I was pleased to be able to buy a paperback copy of The Carnelian Phoenix by Jacquie Rogers recently. I much prefer paperbacks to ebooks. This was the second book in a series but it didn't matter to me that I hadn't read the first book as it is so well written.
Former Praetorian Guard, Quintus Valerius, travels from Britannia to visit his family in Rome. A skilled swordsman, Valerius has an unerring nose for danger and death.
Valerius is travelling with his optio, Tiro - a lover of brawling and drinking from Londinium - and the woman he loves, Julia.
In Gaul, Valerius receives a mysterious legacy from his long-dead father — a carnelian intaglio ring. On the road they stumble over a platoon of dead soldiers, also travelling to Rome. One of their high-level political prisoners is dead; the other, Cassius Labineus, has escaped.
But the mystery has only just begun.
Soon after, Julia disappears and Valerius is torn between conflicting loyalties. Family secrets are revealed too, involving a conspiracy and plot to unseat Alexander Severus, the boy Emperor.
When Valerius reaches Rome, the soldier discovers that friends have become enemies. But perhaps an enemy could become a friend?
The fate of Valerius - and the Empire - become linked, as he strives to prevent an assassination.
But there will be blood.
The Carnelian Phoenix is set in Ancient Rome and the characters are vividly drawn and completely credible. The research Jacquie Rogers has done is evident but not rammed down the readers' throats, for which I am grateful, but she seems to know the Roman world like the back of her hand.
I particularly liked the character, Tiro. He seems to be decent man, who will back his master to the hilt. However, Quintus and Julia and their issues also add extra dimensions as the reader explores the place and time within which they live.
The fight scenes are graphic and brilliantly choreographed. I found them gripping. The author certainly seems to have rehearsed her swordsmanship!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Carnelian Phoenix and now plan to go back in time to read The Governor's Man while the author writes the next part of her series.
Jacquie Rogers had several careers, including advertising and university teaching, before turning to historical crime writing. Her Roman Britain mystery The Governor’s Man is the first of a series featuring investigator Quintus Valerius, published by Sharpe Books in May 2021. The follow up novel, The Carnelian Phoenix, was published in ebook and paperback in July 2022. A linked short story, Wolves of Viroconium, was published by Aspects of History in November 2021 anthology, Imperium. Jacquie lives in the Malvern Hills of England with her husband Peter and their Staffie-cross, Peggy. She loves to travel by motorbike, and enjoys discussing politics, travel and books with friends. She admits to spending a lot of time in cafes and pubs when pandemics allow. Follow/contact Jacquie or buy her books, via Linktree: https://linktr.ee/jacquierogers