Read an excerpt HERE. Click on image to buy PERFIDITAS.


Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy INCEPTIO. Amazon bestseller

Women in combat roles?

Womansoldier_MOD statisticsI don’t want to sound specious, but I could say, ’They’ll be making them bishops next.’ Oh, they just did that.

UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, announced on 19 December that he wanted to end the army’s ban on women serving in frontline infantry roles in the British Army by 2016. He pointed out that women were already deployed on the frontline of the air force and police. “There are women flying fighter bombers at the moment over Iraq and I don’t think it is right now to exclude women from considering any role that they want to apply for.”

Many women currently serve in the British Army in front line combat roles as medics, engineers, intelligence, communication and logistics experts. Initial training for male and female recruits is carried out to a common military syllabus in mixed units where they learn basic infantry/fieldcraft skills, weapon handling, communications skills, values and standards, self-discipline and professionalism, then go on to specialist training for their chosen trade in the same framework.

This is, in my eyes, a normalisation. No person willing to die for their country should be barred from any role purely on gender grounds. I served in a mixed unit with mixed education, abilities and temperaments. The esprit de corps and bonding were based on shared purpose, experience and achievements. The only criterion was ability to do the job.

But there are several points to consider…

–  Not all women military are gagging to become ground close infantry where abrasive close quarter combat is the prime requirement. But those who want to should be able to.

–  As with any role, the person must be up to the job specification and strongly motivated. Physiologically, women’s physical strengths are distributed differently. From my time in uniform I observed that although sometimes not as fast as men, women often had more stamina and endurance. Equality cuts both ways. Women will have to fulfil the high level of overall physical fitness demanded of the infantry specialist. There should be no concession.

–  The standard ‘girlies will weep on the battlefield and go to pieces if their hair gets messy’ excuse shows how little faith people have in the extensive and intensive training of modern soldiers, whatever their mental and emotional make-up. In my own time in uniform in a specialist communications unit, I’ve seen solders of both sexes come unglued during exercises, as well as observed extraordinary fighting spirit and determination demonstrated by women as well as men.

–  Operational effectiveness of any unit must be the overriding principle. Although consisting of trained soldiers, any unit from brigade down to detail level consists of people with differing abilities, strengths and experience. Skills, application, mental toughness and ability to think clearly under stress are as important in a technologically advanced military force as pure physical strength.

Opening up these roles to women will also lead the armed forces to re-examine their training methodologies, something that could benefit for all soldiers. Change is often a trigger for all-round improvement in any organisation.

But at the back of my mind, a little nag repeats itself – that old prejudice against ‘girls with guns’. Currently, armed women can serve on the front line, but not where the primary aim is to ‘close with and kill the enemy’. Is there still something lurking in the back of the male psyche that finds it difficult to deal with a woman who is prepared to fire a weapon with the intent of wounding or killing? And suppose she actually pulls the trigger?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out about Roma Nova news, writing tips and info by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

Saturnalia surprise - a winter party tale (and giveaway!)

2014-ChristmasPartyBlogHopWhatever your take on midwinter, there’s always a celebration and authors love to party! Historical fiction author Helen Hollick has arranged a terrific bash. 

When you’ve read my contribution below, hop over and take a virtual glass with some of the others – list and links below. You could be in medieval England, Revolutionary America or in amongst metrosexuals. But don’t hop off before you’ve read this…

Ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia rather than Christmas, and 21st century Roma Novans are no different. Here we join the  Roma Novan Mitela family on a snowy day as they are preparing their Saturnalia feast. Welcome to the party!

From the journal of Carina Mitela
Roma Nova, 17 December – Saturnalia

Temple of Saturn

Temple of Saturn, Rome

“Thirty-six hours later, we were snowed in. The newsies were having a field day with their graphs and charts. The ploughs and tractors were out soon enough despite it being an official holiday and were attempting to keep the main city roads cleared.

Although most of the public Saturnalia celebrations were cancelled, the priests would make the usual grand sacrifice and invoke Saturn’s blessings. I pitied them today; it was a Greek rite and they’d have to shiver in sleeveless fringed tunics, with heads bare instead of a warm woollen toga snuggly folded over the head. It was a sure bet they’d turn up the heating in the Temple of Saturn and have every open brazier burning hard.

My husband, Conrad, and our youngest daughter, Tonia, sat in silence at breakfast. Our eldest, Allegra, had called first thing to say she would join us just after two when she finished her shift. She looked tired on the screen; hopefully she’d get some sleep before tomorrow. She’d been called in with the rest of the military to help ensure vital services were kept running.

‘I’ll be there, Mama, as long as there are no further disturbances in the city.’

‘What do you mean “disturbances”?’

Modern Roma Nova soldier‘Unfortunately,’ she said in the driest tone I’d ever heard her use, ‘some people seem to think the custodes concentrating on the bad weather crisis means they can help themselves to what’s in the shops. I’ve been freezing my, er, extremities off in the Macellum district all night. We came across some kids with a crowbar in front of a smashed window, pulling stuff out of an electrical goods shop. The alarm was going, but so were others. As soon as they saw us, though, they ran like the Furies were after them.’ She chuckled.

The sight of half a dozen Praetorians marching towards you with intent and attitude would make anybody run.

‘But they’ve opened the basilica for the public banquet. My oppo, Sergilia, has caught guard duty there,’ she added, making a face. The law court hall was huge and could accommodate up to a thousand. But good luck to those trying to keep order.

After checking last details with the steward for the celebration meal later, I retreated to my office for an hour to check my messages and that nobody had found my stash of gifts for the 23rd. Sigillaria was important not just for the kids who loved new toys, but when adults gave each other something to compensate for the excesses that would surely happen today.

Normally on Saturnalia morning, my cousin Helena and I would sip a glass of champagne and exchange jokes and snippets of gossip. She had more than a finger on the pulse of city life; its lifeblood ran through her. She’d also forewarn me about any particularly risqué activities the household were planning for today.

Ceding my place at the head of the Mitela tribe for a day to the princeps Saturnalicius was all well and good, but even misrule and chaos had its limit as far as I was concerned. But for a few hours, the house would be overrun with noise, people, stupid but fun dares, overeating, games, theatricals and stand-up of dubious taste, arguments, falling in lust, laughter and progressive drunkenness. Helena would make sure the children were safe out of the way when the horseplay became a little too raunchy.

SaturnaliaBy early afternoon the atrium blazed with light. Everywhere was covered in ferns, spruce and pine. In the centre was a large square table covered with linen, silverware, glasses, candles and the best china. I smelt roast pork, lemons and spices. In tune with the reversal of the day Junia, the steward, was enthroned in my usual place. Conrad handed me a glass of champagne. He was on waiter duty. His Saturnalia tunic was bright orange. He shrugged. Then grinned. Wearing over-colourful clothes was traditional, but a strain on the eyes.

‘It’s only for a day,’ he whispered.

‘I know,’ and smiled back. ‘But I wish Gil had been able to make it.’

Our thirteen-year-old son had been staying in the country with Conrad’s cousin and was caught in the atrocious weather. We’d be lucky to see him before Sigillaria. Gil loved the madness of Saturnalia. My geeky son would turn into a shiny-eyed imp of mischief, darting around, laughing and joking, pulling pranks I didn’t know he knew. Now he’d be holed up with Conrad’s serious cousin for days. I only hoped they had enough food and the electricity hadn’t been cut, like the phone.

‘Well, Tonia’s having fun.’ Conrad pointed to her skipping between people with trays of hors d’oeuvres, watched anxiously by the steward’s son, and me. I could see at least one of the trays coming to grief, contents slithering across the marble floor.

Io Saturnalia!’

I blinked at the hearty shout from the household and guests gathered around and raised my glass, then bowed towards the steward. She went to speak, but a blast of cold air and a loud thud interrupted her. All heads turned towards the atrium doors, now open. Allegra, in her military fatigues and winter parka, cheeks burning with the indoor heat, tore off her field cap and shouted, ‘Io Saturnalia’.

Everybody shouted back, the noise filling the atrium. I hugged her to me, ignoring the cold and wet of her thick coat.

‘I’ve brought you something else, Mama,’ she whispered in my ear and nodded towards the double doors. On the threshold stood a lanky boy – pale, shivering and wide-eyed. He was enveloped in a survival blanket.


‘I found him trudging through the city,’ Allegra said. ‘He’s walked the ten kilometres from Brancadorum to get here and –.’

But I didn’t hear the rest of what she said. I ran to the door and crushed him in my arms.

Io Saturnalia, indeed!”


Leave a comment below by 12 noon UK time on 31 December to win a signed paperback of PERFIDITAS, the second in the Roma Nova series, where betrayal infuses the air and our heroine is caught between the light and dark.


Now, party on! 

  1. Helen Hollick “You are Cordially Invited to a Ball” (plus a giveaway prize) –
  2. Alison Morton “Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale”  (plus a giveaway prize) –
  3. Andrea Zuvich No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell –
  4. Ann Swinfen Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates –
  5. Anna Belfrage All I want for Christmas (plus a giveaway prize) –
  6. Carol Cooper How To Be A Party Animal –
  7. Clare Flynn A German American Christmas –
  8. Debbie Young Good Christmas Housekeeping (plus a giveaway prize) –
  9. Derek Birks The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble –
  10. Edward James An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest – and
  11. Fenella J Miller Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize) –
  12. J L Oakley Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize) –
  13. Jude Knight Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 –
  14. Julian Stockwin Join the Party –
  15. Juliet Greenwood Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) –
  16. Lauren Johnson Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts –
  17. Lucienne Boyce A Victory Celebration –
  18. Nancy Bilyeau Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize) –
  19. Nicola Moxey The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 –
  20. Lindsay Downs O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree (plus a giveaway prize) –
  21. Peter St John Dummy’s Birthday –
  22. Regina Jeffers Celebrating a Regency Christmas  (plus a giveaway prize) –
  23. Richard Abbott The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit –
  24. Saralee Etter Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast –
  25. Stephen Oram Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement… (plus a giveaway prize) –
  26. Suzanne Adair The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 (plus a giveaway prize) –

More about Saturnalia here

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out about Roma Nova news, writing tips and info by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

Christmas reading - first in historical fiction series

Falling in love with a set of characters, a location and a period is a wonderful thing. Finding there is a series featuring the same three is heaven. You can plunge back into your favourite characters’ world and find out what happened next. You may want to grab a few moments’ peace during the festivities. Here’s a selection of first-in-series books that you may enjoy…

The Disappearing Dowry by Libi Astaire

The Disappearing Dowry When a crime wave sweeps through 19th-century London’s Jewish community, wealthy widower Ezra Melamed is forced to turn sleuth. His first adventure involves the mystery of The Disappearing Dowry: a family fortune is stolen, dashing the marriage hopes of a young lady—unless Mr. Melamed can find the thief before the young man’s family hears about her misfortune.

The Ezra Melamed Mystery Series currently has four full-length novels and two novellas, with the latest novel being The Doppelganger’s Dance.

Read more about the series at Libi’s website.
Buy the book at


Kydd by Julian Stockwin

KYDDKYDD is the first in the Thomas Kydd series of historical adventure fiction set in the Age of Fighting Sail. In KYDD, a young wigmaker from Guildford is press-ganged into the Navy; despite the harsh reality aboard a man-o’-war he finds he is drawn to the sea life and takes up the challenge to become a true sailor.

The following titles take the reader on the rest of one man’s journey from pressed man to admiral – 15 titles published to date, of a projected 21.

Read more  at Julian’s website.
Buy the book from Amazon (US and UK).


 Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

SEA WITCH In this first voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, we learn that our hero has been a pirate from the age of fifteen. Then he meets Tiola (a healer, midwife and white witch) and his life changes  forever. But there comes a day when he has to choose; the woman he loves, or his ship…? Swashbuckling adult nautical adventure that is a blend of Hornblower, Indiana Jones, Richard Sharpe and James Bond – with a dash of Jack Sparrow thrown for that extra bit of sexy spice.

There are three more ‘Voyages’ so far – Pirate Code, Bring It Close and Ripples In The Sand, with the fifth, On The Account to be published early in 2015.

Read more at Helen’s blog.
Buy the book from Amazon (UK and US).


Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray 

Lily of the NileHeiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra, to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother’s dreams.  And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

A 3 book series including Lily Of The Nile, Song Of The Nile and Daughters Of The Nile

Connect with Stephanie on her site.
Buy the book (choice of retailers).


When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior’s Path by Catherine M Wilson

The Warrior's PathTamras arrives in Merin’s house to begin her apprenticeship as a warrior, but her small stature causes many, including Tamras herself, to doubt that she will ever become a competent swordswoman. Worse, the Lady Merin assigns her the lowly position of companion to a woman who came to Merin’s house, seemingly out of nowhere, the previous winter. This stranger wants nothing to do with Tamras.

When Women Were Warriors is a trilogy – Book II: A Journey of the Heart and Book III: A Hero’s Tale

Read more about the series. Book I is permanently free on Amazon UK and Amazon US.


The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Crown coverThis first in series introduces strong-minded Sister Joanna Stafford and follows her dangerous quest to find a Dark Ages relic during the turbulent reign of Henry VIII.

The second novel, The Chalice, won the RT Reviews Award for Best Historical Mystery of 2013. The third and final book in the trilogy, The Tapestry, will be published in March 2015.

Read more at Nancy’s website.
Buy the book from


A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage #1 in The Graham Saga

9781781321676-Cover.inddOn a muggy August day in 2002, Alexandra Lind was unexpectedly thrown backwards in time, landing in the Year of Our Lord 1658. Catapulted into an unfamiliar and frightening new existence, Alex could do nothing but adapt – how fortunate that Matthew Graham was around to help her!

Seven books on, and in Whither Thou Goest Alex and Matthew face new adventures in a 17th century Caribbean setting.

Find out more on
Buy the book (Amazon US).


The Midwife’s Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess by Linda Root

OL EAfter the Queen of Scots flees to England in 1568, her mortal enemy, the Earl of Morton, searches the shores of Loch Leven for human remains hoping to disprove rumours that one of the twins the queen allegedly miscarried survived. A child named Marguerite Kirkcaldy is kept hidden from outsiders by Abbess  Renée de Guise, Marie Stuart’s aunt, who suppresses evidence that the knight Kirkcaldy never sired a child named Marguerite. Who is La Belle Ecossaise and who wish her dead?

There are a total of three books in the  Legacy of the Queen of Scots series to date including 1603: The Queen’s Revenge, and a fourth coming in January.

Read more about the  author at
Buy the book at


The Bride Prize: Allan’s Miscellany 1839 by Sandra Schwab

Schwab-TheBridePrize-kleinA medieval tournament in Victorian Britain, two unlikely lovers, a very grumpy editor, and an unfortunate dearth of umbrellas: In their first adventure, the reporters of Allan’s Miscellany travel to Scotland to attend the infamous Eglinton Tournament of 1839.

So far, there are three novellas in the series, with the latest being Devil’s Return and more to come in 2015.

Visit Sandra’s website to find out more.
Buy the book at (currently free).


Feud by Derek Birks

FeudCover_sm1459 – The Wars of the Roses have brought chaos to England. Ambitious lords, like the Radcliffe family, seize the moment to overcome local rivals, in this case the Elders. With their father and older brother dead, it falls to young Ned Elder and his sisters to fight back. But they are young, they make mistakes and they will need help if they are to survive the feud.

Feud is the beginning of a story – the story of the Elder family’s struggle through the Wars of the Roses – and the story continues in A Traitor’s Fate and Kingdom of Rebels, the second and third books of the 4-book series, Rebels & Brothers.

Find out more at Derek’s website.
Buy the book at Amazon UK.


Britannia’s Wolf by Antoine Vanner

Britannia's Wolf1877 and the Russo-Turkish War is reaching its climax. To protect Britain’s strategic interests an ambitious British naval officer, Nicholas Dawlish, is assigned to the Ottoman Navy to ravage Russian supply-lines in the Black Sea. In the depths of a savage winter, Dawlish confronts enemy ironclads, Cossack lances and merciless Kurdish irregulars, and finds himself a pawn in the rivalry of the Sultan’s half-brothers for control of the collapsing empire. And unexpectedly, Dawlish finds himself drawn to a woman whom he believes he should not love…

Read more about the Dawlish Chronicles.
Buy the book at


Sultana by Lisa J Yarde

Sultana ebookIn thirteenth-century Moorish Spain, the realm of Granada is in crisis as a royal wedding destroys a fragile alliance between families. When bitter civil war threatens the bride’s and groom’s future, they discover the bounds of love, trust and family.

The Sultana series will comprise a total of six novels. The fourth,  Sultana: The Bride Price is available now.

Visit Lisa’s website to find out more.
Buy Lisa’s books.


And here’s me…

INCEPTIO by Alison Morton

BRAG_INCEPTIOHunted by a killer, New Yorker Karen Brown flees to Roma Nova, her mother’s mysterious homeland. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, but the killer pursues her and sets a trap knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

The first of three books. Numbers four, five and six are in the pipeline…

You are already on my blogsite!
Buy INCEPTIO here (numerous retailers)




Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out about Roma Nova news, writing tips and info by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.


Roman counts

Carina portraitCarina, the heroine of the first three Roma Nova books, has an honorary title of ‘Countess Carina’ as her grandmother’s heir. As the head of the family/tribe, Aurelia is called ‘Countess Mitela’. Now why do the descendants of Romans have these titles? And how does the relationship work between the imperatrix, the ruler of Roma Nova and the leading families?

For much of the Roman civilisation, people’s, i.e. men’s, status was denoted by the antiquity of their family, whether they were patricians, plebs, equites, nobiles, novi homines, etc. Power came through connections, wealth and political or other influence. Kings had existed in early Rome, but royalty had been thoroughly renounced in 509 BC when Tarquinius Superbus was thrown out. Military leaders were granted the title of ‘imperator’ as the need arose, but power was in the hands of the consuls, senators, tribunes.



Until Augustus.

He maintained he was merely a ‘princeps’, the first amongst men, but he was the first of many emperors, who were kings in all but name. In the late Roman Empire, the emperors became more autocratic and remote, and established the practice of personally appointing loyal servants to key posts, resulting in the creation of the rank of ‘comes’, (pron. co-mays, plural comites).

The comites became leading officials of the later Roman Empire, from the army to the civil service, but always retained their direct links and access to the emperors. Constantine took the final step of certifying the posts, as comites provinciarum, “counts of the provinces”. You can find a full list for the beginning of the fifth century in the Notitia dignitatum.

Roman governor

Senior Roman officials (Trajan’s column)

Emperor Theodosius – the one who banned all pagan worship in 395 AD and started the Roma Nova story – served as a young man in Britain with his father who was the Comes Britanniarum, tasked with the defence of Roman Britain (Britannia). This post expired circa AD 410, when the last Roman troops left.

The Roma Novans in my novels had been led by Apulius who was elected as leader and given the traditional title of imperator (war leader) by the twelve heads of families who trekked out of Rome with him. They became his comites, or companions, pledged to support and serve him. It was no mere hierarchical arrangement; in the early, grim times when they founded their new country, it was a case of ‘hang together or hang apart’. They needed a bonding mechanism to stay united to fight off outsiders.

The companions went on to found the Twelve Families, and formed the basis of the imperial council which advises the imperatrix, and functions as a check and balance to her executive power. In English, the title of comes becomes count/countess.

Roma Nova vexilloidThe head of each of the Twelve Families gives an honorific title and a measure of power and responsibility to their heir, so that in the event of sudden demise, the transfer of power and responsibility to the new head of family is, in theory, smooth. Since the earliest times, the leader of each of the Twelve Families is personally accountable for their family members’ behaviour and is also expected to respond positively if the imperatrix asks them to carry out a task or mission.

So there you have it, chapter and verse!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out about Roma Nova news, writing tips and info by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.

In The Bookseller - editor's choice

TheBooksellerI was stunned to see that SUCCESSIO had been selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller‘s inaugural Indie Preview on Friday.

I was checking Twitter – having a break after wrestling with an article – and saw my name mentioned by  journalist, Porter Anderson, associate editor for — the world community for digital development in publishing, and part of The Bookseller. Clever and insightful, his tweets are always worth reading. I stopped, read it and clicked through.

 Surprised? Excited? Dull words for how I felt.

Here’s what they said:

“Carina Mitela is the heir within a leading family, but has chosen the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband’s lost daughter, a youthful indiscretion turns into a nightmare which threatens to attack the core of the imperial family itself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this classy thriller, the third in Morton’s epic series set in Roma Nova, a breakaway Roman colony established in AD395, which has survived to the present day. The series came about because the author—a self-confessed “Ancient Roman nut”—wondered what a modern Roman society run by women would look like.”

SUCCESSIO at SaturnaliaThe Bookseller is the UK publishing trade magazine and has taken an innovative step, in conjunction with Nook, in introducing the Indie Preview. I am so proud that SUCCESSIO was included in the inaugural selection.

Here’s the full post on The Bookseller site.


UPDATE: Here’s the follow-up post on The Bookseller site with details of the discussion about the preview and self-published/indie fiction standards required for success.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out.

Find out about Roma Nova news, writing tips and info by signing up for my free monthly email newsletter.