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Doreen Owens Malek

Raven and the Rose, The
Kensington, 1994
Barnes & Noble


plot: forbidden loves in Caesar's Rome, set against the Ides of March caveats: adults only: sex scenes, some coarse language, mention of prostitution and homosexuality The "raven" of the title is Marcus Corvus Demeter, centurion, war hero, and friend of Caesar and Anthony. The "rose" is Julia Rosalba Casca, Vestal Virgin since the age of seven. She and her sister Larthia, granddaughters of Casca the conspirator who plotted against Julius Caesar, discover forbidden love that could endanger their lives. Julia falls in love with Marcus Corvus; Larthia, married at 15 to an older man and now a widow, loves Verrix, a Celtic slave bought by Casca to be her bodyguard. The action commences when Marcus escorts Caesar to the House of the Vestals, where the dictator is making changes to his will. The chief Vestal has summoned Julia to record the changes. It is love at first sight for the two young people. After leaving the Atrium Vestae, Caesar explains that his partiality for the Vestals is due to their intercession on his behalf before Sulla. Marcus is determined to see Julia again, despite warnings from Caesar and his best friend, the patrician Septimus Valerius Gracchus. For Larthia and Verrix, it's dislike at first sight. According to the will Casca has deposited in the house of the Vestals, Verrix must guard Larthia for three years to obtain his freedom. At first, Verrix despises Larthia as an indolent Roman matron with no brains and she despises him as a barbarian. Love grows over time until Larthia is willing to abandon her boring life in Rome to leave with the handsome Gaul. It is Marc Anthony who makes it possible for all the lovers to flee Rome at the end of the novel. Anthony can not understand such a strong passion, but Marcus Corvus predicts his turn will come. Since this is a romance novel, THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE offers a different perspective on the Ides of March. The everyday life of the women is the focus here, with historical events as a backdrop. For example, after the Ides of March, Larthia must hide because she is a possible target of mob violence due to Casca's participation in Caesar's murder. As part of the historical background, mention is made of Brutus, Horace, Cassius, and Cicero. There are brief glimpses of Caesar, Anthony and the young Octavian. The author seamlessly imparts information about Roman life and customs. Most of the information seems accurate, with some minor flaws. The author has done her research, and the reader absorbs a surprising amount of history concerning the events immediately preceding and following the Ides of March. Since it is important to one of the love stories, the reader learns about the life of a Vestal Virgin, its benefits, its disadvantages, and the various ceremonies performed by these women. Because Marcus Corvus Demeter is a centurion, the reader also learns about the Roman army. The first two pages mention the packs and the food that soldiers ate in Caesar's army. Later pagesmention the training process, winter quarters, and weapons. Everyday life in Rome brings mention of garum, insulae, slavery, the rooms of the house, food, and clothing. When Latin words appear, they are either translated or used in a context that the reader who lacks knowledge of Latin can understand. An interesting book for the general reader who enjoys love stories, but not recommended for the young Latin student. - Roz Harper 1/00

- Roz Harper, 1/1/2000

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