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Monday 31 August 2020

Shining A Light On: Alison Morton's Silvia Apulia ... Imperatrix of Roma Nova

A series where my guests are female writers 
talking about their female characters
(and yes, I'll be doing the chaps next!)


Alison Morton's

Silvia Apulia 
Imperatrix of Roma Nova

A knock at the door. The duty Praetorian in her beige and black uniform put her head round the door.
‘Countess Mitela and granddaughter to see you, domina,’ the young guard said.
I rose to greet them. I was in my private sitting room in the Golden Palace, my home and my territory, but I confessed I was a little nervous. The gods knew why. The first through the door was Aurelia Mitela, elegant and assured as usual and wearing a dark green suit. Her strong jawline and piercing blue eyes were topped by waves of coiffured grey and white hair. Not only was Aurelia the head of the Twelve Families of Roma Nova, a senator and imperial councillor but she was also my cousin, mentor and close friend. It was Aurelia who’d guided and sustained me from childhood, through the Great Rebellion and the years of reconstruction to become the imperatrix of Roma Nova that I was today.
I smiled at her and she returned it with equal warmth, sending and receiving an unspoken message of shared memories, joys and sorrows, but most of all of deep affection.
Half a step behind Aurelia was the newcomer. Tall like Aurelia, the same slender build and blue eyes, but with red-gold hair in waves around her fresh face. So this was the granddaughter, Carina, Conradus’s new love. She looked like Aurelia, or rather as Aurelia must have looked in her youth, but she hesitated, nervous at being here.
‘Aurelia, Carina, welcome. Please come and make yourselves comfortable,’ I began and gestured them to the sofa opposite mine. ‘How are you settling in, Carina?’

‘Very well, thank you, uh, imperatrix. I’m gradually getting used to everything.’
‘And have you been out to Aurelia’s farm at Castra Lucilla? It’s very pretty there, isn’t it?’
Her Latin was simple when she answered, but with hardly a trace of accent despite her foreign upbringing. She glanced round at the stone-walled room: pale blue furnishings with dark blue and oak couches. She stopped at the family photographs on a side table.
‘This is a beautiful room,’ she said. ‘I love the way the photos are grouped under the light.’
‘Come and have a closer look, if you like,’ I replied, keen to set her at her ease. ‘They’re mostly of my children. You’ll meet them soon I expect.’ I lifted one frame showing a baby looking surprised, a laughing pre-schooler and a girl, about seven or eight, sullen. ‘This is Stella,’ I said, pointing to the oldest girl, ‘and these are Darius and Hallie. And, of course, their father.’
Carina gasped, blenched and gripped the edge of the blue velvet sofa. Aurelia shot a look of astonishment at Carina but recovered quickly.
‘Well, Silvia,’ Aurelia said and stood. ‘We mustn’t take up any more of your time. I know you have back-to-back meetings this afternoon.’
 Aurelia would know as she was my chief councillor. We kissed cheeks and murmured pleasantries as they left. But how strange Carina’s reaction had been. Surely Aurelia or even Conradus would have told her…


Losing Andrea, my life’s love, to cancer all those years ago, I couldn’t bear the idea of another permanent relationship. But we hadn’t had any children, a double tragedy. Aurelia hadn’t needed to remind me of my duty as the imperatrix of Roma Nova, nor the council to even mention it. I knew I had to have a direct heir; the Apulia bloodline from mother to daughter has been unbroken since Galla Apulia in the late fourth century. My childhood friend, Conradus Tellus, a young Praetorian officer who’d shared the horror of the Great Rebellion with me as a child, had agreed to become my partner.
Conradus was an honourable man and tender lover. He’d become a devoted and affectionate father to our three children. But I would never love him as I had Andrea. A tear rolled down my cheek and I fingered the ancient diamond ring with its dull diamonds that Andrea had given me to celebrate our union. I’d been nineteen. Now in my forties, I had to pull myself together.
 Although Conradus would always remain a faithful friend and, of course, be important in the children’s lives, it was almost a relief when he came to see me a month ago about Carina. He’d come to this very room and helped himself to a large glass of whisky. He’d drunk half of it before he spoke.
‘Silvia, I know we parted formally a month ago, but I felt I had to come and see you before the rumour mill started.’ He looked round the room. ‘It’s so strange coming here as a guest.’
‘You know you’ll never be that. You are the children’s father, part of their family.’
‘I know, but, you see, I’ve met someone.’
‘Great gods! That was quick.’ I couldn’t help myself.
He flushed, pink running up his neck and face to his hazel eyes. He was a remarkably good-looking man with his blond hair and soldier’s fit figure, but his greatest asset was his undoubted charm.  At this precise moment, that had vanished. He took another sip of his drink.
‘It’s Carina, Aurelia’s granddaughter. Mars knows if she feels the same, but I would give the earth for her and go to Tartarus and back if she asked me.’
‘You’re very poetic, my dear,’ and I smiled at him. ‘I’m glad you’ve come to tell me, Conradus, and I’m truly happy for you.’ I glanced away for a moment, lighting on Andrea’s photograph. ‘We both knew our arrangement had come to an end. It could be nothing else. But thank you.’ I kissed him on the cheek and gently led him to the door. He nodded and turned and walked down the old stone corridor out to the public atrium.


Now I’d met Carina only that afternoon. I only hoped Conradus wouldn’t be disappointed. He was a few years younger than me and had emerged a damaged and brutalised child at the end of the Great Rebellion. I’d come back from forced exile in New Austria where I’d lived in relative poverty and had to grow up very fast and with the constant threat of kidnap and assassination. 
Andrea had rescued me from loneliness and exhaustion when I had to lead the reconstruction of a damaged people and  ruined country. I’d been terrified I’d stepped through the door of the Senate to meet the weary and sceptical members, all of whom were at least twenty years older than me.
But Carina was a mystery to me. Raised in the Eastern United States, would she ever adapt to Roma Nova and its unique ways? She seemed unformed, but perhaps she would discover an inner strength and outward resolution like all the Mitela women. Who knew what would happen in the future?

Read INCEPTIO to find out!

Ebook  (all retailers)

Why read INCEPTIO?

“Terrific. Brilliantly plotted original story, grippingly told and cleverly combining the historical with the futuristic. It’s a real edge-of-the-seat read, genuinely hard to put down.”  Sue Cook, writer and broadcaster

Tell us more…
"It’s about blood, survival and money"

New Yorker Karen Brown is running for her life. She makes a snap decision to flee to Roma Nova – her dead mother’s homeland, and last remnant of the Roman Empire in the 21st century. But can Karen tough it out in such an alien culture? And with a crazy killer determined to terminate her for a very personal reason?  

Stifled by the protective cocoon of her Roma Novan family, deceived by her new lover, she propels herself into a dangerous mission. But then the killer sets a trap – she must sacrifice herself for another – and she sees no escape.

A thriller laced with romance and coming of age, this is Roman fiction brought into the 21st century through the lens of alternative history and driven by a female protagonist with heart and courage. 

"Eve Dallas meets Lindsey Davis’s Roman detective Falco meets The Hunger Games." 

And who is the author?
Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova series featuring modern Praetorian heroines – "intelligent adventure thrillers with heart." She puts this down to her deep love of Roman history, six years’ military service, a masters' in history and an over-vivid imagination. She blogs, reads, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

All six full-length Roma Nova novels 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. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. Novellas CARINA and NEXUS and a collection of short stories – ROMA NOVA EXTRA – complete the series so far.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:
Twitter: @alison_morton

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Monday 24 August 2020

Shining Light On Our Ladies: B. G. Denvil and Rosie

A series where my guests are female writers 
talking about their female characters
(and yes, I'll be doing the chaps next!)

Meet Barbara Gaskell Denvil 

May I introduce you to Rosie? I’ll even let you into her secret, since she’ll never know and would forgive me anyway. Because she’s a witch. A very nice one too.
Born in the late medieval, she grew up at The Rookery, a spreading cottage on Kettle Lane not far from the Wiltshire village of Little Piddleton. Beneath the thatched roof live the bats, sleeping during the day but ready to swoop out and hunt when the stars come up. There are owls too, but it’s the crows that live here all year, and keep the witches amused.

The Rookery is an old people’s home, but the people, all being witches or wizards, do not need much looking after.  Some are, perhaps, getting a little daft in their old age, but most also have some fine magic abilities. Getting together for meals is the ideal time for squabbles and arguments, though sometimes a few of them trot off to the village to drink at the local tavern, and here arguments need to be kept quiet, for they can’t let the villagers know that they aren’t entirely human.

Having been brought up by a domineering mother and a mostly absent father, Rosie accepts being the scullery maid, cleaner, water collector, dish washer and general bed-maker. Her magic isn’t strong, and she’s used to obeying orders. Yet she has always had a dream – a dream of more – and of finding a better place in the world.

But this is ‘Kettle Lane’, not Cinderella, and Rosie needs to uncover a whole heap of secrets before the magic starts working for her too.

There’s not a lot of history here, since witches and wizards usually lead an unconventional life at the best of times, but it is the medieval age, so water comes from the well, dinner is cooked over the fire, light comes from the candles, and there’s no bus to town. You walk – or, being witches – you fly, as long as no one is watching.

There are many limitations in medieval times but being a witch or a wizard brings some definite advantages, and Rosie simply wishes she might discover a few more of these and have enough time to grow stronger.

Peg is one of the older residents of The Rookery, and she’s apt to disappear when she gets her spells in a muddle, and there’s Whistle who likes Rosie and occasionally invites her into his rooms for a cup of wine or a story of times past.

With the great old city of London at some considerable distance, none of the residents at this home for the elderly have much interest in kings, queens, wars, or lordly scandal. They live quiet lives, they chat to the crows, they bundle into the kitchens and experiment with mixing spells over the fire and mumbling the words they’ve made up themselves.

Rosie has her own small room in the big cottage, but spends little time in it, for she’s usually serving dinner or supper, cleaning it up, or sweeping the stairs. Not that many of the wizards use those stairs, since they simply fly up to their rooms instead. But Rosie cannot fly. Her magic is too weak. Yet she dreams of flying, of looking down on the village rooftops, of feeling the wind in her hair, of escaping the rain by flying above the clouds, and of joining the huge flocks of birds flying off for winter, or flying back in for spring.

With such a large number living in one place, Rosie has many friends but few other than Whistle and Peg take too much notice of the cleaning girl. Mandrake is a flirt, and she would like Montague to flirt but he doesn’t seem to know she exists. Uta and Ermintrude are sweet, but too busy to do more than thank her when she brings them dinner. But Ermintrude has discovered chocolate, even though that most certainly does not yet exist in medieval England, and sometimes gives a delicious heap of it to Rosie. The first two women in the world to enjoy chocolate!

Rosie’s mother also has a weak magical force, yet somehow, she manages to produce some remarkable results, mostly unpleasant, and Rosie would like to know why. She’d like to know a lot of things, and gradually, as events start to slip and slide from the very wilds of a many coloured yonder, things suddenly start to make sense.

Kettle Lane’ is the first book in Barbara Gaskell Denvil’s new Cosy Mystery series, The Rookery. Written under the name of B G Denvil. There is also a short introduction ‘One Small Step’ if you would prefer to give it a test run first.

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Monday 17 August 2020

Shining A Light on: Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians and her author, Annie Whitehead

A series where my guests are female writers 
talking about their female characters
(and yes, I'll be doing the chaps next!)

A Conversation between Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians 
and her author, Annie Whitehead

 Æ: Am I interesting? Why did you tell my story?

Annie: You were the most renowned of a very few female leaders. Your country had to wait centuries until another woman became queen in her own name.

 Æ: You watched me from when I was a tiny child. Couldn’t you have waited until I was a grown-up? I would’ve been more interesting then. 

Annie: Oh I don’t agree. I knew how closely you worked with your brother when you were older and I needed to have a look at you as children, to see how your relationship formed. I also wanted to see what kind of a young woman you would be, and what your hopes were, before your father set you on your course.

 Æ: Oh yes, my father. Alfred. You know him as ‘the Great’, don’t you? You don’t talk about him much in the book. 

Annie: Well, he was away a lot, fighting the Vikings, and I wanted to show how that affected you all as a family.

 Æ: I understand why I was sent to Mercia from my homeland. But the Mercians didn’t treat me very well.

Annie: No, they didn’t. And I really think that’s how it would have been. But didn’t you enjoy the opportunity I gave you to turn them round and get them on your side?

 Æ: Enjoy? That’s an odd word. You put me in quite a lot of danger, and more than once. That wasn’t nice.

Annie: Well, those scenes were dramatic and, I admit, fun to write. I had to give you challenges, and a chance to develop. You needed to learn to accept the Mercians, too.

 Æ: I grant you that. Even so, you threw in a lot of surprises for me. And why did you give me such a temper?  

Annie: I’d read a story about you throwing things at the enemy during a siege and I thought that had better be part of your nature. See, it isn’t all about surprises, is it? Some of it was carefully planned.

 Æ: So you had to fit your story to the truth? You didn’t make any of it up?

Annie: I had to make some of it up. Not many people wrote about you at the time, so there were a few gaps to fill in.

 Æ: But you knew which husband I’d end up with, didn’t you?

Annie: Yes, I did. That, at least, is well documented. But I was able to divert your route along the way.

 Æ: Ah, so all the heartache and misery I suffered - you were responsible for that? And the Welshman? Was he a figment of your imagination?

Annie: No, he was real. I’ve no idea if he actually played such a big part in your life, but it was a nice interlude, wasn’t it?

 Æ: At the time, perhaps. Looking back though… Why did you make me live so long?

Annie: I couldn’t mess about with that. The exact date of your death was recorded. Besides, you had a lot to achieve, so I couldn’t cut it short.

 Æ: It also meant I lived long enough to suffer losses.

Annie: I’m sorry for that. But you see, I truly believe you endured them, and that you were a caring woman.  You know, the chroniclers said that after one campaign you lost men who were ‘dear’ to you. Their words, not mine.

 Æ: I’m still not sure why you wrote about me though. I wasn’t a queen, or anyone really famous.

Annie: Ah, but that’s the point. You took on all the challenges of being a queen, and your father, and later your brother, couldn’t have won against the Vikings without your help and, indeed, without your husband’s help. You did get a mention now and again in the chronicles, but for whatever reason, and I have my theories about that, you didn’t really get the fame you deserved.

 Æ: So that’s why you called it To Be A Queen?

Annie: Exactly! You were the daughter of a king, the sister of a king, and you ruled a country. You knew what it took to be a queen. And I think you did it rather well.


Coming to the edge of the encampment she saw the gates of the town hanging open, one almost off its great hinges. Beyond the open gateway, the Danes, surrendered and surrounded, had been herded together. A Mercian banner fluttered from the watchtower. A thegn on the tower pointed his sword at her and began a victory chant. It was taken up by those below, who all joined in, shouting their triumph in the name of their lady. But Æthelflæd was looking at Frith, who walked towards her with his sword still in his hand, hanging low, dragging. He had blood on his face and his long hair was matted. He had his mail coat on and she gave thanks for his innate tendency to be sensible at such times. But he walked like a wounded man, though she could see that he was whole.
     He bowed on one knee before her. “Lady, Derby is yours.”
     She put a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me. Who do we mourn?”
   His blond brows came together to form a single line above his eyes. Beneath those blue-grey eyes, dark shadows of exhaustion robbed him of his beauty. Careworn, fatigued, speaking carefully through a cut lip, he could give her no more than a list of names. “Helmstan, Ælfric, Eadwine, Wulfwine.”
      The rest of her personal guard.
    She opened her mouth but stood, gaping. What did she think to say? No? You are wrong? I misheard you? Of course he was not wrong; he would not break his own heart with lies. He struggled to his feet and she squeezed his arm. Nodding towards the inner courtyard she said, “Do what needs to be done here. I will speak to Elfwen.”
     She found her daughter in her tent. She wished that she could be like Frith, and give Elfwen a moment more of the world when it was right, before she plunged her into a deep lake where there was no light, only despair. But she knew that her face told Elfwen all that she needed to know. “Daughter, the town is ours. But many men died in the taking of it. Among them was Eadric.”
     Elfwen gasped but shook her head, believing as her mother had not, that the news was false. “No, that cannot be.” But as she spoke, the words, having hit her ears as lies, must have come into her mind as truth, and she fell face down onto her bed and wept.
     Æthelflæd stood still and let her cry out the initial pain, knowing that there would be more, for days, weeks, mayhap even months to come.
   When the first waves had left her body and the sobbing subsided, Elfwen sat up. “How can you stand there like that? Do you not care?”
    Æthelflæd flinched. She thinks I do not care because I do not weep. Once, many years ago, I would have thought the same thing. Dear Lord, I have loved and lost so often that I have forgot what the first time feels like. She took a step forward.
    Elfwen put out her hand. “No. Do not come near me. You are heartless.”
   Æthelflæd lifted her chin and let her head fall back. Her mouth opened and a strange animal cry came forth from her. It rose from within her core, and shocked her with its force. She looked her daughter in the eye and said, “Oh God, if I had opened my heart upon every death and cut out the part that died with them, it would not have the strength left to carry on beating.” She left Elfwen alone with her tears. The girl would have to learn the hard way. There was no other.

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Monday 10 August 2020

Shining Light on our Ladies: Marleen Pasch's Daria Demarest

A series where my guests are female writers 
talking about their female characters
(and yes, I'll be doing the chaps next!)

Daria Demarest
from Marleen Pasch's novel

A Spirit Awakened: Daria Demarest

So, you’re wondering, how did Daria Demarest, protagonist in my newest novel, At the End of the Storm, come to be?

A while after publishing my first novel, I interviewed the music director at a church in New Canaan, Connecticut. I wanted to profile him for an article in what was then called Christianity and the Arts.

When I asked about his favorite music, he waxed poetic about Bach, then about a specific title. He turned to me then, a small, contented smile on his face. “I’m adopted,” he said. “A year ago I met my birthmother. When she asked me the question you just did, I mentioned the piece I just told you about.” He hesitated. “She cried, then told me that that was the same piece she played for me, over and over, when she was pregnant with me.”
Chills ran down my arms when he told me that story.

A few weeks later an acquaintance of mine decided she wanted to meet her firstborn, a son she surrendered during the Sixties, when having a child “out of wedlock” (that was the term used back then), wasn’t acceptable for a young, Catholic woman. When she decided to meet her son, things didn’t go the way she hoped. They had nothing in common except their DNA, which proved insufficient to foster a bond.

Those two situations percolated in my writer’s brain. I wanted to create a character who hadn’t yet navigated through the shame and remorse she felt when she, too, made the decision to surrender her first child. I also wanted to bring in how music created a subconscious bond, one that bridged the differences between mother and child, no matter their differences. And, finally, to create a universal theme, applicable to any woman overcoming challenges, I wanted the protagonist to awaken to the spirituality that could eventually help lead her out of shame and into acceptance and peace.

Enter Daria Demarest!
If Daria Demarest didn’t have ice water in her veins, like her coalminer father taught her, life might look bleak. She’s divorcing successful but unfaithful Ted. She’s discovered that Ted’s secret gambling habit drained their substantial savings. And, with no money, she’s raising two teens in 1990’s image-is-all Connecticut.

Though she abandoned spiritual aspirations in the freewheeling Sixties, when pregnant by an antiwar activist who chose causes over commitment, Daria creates Awakenings, a show for women seeking healing in everything from aromatherapy to mindfulness meditation. She’s back on top, until, during a winter storm, her teen daughter Lizzy announces she’s pregnant. Walking through Lizzy’s pregnancy, Daria faces her own mother’s judgments that led Daria to surrender her firstborn. Questions swirled. If shame and fear hadn’t ruled her as a pregnant teen, would she have kept her first child? Could she have allowed T.J., her steadfast college admirer, to love her?

When Daria meets her first daughter, the reunion stirs up more than it resolves. Angela’s an actress, starring in Carousel, as Daria did in her college musical theatre days. She’s as unforgiving as she is talented, even though they have that song—"at the end of the storm is a golden sky” –in common. Desperate after Angela’s rejection, Daria struggles to find the same healing she’s offered her TV audience.

Then T.J., now a noted alternative physician, appears on Daria’s show, offering opportunities she passed up years earlier. Is she ready for the man who loved her when she couldn’t love herself? Is there a golden sky in her future? She can only find out by walking through whatever storms ensue, relying on her untested inner strength and newfound relationships with family and friends.

Kirkus Reviews: “Pasch’s novel excels at creating authentic, three-dimensional characters.”

Angela was fixed on the mirror behind Daria, the one that reflected multiple images from all the other mirrors at various angles around the restaurant. “I look like you, don’t I?”
    Daria nodded. “You do. Except for your eyes. They’re your father’s. Deep and brown and intense.” For a moment, Daria remembered how she felt with Stefan, falling into those eyes, magnetized by his passion. For so long she wanted to paint a monochromatic, all-evil picture of him, just as she had wanted to with Ted. But she was learning, as much through the experience with Angela as with Lizzy, that the truth of any situation changed shape and color and texture, depending on a person’s point of view. Just like the restaurant’s mirrors reflected different light from different perspectives.
    “Who was he?” There was no denying that now Angela’s voice had softened. “My father, I mean."
     Daria sipped her Pellegrino, set down her glass, clasped her hands atop the table. “I met him when I was in college. Back in the sixties. He was an anti-war activist, and I skirted around the movement, as we called it then. He was involved in other causes too. In Latin America, Czechoslovakia. That’s where he was from. Czechoslovakia, I mean.
     “He was also a photojournalist, and for a long time after he left me, I used to see his pictures in the Times. I haven’t for a while, though. He seems to have vanished.” She paused. “He’s a priest too. At least he was when I knew him.”
     “A priest?” Angela’s eyes narrowed. When Daria nodded, Angela tossed her head back and laughed. “A priest,” she said again. “Can it get any more bizarre than that?”
      “Not much,” Daria admitted. Her hope for lasting detente had passed.
     The waitress arrived, setting down their lunches. “You can take that.” Daria pointed toward her salad plate, grateful for the interruption
      “Fresh ground pepper?” the waitress asked.
      “I’m fine,” Daria said.
     “No.” Angela leaned back in the banquette, oblivious to her meal, still eyeing her mother as if she were a museum piece, one that needed to be looked at from all angles to make sense of it.
     Daria tried again to focus the conversation, as Katrina had advised, on Angela.
    “Did they treat you well?” When Daria heard the crack in her voice, the little fissure that seemed to her to loosen twenty-four years of regret, she turned away. She looked out the window, struggling to keep herself from feeling as if she were falling into a heap of rubble, like the pile of stones and dirt across the street, where a building was being demolished. “Your parents, I mean.”
      Angela hesitated.
     I'm your mother, Daria wanted to plead when Angela didn't respond. You can tell me anything. And if you can't tell me everything, just tell me something.

At the End of the Storm by Merleen Pasch

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Wednesday 5 August 2020

Shining Light on Our Ladies - Cont'd Part III Marian L Thorpe's Empress Eudekia

A series where my guests are female writers 
talking about their female characters
(and yes, I'll be doing the chaps next!)

Continuing  Marian L. Thorpe's

The Ladies of Empire’s Legacy III: 
The Empress Eudekia

The Empress enters the story about two-thirds of the way through the third book in the Empire’s Legacy series, Empire’s Exile, which follows the narrator Lena from a tiny fishing village into…well, adventure!

We knew more, now, from the trader who had given the map and his advice. Casil had an Empress, Eudekia, ruling as regent for her baby son after her husband had died last year. They were at war, he said, a long-standing conflict with an eastern neighbour that didn't seem to affect trade, but treaty negotiations had begun before the Emperor's death, and he thought they probably were at peace now.

Casil, the fabled centre of the Eastern Empire in my series, is a mix of Rome and Byzantium: Rome in its physical appearance; Byzantine in some of its politics. Eudekia is the first female character in my series to be loosely based on a real person: the 9th Century Empress Theodora (not Justinian’s Empress – that was 300 years earlier), wife to the Emperor Theophilus. Theophilus died in 842 and Theodora ruled as regent for her infant son until 856.

“She carried on the government with a firm and judicious hand; she replenished the treasury and deterred the Bulgarians from an attempt at invasion.”[i] 

Much the same can be said of Eudekia. Here she is through the eyes of Lena, the narrator and protagonist of the Empire’s Legacy series:

The Empress sat at the end of a long table, littered with scrolls, a large map taking up a portion of the space. Her hair was the deep red of copper, and simply twisted and pinned on the back of her head. She wore a long tunic of a deep bluish-green, trimmed with gold, and her shawl reversed the colours. No jewels, except for earrings of gold set with a green stone. I did not think her beautiful, but her face showed intelligence, and good humour, and she was younger than I had expected.

Eudekia is an intelligent and educated woman, working hard to keep the enemies of her land controlled. She knows the history of her Empire, and the strategies of earlier rulers – and she is looking for an advantageous marriage alliance to further her goals. Lena has reached Casil in the company of a man she is deeply in love with. Eudekia cares nothing for that, and she is intrigued by Lena’s lover, both as a man and as someone who can help her with her plans.

The Empress must balance her own wishes against those of her powerful advisors: it will take only one misstep, one decision that they see as disadvantageous to Casil, for them to depose her. She is walking a knife-edge of politics, and she sees these newcomers to her city as both possible allies and possible problems. Unlike her historical counterpart Theodora, Eudekia will not be overthrown and sent to a monastery, but will make her presence – and influence – known again in later books.

Empire’s Exile
Empire’s Legacy omnibus:

< Previous Part II

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