Wednesday 13 May 2009

Historical Novel Society reviews 'Flavia's Secret'

The Historical Novel Society has now reviewed Flavia's Secret:

In second-century Roman Britain, the Lady Valeria maintains a blissful household devoted to good talk and good reading, staffed with a beloved “family” of slaves—including beautiful young Flavia. When Lady Valeria dies, the household passes into the possession of young Roman officer Marcus Brucetus, a veteran of the perpetual border-warfare in Germania.
As is the way in such stories, these two are immediately attracted to each other, despite the fact that not only is he a free man and she a slave, but she’s his slave, his property along with everything and everyone else in the house. Lindsay Townsend handles this complication with unerring skill and some very pleasing human touches. In one scene, Marcus makes an offhand comment about how tightly Flavia pins her hair. She acerbically reminds him that he can change anything he dislikes, since he owns it all. He simply touches one of her hairpins, and she replies:
“You have made your point.” Suddenly Flavia felt weary, weary of being a slave, weary of fighting this man and her own feelings.
Marcus looked at her a moment longer, then sighed and stepped back.
“You are right,” he said. “That was a crass thing to do.”
“Yes,” said Flavia steadily. “It was.”
Such exchanges are frequent in Flavia’s Secret, and they constitute the book’s main pleasure. Townsend has a great ear for snappy dialog, and even her most minor characters spring instantly to life with a carefully-chosen sentence or description. Most details of Roman Britain at the time are faithfully rendered, although at its heart, this is a timeless story of two people finding love where they least expect it. Flavia’s Secret is cheerfully recommended. -- Steve Donoghue

Historical Novels Review Online is here.

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