Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Knife of Narcissus by Carolyne Chand

Title: A Knife for Narcissus Parts I and II
Author: Carolyne Chand
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Cover Artist: unknown
Genre: Historical, ancient Rome
Length: 41k
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf

Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumes that the chaotic days of Nero are behind them. Lucius may be only the son of a merchant, but his newly arranged marriage to an older widow will bring powerful connections and a settled life--if he keepshimself on a respectable path. His heart lies somewhere not at all respectable: his lifelong friend Trio, the reserved and serious son of one of the most reserved and pious families in the city. And his new wife, Velleia, has plans and secrets of her own. As Lucius is pushed along the course of duty to family, to his promised spouse, and to Rome itself, he begins to see under the surface of his city, into a net of intrigues, manipulation, and corruption that can carry him upward in status and bring him what he wants...or destroy both him and the people he loves.

Warnings: explicit sexual scenes and language, m/m, m/m/m, some f/m, reference to dubious consent in an historical context, themes of sexual abuse recovery, themes of infertility, non-exclusivity and (consenting and mutual) marital infidelity. And after all that, two HFNs.

Parts 1 and 2
Lucius Sentius assumes the debauched days of Nero are over. Marriage will bring powerful connections if he keeps to a respectable path. That seems impossible when he discovers that his heart lies somewhere not at all respectable. As he is pushed along the course of duty, he begins to see under the surface of his city, to intrigues and corruption that can carry him upward in power...or destroy him. (A serial novel in 7 parts.)


Here are the first two parts of a much larger work—I appreciate that the serial nature of the work was disclosed up front. I’m intrigued now and want to read the rest. Parts 1 and 2 are packaged together, the rest are individually sold and eventually there will be a compilation. I may not want to wait that long.

The ancient city of Rome jumps off the page in all its smelly, imperial glory: the author creates a vivid sense of place and also a vivid sense of attitude. What young boys can play at can’t be tolerated in adult men, though slaves can be used and then sent back to work. Lucius, who wishes his best friend Trio would respond to him with the same ardency he feels, is walking a perilous tightrope. Married to a widow who doesn’t entirely care for the straightjacket of her place in society, Lucius has to first decide his desires and then how to fulfill them. What he wants most is something he’s not allowed to have. Trio (the three part Roman names are usually used shortened) has a very strict sense of propriety—his own desires keep him from reaching out in return, and he’s kind of disgusted at some of what his friend has gotten up to.

If you’re looking for a straightforward romance, this isn’t it. Nero’s death is less than twenty years in the past, with the decadence that implies faded only a little, on top of the historical sense that wives don’t impede a man’s pleasures in other quarters. Lucius gets quite a lot of experience in these sections.

The stage has been set for many adventures—the players are established and many tension lines have been drawn. I’m not a scholar of the period but everything feels very real, so read for the historical drama.

I hate to grade on a partial work, so this is a little tough. I will revisit when I finish the rest, but it’s a good solid 4 marbles to get you started.

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