I’m thrilled to welcome fellow LoveHistoricals author Gina Danna to my blog today. Her latest book, Love and Vengeance, a romance set in Ancient Rome, will be released next month and will be available through Amazon and other e-tailers.
Welcome, Gina. First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, I’ve spent the better part of her life reading. History has been my love and I’ve spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, I finally found the time to write my own stories of historical romantic fiction.
Now, under the supervision of my three big dogs and three cats, I write amid a library of research books, with my only true break away is to spend time with my other life long dream – my Arabian horse – with him, my muse can play.
The blog is yours. Take it away.
I have long held a fascination with Ancient Rome. Being half Sicilian probably edged me closer to this interest. My family is Italians who moved to Sicily before then finally immigrated to the US around the turn of the 20th century. So when I was talking to a writing partner about her time-travel story, I mentioned the place I’d love to go to was Rome but feared I’d be one of those condemned to die in the Colosseum and she countered with what if someone saved me from it? Hence the opening to Love & Vengeance began.
One of the best parts about writing this story was the research I did for it. I wanted to make Rome come alive again and that meant I got to do my work on reading. Here are some fascinating facts about life in the Roman Empire –
1. The Roman Empire was vast, spanning from Africa to the Middle East to Spain, up into Great Britain, most of Western and part of Eastern Europe. But the focal point for all in the empire was the city of Rome.
2. Romans had their own gods but readily adapted other cultures and worked them into Roman religion. The Greek gods became Roman and had their names changed (except Apollo) to Roman (Zeus now Jupiter, Aphrodite became Venus, etc.).
3. The marble statues of the time were not left as just a figure in white marble but they were painted with realistic colors.
4. The practice up to the later 18th century in modern Europe and the colonies was to enslave your enemies when you won the battle. This is where Rome’s vast number of slaves came from, not by a particular nationality or ‘race’. Many times, these new workers were given new names verses them using their own. These names were Greek with some deviation toward nearby neighbors.
5. A Roman could be enslaved either by the courts for offenses given though this is rare or they could sell themselves into slavery (to become a gladiator) for a set period of time to pay off debt, then be free again.
6. Romans were big in hygiene and physical fitness. They had the public baths, which were gathering places to meet friends and conduct business. Baths were mostly segregated to female or male though a few co-ed ones existed. People bathed daily and preferred the public ones verse one at home from the social aspect.
7. They also had gymnasiums where various games were played, many involving balls in handball, volleyball or other amusements, to be followed by going to the baths. Being physically fit was in the mindset of Roman health. Interesting is the fact what they wore during these contests were similar to today’s swim trunks Olympic male athletes wear and for the women, bikinis.
These are just a few of the fascinating facts about Rome that can give food for thought for a writer. Amazing.
Please tell us about your latest release?
LOVE AND VENGEANCE
Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.
Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can use to save a beautiful slave, Gustina, from certain death by the beasts. She gives him a taste of love in a world full of lies, betrayal and murder.
But his overwhelming desire for vengeance, for blood and the kill, brings a higher price tag – can he satisfy the demon inside him and face the truth? A truth that will kill the woman he loves?
Rome 108 CE
A menacing growl followed by an earth-shattering scream bellowed above the rafters. The roar of the crowd snapped her back out of the numbness. The applause echoed through the chambers as particles of sand rained through the wood slats in the ceiling.
She was filthy, covered in sweat, blood and grime. What damage could more dirt do? Toes on the dirt floor wiggled as she stared at them. Her hair hung around her face like a curtain, matted with dried blood. Inadvertently, she lifted her hand to tuck one side behind her ear but jerked to a halt, restrained by the iron cuffs around her wrists, bound together with a chain. The same chain connected to the metal collar around her neck. How had she forgotten its weight resting so heavy on her shoulders?
Another scream and the sound of flesh ripping, laughter and clapping became louder above. Fear snaked down her spine and she shuddered.
Gustina sat on the stone ledge, chained with the other miscreants, waiting to be forced up the ramp to the carnage above. If she could just return to the numbness again, where nothing mattered any more. The place she’d escaped to before she’d heard the animals attacking the condemned out there. But she couldn’t silence the roar of the crowds, enjoying the executions as their noontime entertainment. Trembling, she pulled her sluggish legs up, wrapping her joined hands over them, to hold herself as she buried her face in her knees.
Christians and convicts. What a surly lot. But it was an easy way to feed the vast array of beasts the Empire kept to compete in the games. Did he ever feel sad for the poor souls about to perish by their claws? No. Nor did he mourn the loss of life at the end of his sword.
He was one of the rare attractions people paid to see. He was gladiator. And he soon would be victor of all he opposed on the sands. Marcus’ victories gave him the privileges and money he wanted – as long as it remained wine and women. But not his freedom. Not what he had lost to the Romans. No, the only way to gain that came by victory in the arena and in front of the Emperor. And to earn that opportunity, he’d kill whomever they placed before him.
He closed his eyes as the screams filtered downward. His soul heard them and his body tingled with the smell of blood and dirt. Breathing in the welcoming atmosphere, he exhaled and opened his lids to look straight into the captives’ chamber.
He found her. Sitting, hunched on the small ledge, draped in chain and metal bands, her head down. But when she looked up, through all the muck and grime, her pale blue eyes shined, sparkling and bright. Her unmarred face was a rarity amongst captives dragged to this place, usually after rough treatment prior. He noticed her high cheekbones, a small nose, narrow chin but ripe mouth. Her eyes locked on him and his mouth went dry. When her tongue licked her lips, his body tightened.
He had to have her. Period. Regardless if she was a convict, runaway or Christian, he wanted her.
A guard butted past him, into the room and yanked the chain, pulling all the captives up. Many moaned, some pleaded. She didn’t. She stood straight, pushing her shoulders back, waiting at the end of the line. Her eyes locked on his until the guard turned chain in hand to lead them out.
Marcus stepped back. Instantly, his hand went to his stomach guard and pulled the narrowed pick-knife out of its hidden sheath. As the captives stumbled past him, he extended his foot, causing her to trip. She fell into his grasp. His free hand placed the knife into the lock and with a twist, it opened. His hand covered it to deaden the noise as his other arm encircled her tiny waist and pulled her against him.
“Not a sound,” he whispered. He shoved her to the wall, his massive body hiding hers as he flexed his limbs. The guard stopped at the sound of the loose chain but didn’t look far when he saw the gladiator’s well-muscled body. Marcus glanced at him over his shoulder and gave the man a nod. His status as a victorious gladiator allowed some privilege. The guard shrugged and moved on. The frightened woman gasped for air and shook with fear.
Quickly he lifted her. She was light, lighter than his sword but he knew that couldn’t be. In a swift move, he turned. Next to the doorway sat a covered alcove. He dropped her in it.
“You’ll be safe here.” He looked her over. Her wide eyes, full of fear and mistrust, returned his gaze but she said nothing. He heard the gong of his master calling him – he fought next, after the final execution. “Remain here. I will be back for you.” He touched her cheek, his bulky hand swallowed half her face. Her skin was soft, like silk. Back in the days when he wore silk… He banked the anger. With a final nod to her, he left. He knew she’d be there when he returned.
To leave meant death.
Thanks so much for joining me today, Gina, and best of luck with Love and Vengeance. I can’t wait to read it.