Something keeps drawing G. Julius Agricola to Britannia again and again…
This is where it starts… book one, Red Fury…Revolt
Camulodunum! Londinium! Verulamium!
Three towns writhe under the Iceni queen’s wrath, as she leads her warriors intent on destroying all things Roman – be it Roman temples, Roman villas, or entire families sympathetic to Rome. At stake is Suetonius Paulinus’s reputation. With only 80,000 legionaries, will he destroy Boudica or will he endure the disgrace in Rome for losing–to a woman?
Julius Agricola-Rome’s tribune, and Rhianna-Boudica’s youngest daughter, become ensnared in this horrific historical revolt against Roman injustice. Just as Julius and Rhianna reveal their love to each other, they are hurled back into the harsh reality of their differing worlds that are determined to destroy each other.
Who will survive?
Behind him glided a column of soldiers appearing over the grassy hilltop like a long, metal-scaled snake. Row after row of gleaming armor marched in unison, each man carrying a blackened javelin in one hand and, in the other, a red rectangular shield with yellow-winged pattern. Their swords called gladius banged against hips as their long red capes swayed with each measured step.
Like eyes of this silver serpent, two officers on horseback rode behind the standard. A black-crested helmet hid one man’s face while the other held his red-crested helmet under his arm. The bareheaded officer lifted his free arm.
In that same breath, the black-crested officer shouted, “Consiste!”
A trumpet sounded and the serpent’s body halted.
All watched as the bareheaded officer slid from his horse, handed his helmet to a foot soldier, and strode up the rise toward the stanchion. Rhianna’s mother’s sharp glower followed each step until the Roman halted before her. The Iceni people stirred restlessly as the silence thickened like thunderclouds between the leaders.
“Who are you, Roman, to intrude this day?” Boudica demanded.
The man tore his attention from the mound of gifts to focus on her mother. “Decianus Catus. Procurator of Rome.”
“If you come to honor my husband, you are welcome. If not, I demand you leave.”
“Demand?” A glimmer of mirth lit in his eyes. “And you…are his wife?”
The procurator lifted a hand, a finger pointing skyward. It flicked. “Tribune.”
The black-crested officer dismounted and then motioned to another soldier with a white crest crossing his helmet. “Centurio. With me.”
Both joined the procurator on the rise.
“Circle the men around the stanchion,” the procurator ordered.
The tribune hesitated. Even the white-crested soldier shifted as if uncertain.
“You heard me, Tribune. Give the order.”
The tribune’s red cape whipped around his leather sandals as he whirled to the white-crested soldier. “Centurio, circle the men.”
The centurio raised the first two fingers of each hand and pointed between the stanchion and her people. One hand circled to the left and the other to the right. The serpent split and surrounded the rise where Rhianna stood with her mother and sister as it separated them from the others coiling in anger like angry dogs.
Her father’s first man jerked his sword arm across his chest. “Wait.”
Beyond the circle of red shields, Rhianna saw the Iceni warriors bristle. Wives halted husbands with a hand to an arm. Children hid behind their mothers’ skirts, whimpering.
Morrigan stepped forward.
Mergith caught her wrist. “Morrigan, Churl said to wait.”
Her sister braced, as everyone focused on the smirking Roman.
“I regret to find the leader of the Iceni dead,” the procurator said loud enough for the gods to hear. “Still, I have orders from Rome to collect payments on loans granted to the Iceni.”
“We owe nothing to anyone,” Boudica said equally as loud. “Not even to Rome.”
“Records show your people owe much for the loans that built Camulodunum.”
“Camulodunum?” Her mother shrieked laughter. The Iceni joined her mirth and then silenced when she continued. “We owe nothing to your designs except for what my husband granted your emperor.”
The procurator relaxed back on one leg. “What has the leader of the Iceni… granted Rome?”
Frigid air formed in the silence. Rhianna watched as her mother’s fists opened and closed at her sides. She could only wonder what thoughts were searing through her mother’s mind.
Finally Boudica spoke. “Prasutagus grants half of the Iceni wealth and no more to this Nero.” Her hand flicked as if throwing a tidbit to the Roman.
“And you have papers proving this agreement?”
“Proof? We have no need for proof. Our word is law. Is not Rome’s word equal?”
“No papers?” Laughter bellowed from the procurator’s lips. “Tribune, they expect us to accept the word of a Britanni woman who calls herself their queen.”
The tribune’s attention set on the arrogant Roman and then scanned the rise as if in disbelief. It settled on her, locking with hers until the tribune tore his away.
Rhianna staggered from its intensity, gasping for air.
The tribune said something to the centurio who motioned to six soldiers to leave the ring to come up to stand beside her, Morrigan and Mergith. Their presence threatened every nerve in her body.
“Agreed! Half of the Iceni wealth now belongs to Rome as well as the loan payments owed,” the procurator announced.
“How dare you!” Her mother scooped a handful of dirt and hurled it into the Roman’s face.
“By word of Rome I dare.” The procurator backhanded her mother, twisting her aside like a bent tree.
As if struck, Rhianna hand flew to her cheek as if she had been the one slapped.
In that same instant, soldiers braced behind their shields. The points of gladii flashed into view, glinting like metal teeth.
“Curse you! Curse Rome!” Boudica screamed and then coated the Roman’s face with spit.
Cheers and laughter roared up through the Iceni as the procurator slowly lifted the edge of his red cape and wiped his face. The cape dropped and his finger rose.
“Flog her.” …
At first, I thought I was never going to get used to the many long Roman names...but I did. On the second reading, it was like the characters were all old friends (or enemies).
I must applaud the emotional development of the characters. The author does a really good job of showing what is on the mind and heart of each character. (Dom is a bit of a mystery to me and I am glad to find, from the interview I did, that she is explored further in the next book.)
Smiles for me: My copy is autographed. :-)
My rating: 5 out of 5. Excellent storytelling and a fascinating time in history.
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INTERVIEW WITH J.F. RIDGLEY!
What are the most beautiful ruins and landscapes that you have seen in your travels to Rome?
I am completely enthralled with Italy. But it always starts in the city of Rome.
I picture such elegance in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum when walking through these beautiful places as in the picture below. Messalina’s house is middle left…Alexius’s house middle right, Balbus’s shrine below and to the left and below Messi’s house are the fishing huts where people were boiled alive. Above it all is the present day city of Ercolano that once covered Herculaneum. In the skyline and to the right is Vesuvius.
We visited Fishbourne, England, recently and toured a massive Roman villa built during the time of Agricola’s time in Britannia, It will be in the forthcoming books of my Agricola series.
This is making me very homesick to go back. So I need an easy fix and need to go to Malibu, California, to the Getty Villa that is a replication of the Cornelius Sulla’s villa in Threatened Loyalties.
J. Paul Getty purchased a copy of the Villa of Papyri and had it remade. It is free to the public and something we here in the States can go to and experience Rome’s grandeur. It’s just plain wonderful. Did I say it’s free.
While reading "Red Fury Revolt" and the preview of "Red Fury Rebellion," I very much admired your talent for creating conflict among your characters. What are your tips to beginning authors on this skill?
Thank you so much for the compliment. One thing I do is rather crazy. Yes, I mean, it involves talking to yourself. I interview my hero, heroine, and villains about why they do what they do. And I just let them talk through my fingers, typing everything down they talk. (Yes they do talk to me). And I ask/type more questions. And keep digging like a physiologist, deep into their innards. Actually it’s kind of scary. I did this with the villain of Pompeii’s Plague (coming 2016) and uncovered the reason why he hates Faustina. His reasons are extremely valid. As crazy as it seems, the characters will talk to you.
Another writing skill question...what goes into the process of your deciding to kill off a character and writing that demise?
Oh that one hurts. So there has to be a long-reaching reason for doing this to a beloved character or villain. This is what George R.R. Martin in his Games of Thrones series made apparent to me. The death must keep the plot moving ahead. You don’t just kill ‘em off because you don’t want them around anymore.
What would you recommend as must reads when it comes to historical fictions about Rome?
Colleen McCullough Grass Crown Series. All of her Roman books are amazing in detail and research. Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield is amazing. I bought six books one Christmas to share with those I knew would like Spartans and Thermopylae. I love this book.Steven Saylor’s Rome series. His understanding of Roman history is impeccable. Be sure to enjoy his Gordianus mystery series. They are just plain fun. To be submerged in a place as Egypt, don’t miss Margaret George’s Memoirs of Cleopatra. Wow. Rome influenced and was influenced by all these eras.
There are so many authors who enjoy traveling with Rome’s legions. Conn Iggulden, Ben Kane, does one fantastic job in creating the world of the legionaries as does James Mace who pulls his experience from his tours in Afghanistan as well, as his love of ‘living’ with his soldiers. Don’t miss any of Mace’s Soldiers of Rome- Artorian Chronicles That’s just a start of historical fiction.
Who are your writing mentors?
I’ve been writing and studying this art for fifteen years, and list of mentors is longer than my arm. But hands down, the best mentor for writing is reading. I read as many Roman writers as I can. (See above) As for the practical art of writing I definitely recommend joining writing groups as Romance Writers of America and Historical Novel Society. They offer so many classes and sessions on line and at their conferences on what writers need to know. And they offer critique groups. Having your ‘baby” critiqued is tough. But these critique partners truly help you see what needs to be reconsidered.
I know they helped me.
Will the Agricola series be more than 2 books?
Absolutely. Julius has quite a history in Britannia as he covers over twenty years of his life there, searching for something he has lost.. Red Fury Rebellion is next, which sets up his return to Britannia. Let me ask you. If your child was kidnapped and you had access of the U. S. military, would you use them to find your child? And how long would you search?
Please tell us a bit about your current project(s).
Red Fury Rebellion is next. It is set in a very electric period of history known as ‘the year of four emperors,’ when Rome endures four men who claim the title of Caesar. It is a time when Rome’s legions go against Rome’s legions and gladiators. When those who fell in battle were left to rot in the battlefield. When constant turmoil and war tears at the heart of the empire. Caught in all of this, Julius struggles with his heart, the woman who still owns his soul, and his loyalty to Rome. What’s more, Domitia is a woman not to be ignored.
All this will determine whether Julius returns to Britannia to find his son.
I can’t thank you enough for letting me share my world that is like quicksand but unlike quicksand, I don’t want to ever leave it….for long