Since my debut historical romance, Forbidden, was published last year I’ve had quite a few people tell me it sounds fascinating – but what exactly do I mean by ancient historical romance?
Well, ancient history is the period known as Classical Antiquity, the beginning of recorded Greek history in about 776 BC. It also roughly coincides with the traditional founding of Rome in 753 BC. Western scholars use the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 as the end of ancient European history and the start of the Middle Ages.
Forbidden is set in AD 50 in Cymru (ancient Wales). The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 and it took them seven years before they invaded the western peninsula, where they faced fierce resistance from the local tribes. But Rome wanted the gold and other precious minerals Cymru had to offer – and Rome wasn’t going to let a primitive little province of the Empire get away with rebellion.
My hero, Maximus, is a Roman Centurion, a patrician and loyal to his Emperor and Rome. When he discovers his heroine, Carys, (who’s been spying on his bathing rituals for the last three months, the little minx!) he’s instantly captivated. Who is this woman and why hasn’t she been seen in any of the villages the Legion has vanquished?
Carys is, in fact, a Druid princess and acolyte of the Goddess of Wisdom, Cerridwen. She and the rest of her clan of Druids escaped into a magical enclave before the Romans invaded, and are waiting for a sign from their gods before they attack their enemy. But despite knowing this Roman would strike her dead if he knew who – what – she is, Carys is irresistibly drawn to him.
Claudius, the Roman Emperor at the time, hated Druids with a passion and wanted all trace of them wiped out across his Empire. Happily for me, this tied in nicely with my plot! I now had historical back up for my Romans’ determination to hunt down and eliminate any Druid who had escaped them during the initial invasion.
But why was Claudius so determined to eradicate the Druids?
While there’s plenty of written and archeological evidence when it comes to the Romans, unfortunately there’s very little when it comes to the Druids. Caesar explains this lack of documentary evidence when talking of the Gaulish Druids: “they consider it improper to entrust their studies to writing.”
But here’s what we do know about them. They were widely respected as the priests of Celtic society, held responsibilities for lawmaking, were the keepers of knowledge and wisdom and were known as magicians. They were also, according to the Romans, the rallying force behind the rebellious tribes that inhabited Cymru and the Druidic stronghold on the Isle of Mon (now known as the Isle of Anglesey, off the west coast of Wales).
The Romans saw Druidism as a serious menace against the might of their Empire, and Claudius was convinced that as long as Druids remained in Britannia then rebellion and resistance would continue to flourish among the tribes.
This period of history is so rich with inherent conflict that as a romance writer I find it hard to resist! In Forbidden, Maximus has been charged by his Emperor to eliminate all Druids. And Carys, the Druid princess he falls in love with, is one of Rome’s bitterest enemies. Together they have to overcome the prejudice of their preconceived notions, their warring cultures and their vindictive gods if their forbidden love is to survive.
You can read the first chapter of Forbidden here - over 18s only, please!