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Shadows In The Ashes by Christina Courtenay. Guest Post

Book Description

Rising from the ashes … a love that echoes through time

Present Day – Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…

AD 79 – Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.

The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…

Guest Post

As I’ve been writing mostly about Vikings until now, I had to do a lot of research for SHADOWS IN THE ASHES to learn all about the Romans. This was not a hardship, as they were an absolutely fascinating society! I am in total awe of everything they achieved – albeit at great cost to other people and countries sometimes – and the sheer scale of everything they undertook is breathtaking.

In the film Life of Brian, the Monty Python team jokingly asked “What have the Romans ever done for us?” They then reluctantly answer that the Romans built aqueducts, roads, sanitation and irrigation, and brought education, medicine, wine, as well as law and order. They were certainly clever engineers and architects, and some of their buildings were truly incredible. One of my favourite places to visit is the Roman Baths in the city of Bath, and it never fails to amaze me that so much of it is still standing after 2,000 years! I always feel like I could jump straight into that pool and enjoy a swim in the warm water from the thermal spring.

When I visited Pompeii on a research trip, I was able to see even more examples of their building skills. Although they didn’t invent it, the Romans used a building material hardly anyone else had at the time – a sort of cement that hardens even under water. It was made from volcanic ash (so called pozzolana), mixed with gravel and lime. This allowed them to build much larger and stronger edifices than other people. While the Britons mostly lived in single storey roundhouses made of timber, wattle and daub, Roman houses were constructed of stone or brick, often had upper floors and could be many storeys high. The bath complex in Bath must have seemed like an absolute marvel to the locals, who had probably never seen such huge (and tall) buildings before!

The most impressive thing about them though were their organisational skills. For each country/province they conquered, they set up administrative units headed by a governor. They built forts to keep the locals in check, and brought legions of soldiers to make sure there were no insurrections. They also constructed roads – paved, straight and wide enough for their troops to march quickly to wherever they were needed. Records were kept and taxes collected – it was all incredibly well organised.

Most Romans were at least semi-literate, and could read proclamations such as the ones painted on the walls of Pompeii. These could be anything from the price of wine inside a tavern, to political messages or announcements of forthcoming gladiatorial games. Their alphabet is still the one we use (with a couple of additions), making it easy for us to read any inscriptions left behind. It was great fun walking around the streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum, trying to decipher what someone had written on their walls so long ago.

Writing could also be used for a more sinister reason – so called curse tablets. These are little pieces of lead that have been found thrown into sacred springs with pleas to the god or goddess residing there to help punish someone who had done something wrong. Quite a few have been found in Bath and I loved reading these messages. Some of the curses are very imaginative, and show that people haven’t really changed much in the last two thousand years!

Author Bio

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip/dual time and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a Vice President and former Chair and of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes. SHADOWS IN THE ASHES (dual time romance published by Headline Review 18th January 2024) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

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Really interesting!

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