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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flavia's Secret

Flavia's Secret by Lindsay Townsend
Publisher: Bookstrand
Genre: Historical
Length: Full
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Cherry Blossom

Spirited, young scribe Flavia hopes for freedom. She and her fellow slaves in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath) have served the Lady Valeria for many years, but their mistress’ death brings a threat to Flavia’s dream: her new master Marcus Brucetus, a charismatic, widowed officer toughened in the forests of Germania. Flavia finds him overwhelmingly attractive but she is aware of the danger. To save her life and those of her ‘family’ she has forged a note from her mistress. If her deception is discovered, all the slaves may die.

For his part torn between attraction and respect, Marcus will not force himself on Flavia. Flavia by now knows of his grief over the deaths of his wife Drusilla and child. But how can she match up to the serene, flame-haired Drusilla?

As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.

There is nothing more uncertain than the existence of a slave in Roman times. When your life depends on the whims of your owner, you will do everything to protect a master who is fair and kind. But what happens when that master if found dead under dubious circumstances? The rumor flies among Flavia's household that all the slaves belonging to a murdered Roman could be executed in the most painful and gruesome manner, and she will not allow her friends, her family, to be hurt in any way.

But what can she do when the new master takes possession of the estate, land, buildings—and slaves? Secrets pile upon secrets, and it's not only the helpless community of slaves who are trying to hide something, but the master himself seems to stand apart from the rest of the Roman nobles. What could there be that a proud and powerful Roman soldier wouldn't want known about himself?

In this wonderfully researched historical novel that gives us a rare look into a seldom described period, Lindsay Townsend weaves romance, intrigue, and historical fact into a unique and compelling story. The Roman town of Aquae Sulis, which we know today as Bath, springs to life in its ancient incarnation. Lindsay manages to present the classical world not with a modern bias, but through the eyes of those who were born and grew in it, those who find it ordinary and natural.

The unusual time period gives the story a hue of fantasy, but the plot, the character's reactions, the motivations are solidly grounded in reality—both in the psychology of the characters and in the logic of the historical time. And Lindsay Townsend populates her ancient city with a colorful cast. Even the most minor characters are given due attention and spring to life for whatever short part they are called to play. The more important ones are unforgettable. Lindsay excels at adding the right small touch to make each one come to life and be remembered.

Flavia's Secret is also an emotionally satisfying read. The story pulls the reader in to share the events and to empathize fully with the main characters. It is impossible to put it down once you've started to read it. Moreover, Lindsay Townsend has achieved what all writers strive for—the reader will wish the story would go on forever.