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!

Betty

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 www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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?

Amazon     Barnes and Noble      Kobo     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop

First Thoughts on First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun my around the world historical fiction tour with Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome. This is a long, epic work which will probably take me some time to read all the way through. The 1990 paperback I’m reading consists of 1,076 pages, including a Glossary (116 pages) and two Pronunciation Guides (Masculine Last Names and Other Names and Terms; 21 pages). Several maps are also included at the beginning to help orient readers to the territory she writes about. These all have proved very useful, too!

This is not the first McCullough work I’ve read. Back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, I read The Thorn Birds, which I devoured in one night. So when members of the Historical Novel Society Facebook group recommended this one, I figured it’s a good place to start my journey since I already know I like her writing. Although I haven’t read far into her story, I do have several things I’d like to share about the initial experience of reading this book.

I think it’s important to note that I don’t know much about ancient Rome. When I dove in and  started reading the story, I quickly realized I needed to take a different tack. There were far too many unfamiliar terms and historic references to pick up quickly out of context. So I backtracked and read the Glossary and Pronunciation Guides instead. Now, it’s somewhat of a misnomer to call the Glossary by that name since it’s more than just word definitions.

The Glossary actually contains lots of historical context surrounding the people and places and objects in the story. Everything from the biography of famous Romans and others, to how they made wine, to the origin of idiomatic phrases of the time as well as insults. Terms for common units of measurement or money are also explained. Under the entry for toga, for example, I found out about who wore which kind of toga and even a sketch of a pattern to cut out a proper toga that will drape correctly. She also indicates where she has exercised “novelist’s license” (instead of “poetic license” which made me grin) with her character names and other historical references without solid sources where she had to make an inference or best guess. It’s quite apparent she knows her history and has done extensive research into all aspects of ancient Roman life and culture. She also explains her thought process when she needed the “joke name of the kind people in all places at all times have used when they wanted to refer to a faceless yet representative person.” In this story, that name is Lucius Tiddlypuss. I’ll let you look it up for the lengthy explanation, but it was good to know that particular character was not a real person like some others in the story. All in all, reading the Glossary educated me to the place, the people, the government, the society, and more.

Then I read the pronunciation guides to make sure that as I read the often Latin words and the Roman names that I was hearing them in my head correctly. See, I’m a word lover at heart and I understand how the sound (the pronunciation) reflects the society on an internal level. If that makes sense… Language evolves over time with usage and changes in our society, so one thing I’ll be looking at is McCullough’s word choices. She explained some of her reasoning for those in her Glossary, by the way, which is super helpful to me.

Thanksgiving is nearly here in the U.S., so I wish all of my fellow Americans a Happy Thanksgiving! And of course, happy reading! That’s what I’m going to do since I have 931 pages to go… Let the Holiday Season begin!

Betty

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 www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

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!

Cover of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow showing a sitting couple embracing before a pile of colorful leaves at the top half, and a raven perched on a pole in front of a stone cabin on the bottom half.

A romantic Thanksgiving story: The Touchstone of Raven Hollow

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?

Amazon     Barnes and Noble      Kobo     Apple     Books2Read     Google Books     Bookshop

Love Story or Romance? What’s the difference? #amwriting #romance #LoveStory #supernatural #PNR #fiction #FuryFallsInn #UnderLockandKey

Many of you are aware that my first published novels were romances. The very first was Undying Love (original title: Traces), which ended up being the first of five in the Secrets of Roseville paranormal romance series. And by the way, it’s the perfect time of year to read that series since it features witches and ghosts. Now that it’s November and the American holiday of Thanksgiving is only weeks away, you might want to read The Touchstone of Raven Hollow which is set during the week leading up to Thanksgiving and a family dinner to boot. That series is definitely romance. So is the A More Perfect Union historical romance series.

But when I started to write the Fury Falls Inn supernatural historical fiction series, my intent was and is to combine the three genres I enjoy reading and writing: historical, supernatural, and romance. I am using the local history of 1821 Alabama to provide the ambiance and context for the characters and events in the series. There are ghosts and witches and magic and secrets, too, to supply the supernatural elements. However, I specifically decided that it would not be an actual romance, but would have romantic elements.

You may be asking what the difference is between the two. It can be a fine distinction or even confusing.

A romance focuses on the relationship between two people as they get to know each other and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles to finally fall in love. The ending of a romance has the couple together, usually in a loving relationship with either the intent of continuing it (an engagement or wedding—often called a happily-ever-after ending) or at least the hope they’ll stay together (a happy-for-now ending).

By contrast, a story with romantic elements may not end with the couple committed to each other or even to finding out if a relationship is in the cards by the end of the book. Think of the many TV series where there is a man and woman who have a definite spark but do not pursue a relationship for any of a number of reasons. One of my favorites was the series Castle, as an example. The love interest provides a kind of tension, sexual tension specifically, that keeps readers/viewers coming back to find out how they’ll work it out or more often if they will.

So, in the first book in the Fury Falls Inn series, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, you meet Cassandra Fairhope. She’s a young woman, turning 18 years old in the course of the tale, who is so desperate to break away from her overbearing mother that she plots marriage to the only male she’s permitted to see, the interim innkeeper in her father’s absence. However, her mother objects to her flirting with Flint Hamilton and makes no bones about that fact. The relationship between Cassie and Flint has its ups and downs throughout the first book and indeed the entire series (as I’ve planned it so far…) and we’ll see where they end up in the last story.

The second story, Under Lock and Key (see below for more about the story), released last month. I’m working on the third story, Desperate Reflections, and it’s interesting to see how Cassie and Flint are changing and growing. I’m enjoying getting to know each of the characters better with every book, truth be told. I thought I knew them pretty well before I even started writing, but they keep whispering their hopes and dreams and secrets to me… I’ll stop there. After all, I don’t want to spoil the fun of finding out for yourself who they are and what they really want out of life! You’ll want to read the books to learn more about that.

I hope you had a fun and safe Halloween and are looking forward to the other holidays right around the corner. Like I offered last holiday season, if you purchase a print copy of any of my books to give to the readers in your life, I’ll be happy to send you a free signed book plate dedicated to the gift recipient for you to place inside the front cover. If it’s for a birthday or other special occasion, let me know that and I’ll personalize it even more for the lucky recipient! Just shoot an email to betty@bettybolte.com and we’ll work out the details.

That’s all I have for today. I wish you Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Betty

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 www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Giles Fairhope reluctantly journeys to the Fury Falls Inn for one reason: his beloved sister Cassie needs him after their mother was murdered. His father and three brothers are far away, so she’s alone, without any family, in the wilderness of 1821 northern Alabama. He plans to find his mother’s killers, ensure Cassie’s safety, and then go home. Cassie begs him to stay until their father returns, but Giles has absolutely no desire to see him. When Cassie tells him their mother’s ghost haunts the inn, he suddenly faces his dead mother amidst shocking memories from his past and unexpected changes in himself.

His mother’s ghost insists he find not only the killers but a stolen set of keys. Keys which unlock more than an attic door but also surprising and dangerous family secrets. The revelations change everything he thought he knew about his family and threaten his sister’s safety and perhaps even her life…

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple