It is in October that the tale of the three priestesses in Fire and Sacrifice begins, so this October 2133 years later my monthly post goes back to the beginning.

It is 114BC Rome: 114 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, before Caesar, before Antony and Cleopatra, the emperors, the Colosseum, and before Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash.

It is mid Autumn. As the days shorten and the evenings cool, the priestesses’ sacred fire takes on greater import as Romans and their slaves and servants are drawn to her warmth.

Before there was a temple in this little corner of the bustling and famous Roman Forum, there was a campfire. From even before the time Romulus and his men made camp and built a fire for warmth and to cook the spoils of a hunt, this fire was survival.

In the coming Winter where the nights can drop to zero degrees, it would keep them alive.

Very quickly they came to cherish it.

Very quickly it became vital to be able to keep it aflame, and to use it to revive the fires of the new camps and clans growing around them should they be in need.

The new Romans protected their fire from wind and rain, with walls and a roof. Archaeological excavations have found the remains of wooden postholes at the Temple of Vesta that date back to 600 or 700BC.

They protected it later with stone. They named the fire a goddess, Vesta, and the shelter her temple. They raised an alter, and used the fire to cleanse their sacrifices to other gods, too.

The fire came to represent the beating heart of Rome itself. And, just as the campfire signals to the soldier, explorer, hunter, nomad that home has survived and waits safely, so the hearth in the Temple of Vesta in the centre of Rome symbolised no less that the very survival of the Roman empire.

And they would kill their most beloved, to protect that.

Here, in October 2133 years later, begins the story of the princess-priestess Aemilia and her servant Secunda.

Click here to get a copy of Fire and Sacrifice.

Did you realise that connecting with you, my readers, is the whole reason I write?

I’m thrilled to see that 50 people have marked Fire and Sacrifice ‘to read’ on Goodreads and another 10 are reading right now.

Okay so they’re not Dan Brown or Philippa Gregory numbers, but they are ours – yours and mine – and this is where it all begins.

If you’re one of those, or one of the hundreds who have already purchased on Amazon or in bookstores, I would love to hear how you enjoyed the read.

Please, take a few minutes to leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or where ever else you like to review – or connect with me right here. And/or spread the word! I’m all for passing books around – go ahead!

And thank you. Really truly. V

Delighted to be included in the Historical Novel Society Australasia’s reviews and the May 2019 edition of their print magazine, Historical Novels Review. It’s an honour to have been chosen for reading, and a bit of a personal goal, so if I can have a little moment: ‘woohoo!’.

Big thanks to the Society’s reviewer J Lynn Else for her comments.

“The author does a great job bringing the setting and political atmosphere to life. Exploring the inner workings of the vestal virgins is a delight.”

I always value feedback from readers and reviewers: it’s forever interesting to see how different people react to the story and the storytelling style! Always a rife creative decision whether to write using the ancient historical phrasing, or provide a modernisation to try make the time period feel more accessible to readers. I went with the latter and had loads of fun playing around with pushing the boundaries on dialogue in historical fiction. Would love to hear what others thought of that!

Please share your views, I’d love to hear them.

Historical fiction lovers can check out the Historical Novel Society on Facebook here.

Just had to share this reader review by fellow historical fiction writer Sherry Christie, posted to Goodreads and Amazon. Glad you loved it, Sherry!

Overall, FIRE AND SACRIFICE is amazing. I believe it’s Collins’s debut novel. More, more! 

Victoria Collins’s FIRE AND SACRIFICE starts off at a breathless pace with the frantic slavegirl Secunda being dragged across Rome by her owner’s two sons, who intend to throw her off the Tarpeian Rock for an offense she denies. By chance they cross paths with a Vestal Virgin, who by law can pardon a condemned criminal on the spot. Secunda is instantly dazzled by the Vestal, Aemilia, who orders her release. 

The girl flees from her disgruntled accusers in a wonderful passage of helter-skelter terror: “I ran like a wild thing, flapping and flailing like a hen before the axe. I ran to the Tarpeian Rock, on the hill above the forum. I don’t know why. I threw up there. I ran from the rock to the Temple of Jupiter, looming behind me big as a god. I ran round behind it, away from its glare, back along the massive foundation stones and down the escarpment, through the bush like wildfire, leaping over logs and onto rocks, jumping hollows and charging through shrubs, sliding crawling falling all the way down to the road.”

Later Secunda sneaks to the House of the Vestals, where to her immense delight she is taken in and given a position as cook to Aemilia and the five other Vestals. Her facial disfigurement, dating from a fall into the kitchen fire as a toddler, doesn’t matter to these kindly women. Recruited in girlhood to tend the eternal flame of the goddess Vesta until their retirement at the end of 30 years, the Vestals’ devotion is regarded by superstitious Romans as an essential factor in retaining the favor of the gods. Alas, when the survivors of a terrible military defeat struggle back to the city, official fingers point to the Vestals’ somehow having failed in their duty of chastity and fidelity. The ending is one that will stick with you for some time.

Collins writes lyrical descriptions (“It was the gods’ hour. That hour before dawn when the moon has made its arc and the sky is deep turquoise as the light slowly warms . . . . Gods and spirits are better heard, and sneak most easily through as we sleep”), interspersed with startlingly unrefined dialogue (“The Arab huh? Really? Shit,” says the Pontifex Maximus). The abrasiveness of modern vernacular, coupled with Collins’s device of stitching in relevant excerpts from real historians, forces the reader into the reality of what’s happening. It’s a daring approach for an author to take, but it works.

I did note that oranges, pumpkins, and butter wouldn’t have been in Secunda’s pantry around 114 BC. And one or two terms were baffling (“Terentia was ropable: at the girls and at the gods,” and somebody “faffing about,” which I think we Yanks call “piddling around”). [hmm interesting note, Sherri – I did check these in my research but let’s check again. I suspect ‘faffing’ is an Aussie term? VC]

Overall, FIRE AND SACRIFICE is amazing. I believe it’s Collins’s debut novel. More, more!

For Sherry Christie’s own work including Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula’s Rome and Villa of the Mysteries: A Novella of Nero and the God Dionysus  check out her website www.roma-amor.com.

3It’s here! Fire and Sacrifice is now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally share the book with you. As an introductory offer, and to share it with as many people as possible, the e-book is available FREE for the first three days.

Get it today, and please share this link with friends and family who might enjoy the story.

Your Amazon links:

Much love, Victoria.