Selected Works

Historical Fiction
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end.
Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance's most notorious family, three outsiders must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power.
The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.
The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect.
The Year of Four Emperors - and four very different women struggling to survive
A brilliant and paranoid Emperor, a wary and passionate slave girl – who will survive?

Ave Historia: An irreverent look at historical fiction today: books trends, historical tidbits, and random tangents

Your Valentine's Day Date: Modern Man vs. Medieval Man?

February 10, 2011

Tags: Valentine's Day, romance

February 14th approacheth, and most of us ladies have two options: put together some kind of romantic evening with your husband/boyfriend/guy-you’re-kinda-sorta-dating, or buy a bag of Reese’s Pieces and curl up with the cute guy in your favorite book. It’s easy to sigh over Anya Seton’s Prince John of Gaunt and wish he were your V-Day date – but how would it really work out? Does a knight in shining armor really make for a better romantic evening than a modern man? Let’s take a standard 21st century guy with a standard 9-5 job, stack him up against a standard English knight from the days of yore, and see who comes out on top. Two points per question, and may the best man win.

The Meet And Greet
You meet Modern Man through, laying eyes on him for the first time after a lot of text-messaging. You meet Medieval Man through an arranged marriage, laying eyes on him for the first time at the altar. I think Medieval Man has the advantage here – at least your parents vetted him first for financial stability, healthy bloodlines, and future job prospects. leaves you no defense against a guy who described himself as a tall red-haired financier, but who turns out in person to be a 5’2 bank teller with Ronald McDonald hair.

Medieval Man: 2 Modern Man: 0

The Clothes
Modern Man shows up for the big Valentine’s Day date in a suit; Medieval Man shows up in a suit of armor. Sorry, but I go for a surcote and sword belt over an Armani three-piece every time.

Medieval Man: 4 Modern Man: 0

Even George Clooney at his most Ocean's Eleven elegant can't compare to this

The Personal Hygiene
Medieval Man bathes once a week if he’s fastidious, and has never heard of dental floss. Modern Man has deodorant, toothpaste, electric razor, and breath mints. No contest here – though male grooming can go too far. Manscaping is not one of the 21st century’s better innovations. No tanning salons, please.

Medieval Man: 4 Modern Man: 3 (bonus point for having all his teeth!)

The Job
Modern Man works nine-to-five at an office compiling Excel spreadsheets and filling out TPS reports. Medieval Man spends his days building up serious muscle as he hulks ninety pounds of armor and a fifteen-foot lance around on regional wars. On the other hand, Modern Man at least comes home at nights whereas Medieval Man might head off on Crusade and not come home for years. Let’s call it a draw.

Medieval Man: 6 Modern Man: 5

How many IT guys would rather do this than work in a cubicle? Thought so.

The Politics
An Obama ’08 “Yes We Can!” bumper sticker for Modern Man; a solid pro-church, pro-torture, pro-witch-burning stance for Medieval Man. Hmm . . .

Medieval Man: 6 Modern Man: 7

The Ride
Modern Man picks you up for the big V-Day date in a nice shiny car with air-conditioning. Medieval Man gallops up on a horse. Sorry, for me a black stallion in a flowing tabard beats even a Ferrari.

Medieval Man: 8 Modern Man: 7

Gotta go, my ride's here

The Romantic Getaway
Modern Man takes you to a three-star restaurant with candles and waiters. Medieval Man takes you to a castle in Castile with torches and troubadours. Oooh, tough one. In the end, however, I think we must come down in favor of the date locale that has flush toilets.

Medieval Man: 8 Modern Man: 9

The Food
On a date with Modern Man, you will get a pasta dinner with wine, and something chocolatey for dessert. Medieval Man will go hunting and proudly present you with a dead boar. Overseeing the skinning, butchering, spit-roasting, and serving of the boar will be entirely up to you. And chocolate hasn’t been discovered yet.

Medieval Man: 8 Modern Man: 11

The Conversation
Modern Man will bore you to death with the details of his golf handicap, his fantasy football league, or his latest score in World of Warcraft. Medieval Man will talk all night about his warhorse’s shoeing requirements, his last blow-by-blow tourney victory, and how to clean the rust off chain mail. I think we have another tie.

Medieval Man: 10 Modern Man: 13

"So I shank on the drive, and then I only get a birdie, but on the next hole . . ."

"So I was thinking of going with an ash hilt nailed to the tang, but now I'm thinking oak offers a better grip when blood soaks in . . ."

The Gifts
A modern Valentine’s Day date with Modern Man will probably net you a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and maybe a little velvet box containing tasteful diamond studs (inspired by those ubiquitous Every Kiss Begins With Kay commercials). Medieval Man will toss you a lapful of diamond necklaces and emerald rings: loot from all the plundering he did during the Hundred Years War. Just don't ask to see the sales slip.

Medieval Man: 12 Modern Man: 13

The Check
Medieval Man digs into his wallet without a word of protest when the check comes – it’s the least he can do, since you have no vote and no job. Modern Man might throw down a Black Card, ask you to go dutch, or cover the check but get offended later if you don’t offer nudity in repayment.

Medieval Man: 14 Modern Man: 13

The Trouble
On the way home, your date’s convertible/horse breaks down. A group of Hell’s Angels/French free-lance mercenaries start hassling you. Modern Man whips out his cell phone and hopes he has 911 on speed-dial. Medieval Man whips out his broadsword and hopes they give him a good fight before the heads start to roll and the survivors flee for their lives.

Medieval Man: 16 Modern Man: 13

When these guys show up, I'd rather have a guy with a sword at my back than a phone

The Sex
Valentine’s Day sex . . . probably the most subjective category here. Has Modern Man relied on locker rooms or stolen Cosmos for his sex advice? Does Medieval Man take the priests seriously when they tell him no sex on Fridays, feast days and religious holidays, and no woman-on-top sex of any kind? Maybe the deciding issue should be birth control: Modern Man may not want to wear condoms, but at least he can't use the excuse that they haven’t been invented yet. The only thing to save you from having a yearly kid with Medieval Man is a nice long Crusade.

Medieval Man: 16 Modern Man: 15

The Day After
Will he commit on February 15th? Medieval Man: Yep. You met him at your wedding, remember? Modern Man: much more doubtful. But if he does, and things go wrong, at least you can divorce him. Medieval Man, not so much – though with the Black Plague and all those French mercenaries running around, odds are much better you’ll end up a widow. No real winner here.


The knights in shining armor take it by one point, at least in my book, but it’s a close race. And maybe in the end, Modern Man’s deodorant and full set of teeth stacks a little higher than the ability to stand off French mercenaries with a broadsword. At least in the 21st century.

But whether you will be spending this Monday with your favorite fictional medieval hunk or with your 21st century knight in shining armor – Happy Valentine’s Day.

Attention: Lovers of Historicals and Romances!

January 22, 2011

Tags: guest-blog, historical-fiction, mistress-of-rome, monica-burns, romance

I've been invited to take part in the Pleasure Me With Romance blog event running January 17th through March 1st. Monica Burns is hosting 35+ historical romance authors with daily guest posts from bestsellers like Sabrina Jeffries, Madeline Hunter, Lorraine Heath, Lisa Valdez, Julianne MacLean, Sarah MacLean, Monica McCarty, Hannah Howell, Lucy Monroe and many more.

Today (January 22) is my day on Monica's blog. I've done a post on the life lessons that can be learned from reading historical romance - and so far, Tip #5 seems to be the fan favorite! (Wars, abductions, and pirate attacks = dating opportunities, not life-endangerment.) Click on the link below to get the other nine life lessons straight from the pages of historical romances everywhere. Post a comment over the next 24 hours, and you're eligible to win a prize!

WHEN: TODAY January 22 (further bloggers will continue through March 1st)

WHERE: Click here for my guest blog post: "Ten Lessons To Be Learned From Historical Romance"

WHAT: Daily Giveaways and at end of the event a Grand Prize and two Second Prizes

The Greatest Love Story Never Told

November 18, 2010

Tags: Hadrian, Antinous, Rome, homosexuality, romance

It's a real life fairy-tale, a love story to rival all the greats: Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet. It sounds like something conjured up by the Brothers Grimm, but it's true – genuine historical fact.

Once upon a time, a brilliant but lonely man became Emperor of the known world. His life was filled with travel, work, friends, but never love – until he met a stunning young beauty from Greece. The beauty was poor and low-born, but the Emperor didn't care. They fell madly in love and became inseparable, traveling the Empire side by side. Their happiness seemed perfect – until one day, the young beauty was found floating in the Nile beside their pleasure boat, drowned. Accident? Murder? Suicide? No one knew, but the Emperor was devastated. He deified his dead lover, immortalizing that beautiful faces in hundreds of marble statues . . . and he never loved again.

Sounds terribly romantic and poignant; just the sort of thing to be memorialized by the sappier sort of Victorian artist and hundreds of bad poets throughout the ages.

Lancelot and Guinevere . . .

Tristan and Isolde . . .

Romeo and Juliet . . . we certainly love our legendary star-crossed lovers.

The Emperor of this particular love story was Hadrian, one of the greatest rulers who ever held sway over the Roman Empire . . . oh, and by the way, his low-born beauty was a man. Hence the virtually total blackout on their romance, which except for the gender of its principles would have become legend.

I'm writing my third novel about ancient Rome, and this one covers Emperor Hadrian, a complicated intellectual charmer whose twenty-one years of rule covered one of the most dynamic and prosperous periods of Rome's history. Hadrian is one of the so-called Five Good Emperors and he achieved a great deal, but not nearly so much was written about him by scholars of ancient history than about other Emperors of Rome. His blatant passion for a Greek youth named Antinous made many scholars uncomfortable – the Victorians made a lot of hopeful noises that maybe Antinous was really Hadrian's long lost son, but that fooled nobody. Easier not to talk about an Emperor who went so off the rails when his boyfriend died that he nearly killed himself.

Homosexuality in ancient Rome was a far more casual thing than it became in later centuries. Bisexuality was the norm rather than the exception among many Roman men; it is noted of Suetonius's Twelve Caesars, written at first hand during Hadrian's reign, that only two of the twelve Emperors discussed were universally heterosexual. Hadrian's passion for a young man would not have raised a single eyebrow in his own day. What raised a lot of eyebrows was the depth of feeling he held for what should have been a passing fling.

Antinous, the Emperor's beloved

We don't know much about Antinous, except that he was Greek, low-born, and stunningly handsome. He was a generation younger than Hadrian, but that was hardly unusual, and Hadrian was still a vigorious, good-looking, and athletic man. Antinous must have had some brains besides the beauty, since Hadrian was himself a scholar and a bit of a snob who scorned stupid people. Antinous did share Hadrian's passion for hunting; the Emperor once risked his life to bring down a lion about to pounce on his lover. The real reason why Antinous drowned in the Nile remains a mystery, but the Emperor's grief after the fact is unmistakeable: Hadrian, a biographer and scholar who wrote voluminously his whole life, penned just one line in shaky handwriting after his beloved's death: “He was drowned in the Nile.”

Hadrian as grieving lover, not Emperor

Hadrian went on to make sure no one would ever forget the youth who must have been laughingly dismissed during his life as an Emperor's boy-toy. Antinous was immortalized in so many statues that he is one of the best-known faces of the Roman era – nearly twenty busts and statues survive from Hadrian's private villa alone. A city was named in his honor and he was made into a god, his worshippers briefly giving Christianity a run for its money.

Did Antinous love the Emperor as deeply as Hadrian loved him? We don't know. Maybe he was just a handsome young man putting up with a powerful older lover because he had no choice. But if he'd been a girl instead of a boy, no one would ask the question. The fairy-tale details – Emperor falling in love with young beauty, tragic early death, lifelong devotion – would have swept the story along until it had all the rosy gleam of a romantic legend. The names of the two lovers would be linked in mass pop culture just like the names of Romeo and Juliet, Bella and Edward, Brad and Angelina. There would have been countless bad romantic odes written to their memories; numberless Victorian paintings filled with tasteful nudity and marble columns and pre-Raphaelite symbolism. Verdi would have written an opera called Hadriano with starring roles for an innocent girlish soprano and a powerful manly baritone. A terrible movie would have been made in the fifties starring Victor Mature and Jean Simmons, and another movie would be in the works for 2013 with bigger budget and better CGI, starring Gerard Butler and Scarlett Johansson. But simply because this real-life love affair with all the romantic trimmings happened to star two men, nobody knows about it unless they are ancient history buffs.

Still, the obscurity of Hadrian and Antinous might be ending. As societal attitudes towards homosexuality change, scholarly work on Hadrian no longer shies away from examining his sex life. Anthony Everitt's splendid Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome devotes whole chapters to the Emperor's beloved. And anyone who studies the sculpture of the ancient world knows Antinous's face very well indeed, as busts and portraits and fragments of statues continue to be unearthed.

I think Hadrian would have liked that.

Hadrian and Antinous