Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review and Character Interview: A Day of Fire by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Title: A Day of Fire
Authors: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Knight Media, LLC
Publish Date: November  4, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the authors; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?"

My Two Cents:

"A Day of Fire" is a collaborative novel between some of my favorite historical fiction writers that takes place in Pompeii. I have been so excited for this book. I have also been fascinated by Pompeii, as many history lovers are. Each author's story is seamlessly interwoven in with the other stories to create a very dramatic world that is wholly exciting. Each story takes on a different character (some cross from story to story). Those familiar with history know what happens to Pompeii and it makes the perfect setting for some very exciting stories! My fellow historical fiction lovers will eat up this book!

The explosion of Mount Vesuvius and the subsequent destruction of Pompeii still stirs the imagination. Each story within this book looks at a different facet of life in Pompeii. The characters in this book come from all walks of life and it was fascinating to see how each of them deal with their plight in a city that is so close to being destroyed. This book was definitely a page turner for me in that regard.

In this book, we meet warriors, prostitutes, politicians among others and we get a good taste of what their lives were like before, during, and sometimes after the events in Pompeii. I definitely think that one of the greatest strengths of this book is how the authors chose to write the characters. It's amazing how much description they fit in such a small space! You really do get attached to these characters! This was definitely one of those books where I wanted it to keep going when it was finished just so I could stay with the characters for a little bit longer.

I haven't read a lot of collaborative novels and before reading this book, I worried a little bit about how the different stories would mesh and whether or not the book would flow. I had a hunch that at the hands of these specific authors, this book would not fall flat and I was very happy to be proven correct! This was a fantastic read!

Character Interview:

And now I'm very excited to present an interview that I did with some of the fantastic characters in "A Day of Fire." This is the first time that I've done anything like this for A Bookish Affair so without further ado, here are the characters of "A Day of Fire."

1) Caecilius, main character in THE SON, is the 17-year old nephew of the rich and powerful Admiral Pliny. Small and slight, the only time he's comfortable in his skin is when he's in Pompeii in the bed of a very bad girl. He's fallen hard for her and will go to any length to keep her--even if it means turning his back on his uncle and his future as an honorable man.
QUESTION - What was the most frightening thing about Pompeii for you?
Frightening? Nothing! I could barely keep myself away from Pompeii because SHE lived there. I spent most of my time in my uncle's house in Misenum plotting to sneak into Pompeii to spend time in her bed. Frightening? No. Exciting? I couldn't even begin to tell you.
2) Ameilia is the only child of a prosperous wine-merchant. She is days away from marrying her father’s best friend, Sabinus, when THE HEIRESS opens.  A proper Roman girl, Ameilia recognizes that her father has every right to select her husband, and that she has a duty to marry Sabinus.  But when you are fifteen what you know you have to do and what you want to do sometimes collide.
QUESTION-What was it like to live in the Villa of the Mysteries?
Is that what you call it now? How interesting.  While I was living in Pompeii everyone referred to it as the Villa of Lucius Aemilius Lepidus—that’s my father.  He bought it after Nero’s quake.  Being an astute businessman— and given the fact that the villa was damaged—Father was able to get it cheap.  Then he invested a fortune in renovations.  Despite the fact that my great grandfather was a freedman, my family is wealthy and father never spares expense when it comes to the comfort or pleasure of those he loves.  The Villa was intended to be a seaside escape from the heat of the Roman summer.  But two years after Father bought it, and before renovations were completed, Rome burned and Pompeii became our fulltime home.
Pompeii was a glamorous place, but even so the art in our Villa stood out.  Some of it was more than 150 years old.  Imagine art lasting so long.  As a little girl my favorite images were those of the Nile high on the walls in the main atrium.  I’d sit beneath them making up stories about people living among the graceful palm trees and bathing in the vibrant blue water.  Father said the Nile is actually green, and he suspected the artist who painted the frescos never saw it.  But I didn’t care.  Sometimes I told my stories to Father’s friend Sabinus.  He would come and sit on the floor with me when the other adults were too busy.  And, unlike Mother who generally told me to stop being silly when I related my stories, Sabinus always listened politely.
Yes, the frescos in the atrium were my favorite until the renovations for my wedding began.  Once Faustus arrived to restore the paintings in the dining room, that space and the art in it became more to my liking.
3) Rufus, the main character in THE SOLDIER, is a veteran of the Roman legions. Down on his luck, with a penchant for gambling, and in debt to some of the most important men in Pompeii, his entire future depends on the outcome of a bout that his one gladiator is to fight on the day of the eruption.
QUESTION- How did being a former legionary assist you as you attempted to find a way out of Pompeii?
The military discipline that I learned over decades stood me in good stead, helping me not to panic, and to stay focused. Above all, not to accept defeat!
4) Diana of the Cornelii, from THE SENATOR, is an anomaly: a patrician heiress who stayed resolutely unmarried, a Roman girl who learned to drive a four-horse chariot rather than string a loom, a free-wheeling beauty who (thanks to a lenient and absent-minded father) flouts all proper female conventions and lives her life breeding horses and cheering for her favorite team at the Circus Maximus. She's known the upright and intellectual Senator Marcus Norbanus all her life, and bumps into him in Pompeii where she has come to buy a horse.
QUESTION- What do you REALLY think of Senator Marcus Norbanus?
He's the most brilliant man I've ever met, which means he's a crashing bore. It's not an insult; he thinks I'm a crashing bore, too. Except he actually is one. Seriously, the man thinks aqueducts are interesting. He should probably be Emperor, but it will never happen because he's far too principled, and generally speaking principled men have no chance at the purple. I like Marcus, even if I never understand a thing he's talking about. But if you're asking if I'd ever fall in love with him, which you are, because that's what everybody means when they ask a woman what she thinks of a man, then the answer is no. Not in a hundred years. He doesn't like horses and doesn't follow chariot racing, and it's positively un-Roman.
5) Julilla from THE MOTHER is a young, happily married woman, well into the last stage of a pregnancy. Descended of Roman freedman, daughter to a wealthy praetor and married to a senior tribune, she accepts her duties as a wife, daughter and soon-to-be mother even though they are not always what she desires. That is, until Pompeii's sky churns with ash and she is forced to make one of the hardest decisions of her life.
QUESTION:  What was life like for you and your family before Pompeii was destroyed?
Before the destruction of Pompeii, my husband Titus and I had lived in Rome. As most women are, my marriage was arranged for political reasons. Titus is a senior tribune, an aspiring consul and pictures... I'm sorry, I still cannot believe that our lives will never be the same again. Gone are so many... (Julilla takes a deep steadying breath, her chin rising.) Titus pictured himself as a cursus honorum in Rome. And I think he would have achieved it had he been allowed. I was proud of him. Am proud still. My father is--well, was--a wealthy praetor. He had many political ambitions, and so aligned me to Titus' family. Growing up, he took me around Pompeii, showed me off. We had money, slaves, a beautiful villa. Our house was always filled with guests, dinner parties, political parties--even during the renovations. Father was renovating much of the house, wanting to show off his wealth and position. I was always closer to my father than my mother. She was unwell much of the time, both of body and mind. (Julilla waves away the unpleasantness of such talk.) When Titus insisted we move back to Rome, I was...resistant. I would miss my family--and I did, especially my youngest brother Quintus who was like a son to me. I was thrilled when Father and Titus insisted I return to Pompeii to take in the sea air, away from the bustle of Rome to birth this new babe... (Tears fill Julilla's eyes and she blinks them away.) Life before our beloved city was destroyed... It was glorious. Beautiful. Powerful. Magical. (Her throat bobs as she swallows and she strokes the swell of her pregnant belly.) Well, I must be getting back to my family. I'm certain they are wondering where I am... (The vision of her shimmers, quivers on the wind, and then she is gone.)
6) Prima, from THE WHORE, is a hard-nosed, opportunist whose difficult life as a tavern whore has given her a jaded outlook on life and love. She’s being romanced by an innocent young patrician and blackmailed by the aedile.
QUESTION--What is it like to be a prostitute in Pompeii? What's the best part of your job? What about the worst?
I’m a meretrix—a registered whore, all good and proper, so that no freeborn man might ever make the mistake of marrying me. And it’s no different than any other job for a slave. Feed them, fuck them, wash their clothes, clean up their piss and shit, draw their baths of milk … it doesn’t matter. It’s just work. And whoring is the easiest work there is. You just lay there if you’re lazy. Use your mouth if you want it over quick.
The only good thing is when a man buys you a sweet, or a hot loaf of bread from the oven. But usually, it’s some pathetic boy trying to find love by piddling his seed on my thighs. That’s the worst. The sweet boys and the talkers who want to convince themselves that paying a girl to drain their balls is somehow different than paying her to empty a piss pot. 
But a slave is a slave. If I wasn’t selling myself to men, some perfumed empress would probably be using my back for a footstool.

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