. Lynn Else

A matter so important it dare not be put to parchment calls Arria and her husband Garic from Gaul to Arria’s family home in Rome. When Arria answers her father’s summons, however, she learns he’s been murdered. A cryptic message was left in his hand. Additionally, a secret relic, the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus on the cross, needs to be taken to Constantinople, where it can be kept safe from Rome’s corruption. But a secret cult also seeks the relic, and old enemies wish harm upon Arria and Garic. With elements of romance, political drama, and suspense, our characters will traverse land and sea while experiencing the splendors and dangers of 5th-century Italy hoping to save a sacred crown from a greedy and crumbling empire.

This second book of Miller’s Long Hair Saga can be read as a standalone, as the author deftly explains past events. The setting is beautifully researched. I loved the tidbits about ancient travel and accommodations. Character-wise, their passions soar, and the romance is spicy. Yet the characters never truly feel urgency in their situation until near the end. Arria’s party is being followed by the person who murdered her father, they discover bodies and more cryptic messages along their journey, but they never discuss these events or search for clues. Instead, Arria and Garic sneak around to find secluded spots to make love. Also, there is never a discussion about what carrying a relic so significant to the couple’s faith means to them, which would have yielded intriguing character insights. Thus, I felt the author wasted time during scenes which could have been better served if focused elsewhere than bedroom antics. That said, while lacking a bit in character depth, the book is a historically satisfying read.