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Monday 21 September 2015

‘Aurelia’ by Alison Morton

Published by Silverwood Books,
15 May 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-78132-383-0

Aurelia is an alternate history thriller, which is based on the idea that the Roman Empire did not fall and survived into the 20th Century as Roma Nova, a prosperous and influential colony that still maintains many of the traditions and belief structures of Ancient Rome. Because Roma Nova never fell under the paternalistic influences that shaped their neighbours, women have great power and careers that often excel their men. The book is set in the late 1960s, a time when, in most of Roma Nova's neighbouring countries, men had the powerful positions and women were expected to be their secretaries.

Aurelia Mitella is the daughter of Felicia Mitella, head of one of the most powerful houses in Roma Nova. Aurelia has a daughter, Marina, a much-loved, frail child, and Felicia puts pressure on Aurelia to bear more heirs to ensure the succession. However, Aurelia has no desire to abandon her life as a career soldier, which in Roma Novan terms means being an officer in the Praetorian Guards. She certainly has no intention of having any sort of relationship with her mother's choice of suitor, Caius Tellus, a man that most people find charming but whom Aurelia has loathed and despised since childhood.

When Aurelia's mother dies, after being injured in a suspicious hit-and-run car accident, Aurelia has to give up her career in the Praetorian Guards and run her family. However, her special blend of skills are needed to help her country. Somebody is smuggling large amounts of silver, which is Roma Nova's chief means of revenue, and this is threatening the country's livelihood. Aurelia is sent as a Special Delegate to Berlin to investigate, and steps straight into intrigue and danger, which finds her at risk of losing her life, reputation and liberty. Even a brief interlude of pleasure with the mysterious Miklos endangers her, when she is accused of murder and is unable to account for her whereabouts.

Aurelia knows that the person behind both the smuggling and her own danger is her old enemy and  pursues him back to Roma Nova. Soon it is unclear who is the hunter and who is the prey, until a final showdown endangers not just Aurelia's life but that of her beloved daughter.

Aurelia is the fourth book set in Roma Nova but the first featuring Aurelia Mitella. Insurrectio, the second book featuring Aurelia, (Book Five in the Roma Nova series) is soon to be published and is another book to be added to my 'must read' list.

Aurelia is the first alternate history book that I have read and I was uncertain what to expect but within the first two pages I was hooked. The author handles the new slant on history and society with outstanding skill, making the situation clear without over-explaining. Her description of attitudes to women in the 1960s was accurate and full of wry humour. Aurelia is a strong but likeable protagonist: a courageous, clever, determined woman, vulnerable only in her love for her child. This book is a page-turner and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Alison Morton Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe. So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…
But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…
Now, she writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines:

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a fantastic review, Carol. So pleased you enjoyed AURELIA!