My Impressions of ancient Rome from First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

As I mentioned last time, I don’t know a whole lot about ancient Rome. However, I have been to Greece and Turkey, so actually have visited territory within what was the Roman Empire. By the way, the extent of the Roman Empire was vast at its height in 211 AD as shown here. The map of the Roman Empire within The First Man in Rome also shows how vast it was at the time of the story.

Before I get into my impressions, let me share that my Thanksgiving romance, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, is currently on sale for $1.99 (ebook) everywhere. More info is below if you’re interested in reading this story about a family dinner that’s causing Beth some huge angst and the enchanted valley she and Grant find themselves trapped in just days before the event. Moving on to today’s post…

If you’re just joining my tour of historical fiction around the world, you might want to start here by reading why I chose Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome. I talked last time about my first thoughts about the novel, but today I want to talk about my impressions of life in ancient Rome based on my reading so far in this novel. I think I’m about a third of the way through the story because I didn’t have as much time to read this week as I’d hoped. But I am most definitely enjoying the story!

Having toured historic sites in Athens, Greece, and Ephesus, Turkey, among many of the beautiful Greek islands, I can visualize the sites as described in McCullough’s tome. The pictures below are from Ephesus, Turkey. The soaring columns, the stone buildings with carvings and flourishes, the stone roads, she’s brought all of it to life for me. This is one of the reasons I read historical fiction: to experience life in the past in a specific place and time in a holistic way. A recent article from the Smithsonian newsletter, coincidentally, describes how ancient Romans in Ephesus went to the bathroom. I remember seeing the latrines but I didn’t take any pictures because who knew I might want to share them with anyone? But the article is interesting to read, as to the plumbing at the time which was more advanced than many realize.

I also have an impression of the cut-throat political scene in the 110 B.C. era while the empire was expanding. The methods used to climb the power rungs of political influence are the reasons why we have methods of detecting who-done-it today I bet! Poison without any trace left behind in sight even by autopsy. A quick knife thrust through the careful folds of a toga in a crowd by a vanishing perpetrator. Even an organized letter-writing campaign to oust the man in power who has run afoul of others’ schemes and desires.

I hadn’t ever thought about the attire of people in ancient Rome. I think of the toga as the mainstay when in fact it seems to be a belted tunic. The toga was used for more formal occasions. At least, the tunic is what is mainly described in the story so far for the men’s apparel. Women wore dresses, of course, sometimes without any undergarments apparently. Sometimes with a bare breast for all to see, too. Costume parties were also apparently all the rage at the time, the more outrageous the costume the better.

Other observations include the extent to which pride and honor were used as currency among the elite of the Roman populace. Bloodlines also mattered with certain family names linked forever to the founders of Rome and the empire. If you came from a lesser well regarded family, or didn’t have any money, your options and future were limited. Neighbors were very nosy about what was happening next door, and didn’t hesitate for long to do something about unwanted activities on their street.

And don’t tick off the paterfamilias! The “head of the family unit” had absolute power over every other member of the house. His word was the law. Period. He could execute anyone for whatever egregious crime he chose, and he decided what was meant by egregious. Or he could banish, punish, sell, marry off anyone he wanted for whatever reason.

That’s my impression thus far but there’s still a about 600 pages to go. I’m going to challenge myself to finish it this week but we’ll see! I had originally hoped to read a book each week, but it’s not possible if the book is over 1000 pages. I have books of my own to write, as well, after all.

Speaking of which, I’ve started writing book 5 of the Fury Falls Inn historical fantasy series, set in 1821 Alabama with ghosts and witches and other fun within its pages. My plan is to wrap up that series with two books releasing simultaneously next summer. Wish me luck!

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans, and happy holidays to all!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

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Discover the Secrets of Roseville series!

Love is never lost; it haunts the heart…   An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

A romantic Thanksgiving story: The Touchstone of Raven Hollow

Cover of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow showing at the top a couple embracing with fall colorful leaves behind them, and below a black raven on a post in the foreground with a stone cabin in the background.

He dug for the truth and found her magic…

It’s safer to stay hidden. Or so Tara Golden believes. To not draw attention to her healing powers. She has hidden her powers ever since shunned as a child for using them. But occasionally, she helps people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. But a tall, sexy geologist is demanding answers to questions she doesn’t want to face at the same time she’s forced to use her nonexistent baking skills to make desserts for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. The hunky guy is in for a huge disappointment since she would never expose her abilities and her gifted sisters even to silence the handsome and intriguing man. 

Grant Markel’s condition is cured, his eyesight restored, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. Miracles don’t explain how he overcame a fatal disease. He followed his brother to Roseville on the fool’s errand of creating an alchemical Elixir of Life. Only to have his condition mysteriously disappear without any Elixir or other treatment. When he learns Tara is the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley on the eve of Thanksgiving, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs in order to escape. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Martha Washington Slept Here: Longfellow House #history #Cambridge #Massachusetts #AmericanRevolution #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Martha Washington surprised me in many ways as I learned about her life in order to write Becoming Lady Washington: A Novel. One way is that despite the lack of traveling she did in her youth, she more than made up for it once she married George. In fact, she went to him every winter when the army went to their winter camp. The location of George Washington’s Headquarters are mostly in the northeast of America if not solely in that quadrant of the original 13 colonies which became states. I have visited most of those headquarters, by the way, walking the same floors and halls and gripping the same hand rails as Martha and George must have.

The first winter headquarters she traveled to was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1775. The house is known as the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, which is now run as a historic site managed by the National Park Service. For more on the history of the building and the people who occupied it, click here or here. The house is a Georgian-style mansion built in 1759 by John Vassall, Jr., a loyalist during the American Revolution who eventually moved first to Halifax and then to London in 1776. It is located at 105 Brattle Street. I wish I had been able to visit this beautiful structure while I was touring the others, but I simply couldn’t fit it into my already packed trip to Maine and back.

Mcloughlin Bros., Inc., Copyright Claimant. Home of Longfellow Cambridge, Mass. , ca. 1904. March 8. Photograph.

Keep in mind just how very far Martha had to travel in the winter to be with her beloved husband. Back when the journey took weeks not days. During her various trips she made use of a coach-and-six, a sleigh, and even boats and ferries. All because George wanted her at his side and that’s where she knew she belonged.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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