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REVIEW: Liberty by Kimberly Iverson

Dear Ms. Iverson,

This turned out to be a lucky gamble book. And what made it even longer odds that I picked it up to try is that all I initially saw on the shelf at Waldenbooks was the spine. Let’s hear it for great cover/spine artwork. Yes, publishers, it really can sell your books. And for those interested, it’s also available as an ebook. And damn, it’s got a great UK cover as well.

After the wild Picts attacked her family’s farm near of Hadrian’s Wall, Rhyddes’s life quickly goes from being difficult to unbearable. Her father has always hated her but Rhyddes never thought he would take the opportunity of increased Roman taxes to get rid of her. She quickly finds herself sold as a slave, brutalized by the soldiers who deliver her to the slaver in Londinium then bought by Jamil, an Egyptian lanista who hopes that adding a female to his troop of gladiators will pay off his enormous investment in her.

Marcus Calpurnius Aquila doesn’t care that his career in the arena scandalizes his father, the Roman governor of Britannia. This is what he loves doing and Marcus knows he fights well enough that the risk of him dying there is slim. But when his father seeks to further his political ambitions by betrothing Marcus to the daughter of a powerful Roman senator, Marcus also knows he has no choice but to obey. Roman fathers hold the power of life or death over their children.

After agreeing to the betrothal and to stop actual gladiatorial matches, Marcus is allowed to continue sparring with Jamil’s gladiators and uses that to allow him to further his knowledge of this determined Celtic gladiatrix. Rhyddes is like no woman Marcus has ever known and he quickly finds himself losing his heart to her. But Rhyddes needs time to overcome her hatred of all things Roman before she begins to return his feelings. They both know their chance of a life together is nonexistent since Marcus is nobility and by becoming a gladiator Rhyddes has joined the ranks of the infamia, “the infamous ones” who are one step above common criminals. But when a conspiracy plot against the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, is uncovered, both wonder if they will even survive at all.

I know from your author note that you took a few liberties with known historic facts to tell this story but you work everything so seamlessly into the book that it’s hard to tell. I was especially impressed by how you convey the meaning of things which were common place in this era but which modern readers might not know. It’s a hard balancing act and I applaud you.

I also like how you give depth to each character. Rhyddes isn’t just a red haired spitfire and Marcus is more than an arrogant Roman. You also do a great job painting a vivid image of Londinium and Rome, warts and all, but without making it too gross for modern readers. I did get a little tired of every male either falling in love with Rhyddes or wanting to shag her and Marcus might have been a bit too touchy feely but overall, this is a dynamic jump back in time. B+

Oh and in case readers want to know, you include the information about how to pronounce Rhyddes’ name: “hree-dthes.” I hate reading a book where I can’t mentally pronounce a character’s name. Thank you.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

17 Comments

  1. jmc
    Dec 15, 2006 @ 08:43:40

    This has been on my TBR pile since it was released few months ago. The cover art caught my attention…plus, I had just read Michelle Styles’ gladiator HH and was interested in reading more set in the Roman empire. I put off reading it because it got such a low grade at AAR and was worried that it might not live up to my expectations. But I’m thinking now that it’ll be the book I read while traveling next week. Thanks for the excellent review, Jayne.

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  2. Jayne
    Dec 15, 2006 @ 10:49:30

    ITA about the cover art. What do you think of the UK version. I was hunting for the cover to upload it here and found that one. Damn, I almost wish I had it instead.

    I didn’t know AAR had review it. Must check that out.

    I just finished reading Michelle Styles next Roman era book and liked it better than Gladiator. Bad news is that I don’t know when it will be published in the US. Bad Mills and Boon, bad, bad!

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  3. Carrie
    Dec 15, 2006 @ 11:53:20

    FYI, both Kimberly (Iverson) and Michelle (Styles) have joined my multi-person blog for authors who write historicals set in unusual times/places. Jennifer Mueller, whose books you reviewed earlier this month, is also a contributor.

    http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this review of Liberty — it’s first on my list of Christmas down-time reads.

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  4. Kim "Kimberly Iverson" Headlee
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 11:29:39

    Jayne, thank you so much for your terrific review of LIBERTY! Until your article, I had been getting the best reviews from men. I seem to have written a book that readers either love or hate — if you’ve seen the AAR review you know what I mean. But that’s OK; as a reviewer myself, I find it’s the books that fall in the middle, evoking no real emotional response one way or the other, that I feel I’ve truly wasted my time upon.

    Regarding the alternate cover, the one depicting the heroine & hero against a gorgeous backdrop of the Colosseum, that was the old cover, which was abandoned 6 months prior to publication but still shows up as a graphic on some online bookstore sites. I don’t believe that represents a different “UK edition” since the original cover dimensions are different. But who knows?? If any UK readers have seen it “in the flesh,” so to speak, I’d love to hear about it.

    Since you have been so kind, Jayne, then if you would like to email me your “earthmail” address I would be delighted to send you a signed cover flat of the original cover art — a true collector’s item because I have only a couple of them . . .

    Take care and Happy Holidays!
    Kim
    Kim D Headlee
    Author, LIBERTY, writing as Kimberly Iverson, HQN Books, ISBN 0373771347, on sale now
    Author, DAWNFLIGHT, ISBN 0671020412
    Contributor, THE FANTASY WRITER’S COMPANION, ISBN 1896944159

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  5. Jayne
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 07:47:28

    Well damn, that’s a great cover that never was then. ;)

    I finally got a chance to read the AAR review yesterday and it’s pretty harsh. But the TRR one is a 4 heart so I guess it is a love it or hate it kind of book.

    I’m curious, what have men been saying about it and do you consider this to be a romance book? Do they consider it to be one? I did find it shelved with the romance books at Waldenbooks.

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  6. Kim "Kimberly Iverson" Headlee
    Dec 19, 2006 @ 10:46:30

    Jayne, yes I consider LIBERTY to be a romance, but with a broader-than-usual scope in terms of plot, development of secondary characters, other types of relationships than romantic ones, and other thematic subtexts as well. That’s just how I craft stories.

    Most men I’ve heard from to date, either via fan mail or reviews, who have liked the book seem to have liked it for many of the reasons I’ve mentioned above. LIBERTY, apparently, has shattered their pre-conceived notions of historical romances (and could explain why some women don’t like this book). A good example is this review, posted by the webmaster of Gladiatrix.info, here.

    Fans reading this page who would like to give LIBERTY a boost can also post their views on Amazon.com and Epinions.com, where other harsh comments have been posted.

    Thanks!

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  7. jmc
    Dec 22, 2006 @ 12:20:22

    Update: read Liberty on my travel day. Wow, loved it. Went backk and re-read the AAR review and wondered if we read the same book. In some ways, Liberty reminded me of a sweeping, epic-saga style 80s book — and I mean that in a good way! I suppose if I was looking for a straight romance, I might have been a little disappointed that Rhyddes and Marcus didn’t spend a great deal of time together on the page. But I felt like there was enough, and I found the historical detail and the political machinations to be fascinating!

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  8. Jayne
    Dec 22, 2006 @ 15:18:48

    jmc, I was amazed by the AAR review myself. Maybe that reviewer didn’t enjoy the political machinations but I loved them too. I jut got the cover flats from Kim Headlee and the old one (that I mistakenly thought was the UK cover) is gorgeous. I’m almost sorry it wasn’t the final choice but it probably would have been impossible to get a man to read any book using it. [grin]

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  9. Moth
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:30:21

    OOH. I love Ancient Rome. Gladiators especially. And my library actually has a copy of this. *happy dance*

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  10. Jayne
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 10:44:44

    Oooh, can you do an online library check thingie? I love being able to do that.

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  11. Moth
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 12:04:49

    Yup. I has a most wonderful library system in my area. :D

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  12. Jayne
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 12:07:25

    I ♥ libraries.

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  13. Moth
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 14:05:51

    Have I ever mentioned how much I love it that you guys will reply to comments left on old entries? Because I do. I love it.

    I <3 DA.

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  14. Jayne
    Jun 24, 2009 @ 14:20:26

    I’m happy as a clam when someone reads one of these older reviews. Occasionally I have to close comments on one of them because spammers decide they love to post to them but I hate it when I’m forced to do that. Really, really hate it.

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  15. Moth
    Jun 28, 2009 @ 20:36:34

    *sigh* Well, I got the book from the library yesterday and dove right in. I’m sorry to report I was disappointed.

    I agreed with the AAR reviewer (http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=5905) when she said:

    Rhyddes has been sodomized, is standing naked on the slave block, while Marcus fondles her breasts, checking out the merchandise. But because he is The Hero, Rhyddes gets all tingly inside? Nope. I didn’t believe it. Not in that situation.

    This too was a wall-banger moment for me. I actually threw the book down at this point and didn’t read it again for a couple of hours. I picked it up to try again (because I really, really love Rome and gladiators especially. They’re fascinating to me). So I soldiered through for a couple more chapters, and, while I found the gladiatorial aspects interesting and well-portrayed I found all the parts with Marcus the Hero rather uninteresting.

    I think I’m just rather sick of the Roman nobleman as gladiator trope. Give me some honest to goodness slaves as heroes if you’re gonna do gladiators! Where’s my Spartacus? I guess that’s just not glamorous enough for Romancelandia, tho.

    The romance also didn’t hook me at all, I actually found myself oddly disassociating while I read those parts, like I was mentally pruning them out of the story. I did like Rhyddes, though, and the paternal relationship she developped with her trainer was a nice touch. *sigh again* I really wanted to like this, but it just wasn’t working for me.

    Ah, well, back to the stacks…

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  16. Jayne
    Jun 29, 2009 @ 07:00:11

    Moth, you might want to try Lindsay Townsend’s novella with a slave hero. I mean to try it one of these days.

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  17. Jayne
    Jun 29, 2009 @ 07:01:36

    And there’s an older novel I reviewed a while ago called “The Raven and the Rose” which has a slave co-hero.

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