Liberty - by Kimberley
Celtic warrior blood flowed in her veins, but as a gladiatrix-slave in Londinium's arena, Rhyddes was nothing more than a wild thing in a gilded cage. Yet though her Roman masters owned her body, she swore that none would claim her soul. How was it, then, that Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, noble son of the Roman governor, could make her yearn for things beyond her reach?
Famed as "The Eagle," Aquila preferred the purity of combat on the amphitheatre sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics--and the raw power and grace of the flame-haired Rhyddes to the simpering wiles of Rome's noblewomen. And when dark designs for power threaten to ensnare the two of them in a plot to overthrow Caesar himself, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart.and the empire to which they both owe allegiance.
"Liberty" by Kimberley Iverson is published by HQN - "we are romance." I'll admit to being slightly sceptical about this, expecting nothing more than a Mills and Boon exercise with standard romance characters dressed in Roman cloth - more costume drama than historical adventure. Not that there's anything wrong with Romance Historicals, they're just not my cup of tea.
Or at least, they weren't until I read "Liberty." Iverson, I think, has transcended HQN's genre, producing a pacey, action-packed work of epic proportions (it weighs in at hefty 485 pages, and is worth every penny of the price tag). I love the premise - Iverson, inspired by the Dover Street Woman findings, decided that the gladiatrix deserved a back story, and provides it here in satisfying spades.
Anyone who knows their history will realise that "Liberty" is painstakingly researched; and anyone who doesn't won't need to - a testament of Iverson's skill as a writer. There's more than enough in there to keep visitors to this website happy - the action scenes don't hold back - they're bloody, brutal and realistic as they should be, but never gratuitous. Conversely, the love story between Rhyddes and Aquilla is never cloying or overdone; it's a realistic take on love across the social divide.
One of "Liberty's" greatest strengths is the array of rich and fully-realised supporting characters; in many books it's easy to focus on the main protagonists and forget about the rest, but Iverson does not allow that. Indeed, the villain of her piece is a sympathetic character in the end. Certainly, his actions and his goals are totally understandable; you or I would do the same thing in his place, and this raises him far above the level of moustache-twirling bad-guy. Addionally, I think that the cover-blurb does one of the characters (Messenia) a bit of disservice. She is far from a simpering Roman noble woman, and indeed, she was one of my favourite characters. The same can be said of Aquila's mother - understanding, yes - simpering - not in the least.
If I had one criticism of "Liberty," it would be the employment of archaic dialogue when the scenes are from Rhyddes' point of view. Certainly, I can see the literary device employed here, and this style does differentiate Celt from Roman. It's a personal choice, I guess - "mayhap" and "'twas" and other such expressions aren't necessary in what is such a great book - at least in my view. However, that said, its really minor point didn't detract from the enjoyment of the work.
Iverson's biographical notes say that "Liberty" is the first of what she hopes to be many offerings romance community. I suspect this tag has more to do with HQN than Iverson herself. "Liberty" is far more than a romance novel, and to brand it as one limits its appeal. It is a fine piece of fiction that manages to successfully cross over two genres in a satisfactory manner. A well-researched novel that deserves a place on any fan of the historical genre's shelf, I would advise anyone that visits this website to purchase a copy - you will not be disappointed!
Liberty is available from www.amazon.co.uk and www.amazon.com