Please make welcome to the Tavern the lovely Alison Morton! We're celebrating this blog tour with her new book release, Julia Prima! Grab a cup of mead and let's take a peek into Alison's intriguing story...
“You should have trusted me. You should have given me a choice.”
AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Neither wholly married nor wholly divorced, Julia Bacausa is trapped in the power struggle between the Christian church and her pagan ruler father.
Tribune Lucius Apulius’s career is blighted by his determination to stay faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire. Stripped of his command in Britannia, he’s demoted to the backwater of Noricum – and encounters Julia.
Unwittingly, he takes her for a whore. When confronted by who she is, he is overcome with remorse and fear. Despite this disaster, Julia and Lucius are drawn to one another by an irresistible attraction.
But their intensifying bond is broken when Lucius is banished to Rome. Distraught, Julia gambles everything to join him. But a vengeful presence from the past overshadows her perilous journey. Following her heart’s desire brings danger she could never have envisaged…
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A Sneak Preview from "Julia Prima"
Julia and her father, Prince Bacausus, are preparing to host the Roman governor and senior military at dinner
Red and orange blended into blue as the sun set behind the mountains across the valley from Virunum when the governor and his party arrived. Lyre music and soft singing from the hired musicians drifted into the atrium as we waited to welcome them. Aegius’s retouched walls shone in the flames from sconces flickering with a strong yellow light.
‘Here they come,’ Father whispered, but I’d heard the clatter of military sandals and even the governor’s softer ones before they turned the corner. Apart from the thin gold circlet on his head and heavy gold torc around his neck, Father was formal old Roman in dress, his only-brought-out-for-holidays toga over a long tunic with the edge embroidered in blue and purple. I didn’t know whether he wore it to reinforce his Roman-ness or as an ironic gesture. I was wearing Gylfi’s amber to give me strength and my red silk robe and deep yellow palla. Asella said I looked as if I were on fire.
Publius Vindius Clemens, the governor, was a solid, snub-nosed man swathed in a pallium too big for him, but he wore a determined expression under his short grey hair. Father said his family originally came from Flavia Solva to the east of Virunum, but his grandfather had moved to Mediolanum where Clemens had been born. His accent seemed very Italian to me. But whether he still thought of himself as Norican or not, now he was the praeses, representing the emperor.
‘Ha, prince, salutations,’ Clemens said in a gravelly voice and gave a shallow bow. Father returned the same gesture.
‘Welcome, praeses, as ever, to my home. I trust you continue to be in good health?’
‘Passable, thank you, Bacausus. I shall be pleased when it warms up.’ He gave me a smile. ‘Lady Julia. You’re looking well.’ Before I had time to answer, he turned and beckoned the local military commander forward. ‘I know Opsius needs no introduction, but he has a new second. Young feller recently arrived from Britannia.’ He gestured to the younger man standing slightly behind Opsius and who was rooted to the spot and deaf, it seemed. He was staring at me. As well he might.
His uniform was immaculate – polished and pristine – his brown hair cut short and shining with health, but his face had flushed and his eyes widened. Seeing his horrified expression gave me not a little pleasure. Should I pretend to faint and declare him my violator? I stared back with a knowing little smile. He didn’t move. Opsius frowned at him.
‘Come forward, Apulius,’ he said. ‘You’re not in the wilds of Britannia now.’
So that was his name. I glanced at my father who gave the young Roman a puzzled look.
‘I apologise, sir,’ Apulius said at last, stepping forward. ‘I was overcome with the beauty of the paintings and your splendid mosaics.’
What a liar! But a smooth one.
‘Lucius Apulius, tribune, of Rome, lately on Count Theodosius’s staff in Britannia,’ he continued, then drew himself up and brought his fist across his chest in salute.
‘Welcome, young man,’ my father replied. ‘May I present my daughter, Julia Bacausa?’
He bowed but stiffly, then stared at me again as if he were an unbearded boy of fifteen. In the light from the sconces he looked paler now. Perhaps it was shock. That was a pleasing thought. But as I stared back, I was confused. Part of me wanted to reassure him, even protect him; the other half wanted to knock him to the ground and stamp on his face. He had made me lose control of myself. No, he had made me lose my mind in the deep waters of his eyes.
Meet the Author
Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue.
She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her latest two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.
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