I found out this series while visiting Carole Rae’s blog – thank you my dear for an excellent tip!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
New York, present day, alternate reality. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after being made unemployed and a kidnap attempt, has a choice – being eliminated by a shady government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, a tiny state in Europe, the last trace left after the Roman Empire. Her dead mother’s homeland.
Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family headed by her grandmother, Aurelia Mitela. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.
But the enforcer has crossed to Europe to pursue her. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…
I loved the premise from the very start, I simply loved it. If you ever were impressed by the culture and achievements (not only military) of ancient Romans you would like it as well, especially with that clever twist about returning to matriarchy, following the example of some of Celtic tribes. The strong dominance of male progeny was always, in my humble opinion, a thorn in the Roman Empire’s side and a serious flaw of their society. If they allowed women to rule who knows what would happen…I also have to add Alison Morton really knows what she is writing about – her classical education is rather obvious and that made the whole world build for me even better. Nova Romans still speak a version of Latin but they are far from untouched by 21st century life; in fact they enthusiastically embrace futuristic technology as a branch even a small country can survive on. Their religion remains unchanged and the Saturnalia celebrations are apparently a great draw for the tourists (as they should be, I would go and visit myself). It was another refreshing tidbit – no Christian culture in any form, no ‘fake’ Christian holidays nobody really observes, meaning just several days free of work!
Now a bit about Karen Brown a.k.a Carina Mitela. Her character was not only dynamic and interesting, it was also used in a great way. The whole novel starts when plenty of authors would finish their story, with our heroine being rescued, taken by the very handsome and clearly infatuated Conrad to the home country of her long-dead mom. They married and lived happily ever after, right? WRONG. It is clear Carina has yet a long way to cover and I have an impression it will be as bumpy as her New York career. Overall in the first installment you get it all: history, romance, international and political intrigue, shadowy covert agencies, coming to grips with the reality of who you are, a really nasty bad guy who happens to be related to some of the main characters – you have to admit it is a powerful mix.
My only carping is the first person limited narration which, pun intended, LIMITED the presentation of that fantastically original world build. It left me a bit annoyed – I did want to know more of it! Apart from that I admit I caught myself thinking that surviving the Middle Ages, full of mad crusaders and general tendency to witch-hunting and heathens-bashing would be for Nova Roma a real feat to perform…
A truly gripping alternate history book with all the elements of a modern classic saga. I can’t wait to read the other parts – I am so totally hooked!