Threatened Loyalties (Vulcan’s Wrath)
This is a simple story of love and misunderstandings, but it is also an exciting tale of murder and mystery set in Herculaneum immediately before the eruption of Vesuvius. Marcus Galerius Alexius is betrothed to the fiesty Messalina Claudia – an arranged marriage which she would rather not be facing. However, her friend is missing, and she needs Marcus’s help. Together, they unwittingly disrupt the political motives of the ruling class resulting in everything being at risk for Marcus: his reputation, his prospects as a Senator and even his life.
I was initially a little bewildered by the author’s choice of using the names of well-known Romans for her characters – Messalina for the heroine, for instance. I read the opening chapter wondering why a notorious whore of Roman history was the lead character of this tale, and apparently running around out-of-character in the wrong place and at the wrong time – until I realised that this was not the notorious Messalina. I would have preferred a lesser-known name, as this would have avoided confusion and immediately brought the characters to reality and life.
There were a few minor errors that a careful proof-read would pick up, but nothing too obtrusive.
The author seems to have done her research of ancient Rome thoroughly, and it was a pleasant change to read an historical romance – albeit one with twists and turns in the exciting story-line – rather than the more usual battles and political struggles written in most Roman historical fiction. I especially enjoyed the everyday detail of what the characters wore, what they ate and what their homes looked like. It was this well-written, and well blended-in detail that brought the story alive and added to the plot like icing on an expertly-baked cake.