May 6 2008
Note: The version I read was an earlier one sent to DA by Mrs. Meador.
Dear Mrs. Meador,
When you sent DA a file of your new book “The Centurion and the Queen,” I was a happy camper. Though it’s beginning to be used more as a setting for romance books, stories set in ancient Rome and Roman Britain were once few and far between. I could never figure out why since the time offers strong warriors, strong women and lots of chances for conflict between the two. Maybe the HBO series “Rome” has opened some doors here.
The story starts off with a bang. In the aftermath of a skirmish between his well trained century and a group of the local barbarians, Centurion Marius Markus Lardanium spies Delia, Queen of the Corieltauvi lurking in the forest watching. His immediate response just seems so guy and so Roman: to get this native woman in his bed. After all, Rome has now conquered this ghastly outcrop of an island and it shouldn’t be too hard to get what he wants. He’s the conqueror and she’s one of the conquered. Or so he thinks.
Delia has other thoughts on the subject which don’t include submitting either herself or her ward Glynes to the hands of the louts who are taking over her homeland and imposing their harsh laws on the Bretons. She quickly dispatches the Roman soldier intent on raping Glynes and tells Marius a thing or two about the discipline of his men. None of it complementary. I like that Delia holds her own against Marius. Despite being unarmed and almost alone, she commands his respect and gets retribution for the crime attempted against Glynes.
Marius quickly learns there’s more to this woman than the potential of a good lay. Not only fluent in Latin, she’s also visited some of the Eastern lands held by Rome and can appreciate the culture of the Empire. And in an effort to protect her people, she’s also withstood treatment that would have brought most men to their knees. For the first time in his life, he feels something more for a woman than mere lust or scratching an itch and he’s determined to get the bottom of who’s abused her.
But just when these two are working out their potential for a relationship, fate intervenes in the form of Queen Boudiga and her army of 50,000 Bretons hell bent on revenge and freedom from Roman rule. Marius will have his hands full surviving the uprising, much less finding one woman amidst the chaos. And what future awaits them since he’s a Roman soldier and she a Breton Queen?
You’ve written a story set in what we would consider savage times. Violence is common, slavery is accepted and justice is harsh and swift. The Romans aren’t gentle about taking over something or someplace they want. They do bring a lot with them to the lands they conquer but the conquered aren’t usually initially happy with the arrangements and tend to fight back. Thank you for not tempering the realities of the times nor the people. I hate it when authors make the Romans all Care Bear / touchy feely and pull back from letting anything bad happen to their characters.
You appear to have done an excellent job with your research and what’s better, you manage to include it naturally as the story unfolds rather than forcing in facts just to show you know them or unloading a ton of information at one time. I also like that you include flaws for both sides and all characters. It makes them more real and balanced to me.
The biggest problem I have with the story is in the romance. The book is short and you have a lot of ground to cover. I think the Breton revolt is well done but between that and setting up the conflict between Marius and Delia, there just didn’t seem enough time for these two to fall in love. I’m not a fan of ‘love at first sight’ plots but this issue might not bother others. And just to be contrary, I will say that I do like the way you show Marius’ confusion and consternation as he realizes he’s falling hard and fast for Delia. However, given her history, I find it hard to believe that Delia is going to go all hawt given the way Marius treats her after his night of drinking.
I haven’t read your sequel yet but I wonder if a few issues will be resolved. Does Leonius shape up? I must admit I have major problems with this dude and what he’s done in the past and thinks is all right to do now. But he does seem realistic. Also what about Aelius and Glynes? I also noticed a few things which might have been addressed in the final version of the book such as the fact that Delia initially introduces herself to Marius yet later he makes a big production about getting her to admit her name. I also notice poor Delia seems to get hit on the head and end a lot of scenes unconscious. I hope she doesn’t suffer any permanent brain injuries.
But, for all that, the story reads very quickly and held my attention. I think I finished it in three sittings and never felt the urge to skim anything. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel and hope that it holds up to what you’ve already given us. B for this one.