Yay! My first guest post from an author! Lizzie Ashworth is an author who has had works featured on this blog twice previously. I reviewed Salvation and Denial and enjoyed both works. She recently contacted me to ask if I would review her newest book Caerwin and the Roman Dog. I really didn't think that this was the right blog to review the book because I do Science Fiction and Fantasy, but CATRD is a historical romance but she asked if I would allow her to do a guest blog and I decided that since we had a good working relationship and I do enjoy her work it would be a good idea. Below are some of her comments about writing and the new book, so sit back and enjoy.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Jim. Even though my new novel isn’t science fiction or
fantasy, I think every reader shares a fascination with alternate worlds. In Caerwin and the
Roman Dog, I explore the past as it existed at the height of the Roman Empire and the end of
Celtic control over Britannia.
I think research is the key to authoring a good book. It doesn’t matter if the story centers in the
past or the future, or even in the present day. Building a believable setting where the characters
will interact means making sure that the ‘world-building’ is effective. What did they eat? What
was the weather? What were their daily routines?
In my novel, the setting is the Shropshire area of England, a place near the River Severn that
borders Wales. Elusive mists shroud ancient hillforts where Rome’s legions pursue their
conquest of the native tribes. Despite greater numbers, the native warriors wield weapons and
armor far inferior to Roman arms. (Details of Roman armor can be seen on my “Romans”
Pinterest page.) The biggest difference, however, rests in Rome’s military organization—the
army functions like a well-oiled machine.
It’s fascinating to study the chain of command that Rome perfected and which is used by writers
even in the most far-flung fictional world of the future. Obedience to the command hierarchy and
to the operational rules of a legion creates a strict dynamic for any character caught up in that
reality. In my story, that character is Marcellus. As the book opens with Legio XIV’s battle
against the Cornovii tribe, the tribe’s defenses have been breached and action quickly devolves
to a mop-up operation. Marcellus rounds the hillfort perimeter and spots a young woman,
Caerwin, trying to make her escape. Instantly enchanted, he brings her back to camp and
embarks on seduction.
And yes, in the midst of its historical action and setting, this novel is a sexy romance.
At any time of man’s history or future, the introduction of an attractive woman into a man’s
camp is certain to cause trouble. But Marcellus’ infatuation with a blue-eyed Cornovii princess
takes second place when his superior officer succumbs to his battle wounds. His death propels
Marcellus to sudden promotion as the legion’s commander. He’s not of the regular army serving
a twenty-plus year term, but rather a young professional of privileged rank meant to gain a taste
of military life before returning to serve Rome’s senatorial or merchant class. His crisis isn’t just
rebellious tribunes or a young woman he can’t get out of his mind, but also the heavy burden of
responsibility that comes with leading a force of ten thousand men in a hostile wilderness.
The struggle for Caerwin focuses on her stubborn refusal to accept her change of circumstance.
No longer part of her ancestral family and tribe, she’s suddenly enslaved to a Roman
commander. Can anyone ever come to terms with such a loss of freedom, family, and home?
The greater context encompasses two worlds. Dying on the Roman sword are the ancient
traditions of Britain’s Celtic tribes: allegiance to spirits embodied in springs, rivers, hills, trees,
and other natural elements, a social order strongly resembling modern democracy, and advanced
skills in metallurgy and weaving, to name a few. Many of the mysteries of that world are lost
forever because the Celts did not have a written language. Building a fictional world based on
this relative dearth of information forces an author deep into archaeological records.
At the time of our story, the last one hundred years since the triumph of Julius Caesar has seen
the erosion of Rome’s early republican political system. In its place is a sprawling empire under
the sole control of its emperor. The Senate has been reduced to a rubber-stamp function in state
affairs. Appetites of all kinds are indulged in hedonistic lifestyles, and this reality shows up in
the backstory of some of our characters.
Rome depends on its army and the conquest of new lands to produce its wealth including
precious metals and gems, agricultural bounty, and that ever useful commodity, slaves. Since the
initial invasion of Britannia in 43 A.D., Emperor Claudius has made it clear to his governor that
the four legions under his command must subdue and occupy this island and seize its treasures
for the greater glory of Rome. Marcellus has no options. Even in a foreign winter’s cold, he must
lead his troops on search and destroy missions.
Chained in his bedchamber, Caerwin awaits his return knowing that he spills the blood of her
people. She hates him. And yet, because he has favored her with his affections, she fares far
better than the rest of her fellow countrymen. How does she negotiate that conflict? What is the
emotional toll in knowing that she is the survivor? Can a vulnerable young woman resist her
body’s urges at the hands of an experience lover?
Caerwin can never return to the home and family she once knew, but she can at least plan to
escape the hated bonds of Roman captivity in the hope of living again among others of her own
kind. Much as he is drawn to this rebellious young queen, Marcellus can’t walk away from his
duty to Rome. The concessions he makes to Caerwin soon result in mutterings among his
tribunes. Personal and professional crisis ensues.
(Warning: Some scenes include explicit sexual descriptions.)
Caerwin and The Roman Dog
Caerwin and the Roman Dog is available for purchase at the link below:
Ashworth's works which have been previously reviewed on JASFFR are available at the following links as well: