The author: Michelle Styles
Publication: Harlequin, 2010
Got it from: The library
Author Michelle Styles has bemoaned the fact that historical romances are extremely limited in time settings and that the golden age of Rome, so rich is possibility, is barely ever used as a setting. Man, I hear that. For a
So that is why I think it's awesome that Michelle Styles is writing romances set in the Roman world. Her research and attention to detail is extraordinary, and while the characters do sometimes slip into modern speech, it doesn't detract from the story at all.
The hero of A Noble Captive, as you may have guessed from the cover, is a centurion named Marcus Livius Tullio, who is simply called Tullio in the Roman fashion. He and the men he leads have been captured by pirates - this is the age of the Republic, a more wild and lawless time before the Augustan Empire (I knew those university classes would come in handy some day! Thank you Dr. Goud!*) The island where the pirates come from is also the home of the sibyl, a priestess of the goddess Kybele and a powerful religious leader who the pirates (mostly) respect. When Tullio and his men arrive as captives, exhausted and near death, he is able to invoke the protection of the sibyl. What he doesn't know is that the "sibyl" is actually the real priestesses' beautiful niece Helena, taking the place of her sick aunt to fool the suspicious pirates.
There's a lot of political maneuvering and historical detail here, so don't expect this to be one of those romances where you can just turn your brain off and be done. The pace of the book is also slow - sometimes too slow - and there isn't a whole lot of action, at least until the very end. The primary conflict of the book is if Helena will trust Tullio, a hated Roman. Of course we, the readers, know Tullio is really an honorable and noble man. But screaming, "What's the matter with you woman? Are you blind?" at the heroine seems to be di rigeur these days. Not my favourite book this year by any means, but hopefully this augurs the start of many more Roman-themed romances.
*I also felt extremely proud that I knew the difference between a tribute, a tribune and a trireme before reading this. I think I deserve a cookie.