As part of her ongoing blog tour, I’m really delighted to welcome Alison Morton, author of the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series, to Being Anne today. The sixth in the series, Retalio, was published on 27th April. Sadly I still haven’t had the opportunity to catch up with this series, so Alison’s post is the perfect introduction. Don’t we all love opening a book and travelling to an alternative place? Welcome to Roma Nova…
Every time you open a new book, a new world beckons, whether it’s life behind the doors at Waitrose, on the high seas with pirates or the back streets of a dangerous city. I’d like to take you to Central Europe to an imaginary city state in the mountains. Its people are tough, its history long and its heroines valiant. Well, nearly always valiant; they do have their off days.
Welcome to Roma Nova! Founded sixteen hundred years ago, when the Roman Empire was crumbling, this state about the size of Luxembourg has struggled its way through history and thrived. Silver in the mountains, Roman engineering genius and a robust attitude brought them through. Roma Nova lives by core Roman values, but with a huge twist: it’s run by women. Given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s first years, daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their homeland and way of life. Fighting danger side-by-side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s status and roles. And they never allowed the incursion of monotheistic paternalistic religions; the traditional Roman gods were their inspiration. Women developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life over the next sixteen centuries.
Technically, this genre is called alternative history (or alternate history in the US) as it changes the standard historical timeline at a particular point. Events then veer off in a different direction. Some alternative history stories are a bit fanciful, but many deal seriously with the concept of ‘what if?’. The Second World War seems to top the list of possibilities as we’ve seen with SS-GB and The Man in the High Castle, but other popular topics include the Spanish Armada succeeding or the Norman invasion in 1066 having a different outcome.
My books are pure invention based on the idea of Romans true to the old gods fleeing Rome when the Christian emperor Theodosus signed the final edict forbidding any pagan worship on pain of death.
At the heart of each of the six books lies the thriller story; I don’t push the history or background too hard. To the Roma Novan characters, their life is natural and normal and their history just a part of it.
So who are the main characters? Inceptio focuses on New Yorker Karen Brown who is thrown into a new life in mysterious Roma Nova as Carina Mitela, and fights to stay alive with a killer hunting her. Helping her is a special forces officer; smiling, attractive, a tad condescending and hiding vulnerabilities of his own. In Perfiditas six years later, betrayal and rebellion are in the air, threatening to topple Roma Nova and ruin Carina’s life. When we get to Successio nine years after that, she is well-established as a senior Praetorian officer with teenage children and young cousins. But a mistake from the past threatens to destroy that next generation including the young heir to Roma Nova itself.
With Aurelia we begin a second trilogy and go back to 1960s Roma Nova and a Europe very different from our own. Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother but here a 28-year-old Praetorian major, battles silver smuggling and illegal trading. In her pursuit of the amoral Caius Tellus, she must make the heart-breaking choice between her love, her child and her country. In Insurrectio, thirteen years later, we see Aurelia struggling against a manipulative tyrant grabbing power. This is the Great Rebellion that threatened to destroy Roma Nova in the 1980s. Retalio (just out!) tells of resistance and retribution and the endgame between Aurelia and her nemesis, Caius.
I’m a complete ‘Roman nut’, so my books were always going to contain a strong Roman element, but I wanted heroines driving the story. Even in the late Roman period in antiquity, women didn’t have a public voice or the vote let alone any career opportunities apart from the oldest profession in the world or a home-based craft business, so I had to bring the setting up to the modern age. And yes, our heroines do have their love interests, their children, their failings and doubts along with their strength and determination.
So far, the books have gathered awards, but more importantly, readers seem to have enjoyed the ride. I hope I may have enticed you to look inside Roma Nova and find out for yourself!
Do you know Alison, I think you just might have?! This wonderful book trailer for Retalio helped too…
And let’s take a closer look at the book:
Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.
Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.
About Alison Morton
Alison Morton, writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.
The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. Successio, Aurelia and Insurrectio were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. Aurelia was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The sixth, Retalio, was released on 27 April 2017.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.
Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.