Aurelia by Alison Morton

Cover of Aurelia

This is the fourth book in Alison Morton’s Roma Nova series, and having enjoyed the previous three, I was very pleased to be able to attend the Bristol launch of this one, in which Aurelia, a minor character in the previous books, takes centre stage. She is the grandmother of earlier heroine Carina Mitela. I grew especially fond of her in the third book in the series, so I was delighted when I heard that she was to be the focal point of the fourth book (and apparently of two yet to come – yippee!)

In this book, we’re taken back to the earlier days of Roma Nova, in the 1960s, and the action moves from the Roman nation itself to the equivalents of Germany and Austria in this alternative history world. This time the threat comes from illegal dealings in the country’s trade staple, silver, but the villainy is also personal, against Aurelia herself.

I reckon this is Morton’s best book yet, with her imagined alternative history setting now fully formed and her writing ever growing in confidence and competence. Reading the book mostly in bed, supposedly relaxing and winding down for sleep, I found myself sitting bolt upright at one point, completely carried away by the tension of a particularly nail-biting chase scene!

Morton has a great knack for combining feisty action-led stories with believable romantic undercurrents, and the introduction of the intriguing gypsy-like love interest in this book is a masterstroke – I hope we’ll be seeing more of him in the sequels! The result are smart and satisfying reads for both sexes, and books that are crying out to be made into films!

The Power of Great Alternative History Books

An unexpected result of delving into the alternative historical setting of Roma Nova is that it makes me think more about the real world that I live in. Having discovered this book was going to be set in the 1960s, for example, I assumed it would be littered with references to 1960s culture (I’d just read a book with a similar setting that included heaps of contemporary cultural references), and was startled when I realised, a few chapters in, that there had been no mention of the icons of the age – the Beatles, mini skirts, etc.

Then I realised that this was not surprising, given that the jumping off point from actual history for this series was centuries before, so I should not have been surprised. But how would 21st century life be now if the 60s as we know them hadn’t happened – no rock and roll, no free love, no flower power? If you know of an alternative history book that takes that as its starting point, let me know, as I’d love to read it!

Find out more about Alison Morton and her excellent Roma Nova series at her website: www.alison-morton.com.