The Tales of Ancient Rome Saga – a labour of love
Call to Juno has finally been released! The launch of the third book in the Tales of Ancient Rome Saga marks a labour of love that started over fifteen years ago when I conceived the idea of a love story between the Roman treaty bride, Caecilia, to an enemy nobleman, Vel Mastarna. Their marriage sealed a tenuous truce between the nascent Republican Rome and the Etruscan city of Veii that ultimately was broken and resulted in a ten year siege.
Many of you may already know The Wedding Shroud was inspired by a photo of a sixth-century BC sarcophagus upon which a husband and wife were sculpted in a pose of affection. What ancient culture acknowledged women as equals to their husbands? Or exalted marital fidelity with such open sensuality? Discovering the answer led me to the decadent and mystical Etruscan civilisation with which I instantly became obsessed.
In The Golden Dice, I introduced the Roman tomb whore, Pinna, who strived to gain the attention of Rome’s greatest general, Camillus. I also added a romance between Semni and Arruns, a servant girl and Mastarna’s Phoenician bodyguard. Call to Juno continues the three women’s stories (and that of the unrequited love of Marcus, the Roman tribune, for his friend Drusus) in the final year of the siege. Pinna has now won Camillus’ heart and travels with him as his army wife. Through her eyes, the reader learns of the Romans’ strategy to destroy Veii, while Semni’s interaction with Caecilia’s children leads to a desperate quest for survival. And Caecilia, who was married against her will, has grown from a frightened naïve virgin into a strong committed mother who is empowered to hold fate in her own hands.
A community of story tellers
In the six years since The Wedding Shroud was first published, I have been amazed at the generosity of spirit of historical novelists across the globe in assisting an Australian author. It has made me realise that we live in a ‘virtual’ community bound by a common love for history and storytelling. And so I am now pausing to thank those authors who have helped me to develop my books or warmly endorsed them. I’m honoured they took time out of their busy lives to read Call to Juno. I’d also like to celebrate their own achievements and encourage readers to enjoy their novels.
Kate Quinn is a fellow Romaphile whose Empress of Rome Saga transports the reader into the decadence and drama of imperial Rome. She is versatile, too, delving into the dangerous world of the Borgias in The Lion and the Rose and The Serpent and the Pearl. I was thrilled that she endorsed Call to Juno: “An elegant, impeccably researched exploration of early Rome and their lesser known enemies, the Etruscans. The torments of war, love, family, and faith are explored by narrators on both sides of the conflict as their cities rush toward a shattering, heart-wrenching show-down. Elisabeth Storrs weaves a wonderful tale!”
M Louisa Locke has been a great friend over the years. She acted as a beta reader for both The Golden Dice and Call to Juno, and was prepared to endorse them both. She is a legend among indie authors with her Victorian San Francisco Mysteries reaching thousands of readers through her talent and hard work.
“Call to Juno is the stirring conclusion to an epic saga of war, sacrifice, and transcendent love. Storrs once again demonstrates her superb ability to weave the complex history of the Fifth Century Roman and Etruscan war into a compelling story about real and fictional characters that I grew to admire, love, and, in some cases, mourn.””
Helen Hollick, author of oodles of books including The Sea Witch Voyages was also kind enough to find time to read the book. What a treat to receive her endorsement: “Elisabeth Storrs brings Ancient Rome vividly to life; her skill as a writer is equivalent to a time machine– we are there amid the history and the drama, immersed so deep that in calling to Juno we expect her to answer back…” ”
Other blurbs were provided by the prolific and inspirational Libbie Hawker, author of The She-King series set in Ancient Egypt: “Tales of Ancient Rome is one of the best ancient-historical series I’ve read in years.” Judith Starkson, author of Hand of Fire which reimagines the famous siege of Troy: “Call to Juno is a book for long, delicious savoring”
MK Tod author of fiction set in the World Wars Unravelled and Lies Told in Silence said: “Using a skillful blend of history and drama, and full of characters both heroic and human, Storrs transports readers to that long ago world” and Faith L Justice author of Hypatia, a novel about the renowned Greek mathematician: “The level of detail about everyday life in Rome and among the Etruscans’ is extraordinary”
And special mention must be given to my fellow Australian novelists Felicity Pulman “medieval” author of The Janna Chronicles (who will launch Call to Juno at my Australian launch party!): “This is a tale of great love and great hatred, of treachery, courage and honour, told in loving detail by a knowledgeable and practised story-teller” and Isolde Martyn author of Mistress to the Crown and many others, a committed Plantagenet. “A well-researched novel that builds to a memorable and terrifying end”
Along my journey I’ve also been privileged to have the first two books in the saga praised by Sherry Jones author of The Jewel of Medina: Skillfully plotted and with vividly drawn characters, The Golden Dice is a suspenseful, romantic, exciting drama” and the terrifically supportive Ben Kane whose Hunting the Eagles stayed in the Sunday Times top 10 for four consecutive weeks : “Storrs should be proud of herself for this gem of a book [The Wedding Shroud]” And of course, I am still amazed that Ursula Le Guin endorsed The Wedding Shroud when I was an debut author thousands of miles from her country and her literary realm: “All the drama and sensuality expected of a historical romance, plus a sensitivity to the realities of life in a very different time and world.” You can read how I approached her in Snail Mail, Rome and Ursula Le Guin.
My thanks also go to my beta readers GS Johnston , author of The Skin of Water set in WW2 Hungary and The Cast of a Hand which is a mystery set in the Second Empire France, and my fellow ancient world afficionado, Rebecca Lochlann, author of the Child of the Erinyes series set in Minoan Crete. It was fabulous to gain their insights. And my utmost appreciation to Jodi Warshaw, the remarkable commissioning editor at Lake Union team, whose belief in my books has enabled me to reach a larger audience.
And a wave to Alison Morton, author of the Roma Nova series, whose own courtesy reminded me that I should express my gratitude to my fellow writers:)
Four unforgettable characters are tested during a war between Rome and Etruscan Veii.
Caecilia has long been torn between her birthplace of Rome and her adopted city of Veii. Yet faced with mounting danger to her husband, children, and Etruscan freedoms, will her call to destroy Rome succeed?
Pinna has clawed her way from prostitute to the concubine of the Roman general Camillus. Deeply in love, can she exert her own power to survive the threat of exposure by those who know her sordid past?
Semni, a servant, seeks forgiveness for a past betrayal. Will she redeem herself so she can marry the man she loves?
Marcus, a Roman tribune, is tormented by unrequited love for another soldier. Can he find strength to choose between his cousin Caecilia and his fidelity to Rome?
Who will overcome the treachery of mortals and gods?