Monday, August 20, 2012

Suzanne Tyrpak - Vestal Virgins

Vestal Virgins
Suspense in Ancient Rome

By Suzanne Tyrpak

Kindle Edition Available 

Product Description (from Amazon) 

Publication Date: December 11, 2010

Vestal Virgin--suspense in ancient Rome
Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in Rome. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but the emperor, Nero, holds himself above the law. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? She stumbles on dark secrets. No longer trusting Roman gods, she follows a new god, Jesus of Nazareth, jeopardizing her life and the future of The Roman Empire. (From the "Tales from the Adytum" collection.) 336 pages.

Please note: Due to the setting and the times, the book includes several scenes involving deviant sex--suggestive rather than graphic--and not more than a few paragraphs.

About the Author (from Amazon)

About seven years ago (before my divorce, when I had some expendable income) I traveled to Rome with a group of writers. I fell in love with Italy, Rome in particular. A travel book I read contained a short blurb about vestal virgins; it mentioned they were sworn to thirty years of chastity and, if that vow were broken, they would be entombed alive. That got me going! Plus, on a tour of the Coliseum, a guide pointed out the seats designated to the vestal virgins--the six priestess of Vesta were educated, and therefore powerful, at a time when most women weren't even taught to read.

I traveled to Rome twice, and on my second trip I hired a scholar who specialized in the year I'm writing about, A.D. 63-64, to give me a tour of the Forum. One of the most useful books I found was History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome, published in 1934 by T. Cato Worsfold. I also wrote to Colleen McCullough, and she was kind enough to write back. She gave me the name of an out-of-print book that I've used a lot, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, by H.H. Scullard. I have shelves of books about Roman history and Paul of Tarsus. Very little has been written about vestal virgins--but that gave me quite a bit of leeway. After all, I'm writing fiction!

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Rachel

When I came across this book on the free lists, I hesitated to pick it up.  I knew Nero would be pretty bad, even if the author was able to gloss over how evil he really was.  But then I saw in the description that the vestal virgin converted to the religion of Paul of Tarsus, so I read a few reviews.  Seeing the annoyance that this was a “religious book”, I decided to take a chance.

While the story line itself was compelling, the characters were mostly believable, and historical accuracy was maintained, still, I did not like this book overall.  The details given to Nero were far more explicit than really was necessary, and the Paul of this story was not the Paul that I read about in my Bible.  If you believe that there is good in all of us and we all have god in us and just need to find our god goodness inside of us and each other, and if you believe that communion means eating real blood, then perhaps you will agree with this portion of the book.  Still, it was the weakest part of the storyline, and for me, even more distasteful than the parts about Nero.

The plot was really simple, although the execution of the plot was more involved.  The plot goes like this.... Girl loves a man she cannot have due to her “great position”.  In this case, it is Elissa and she has pledged 30 years of her life to being a vestal virgin, she loves a family friend and writes many letters to him.  A member of the girl’s family is betrayed by a family friend.  Nero accuses her brother of treason, and has him killed in the gladiator arena.  Girl is pursued by the family friend, in an attempt to take what is not his.  Nero wants her, and will stop at nothing, not even her vows of virginity, to have her.   Because the “family friend” does not get what he wants, he destroys something or someone close to the girl to punish her.  In this case, Nero has the younger sister rewarded to become a vestal virgin, and then takes her innocence by appealing to her pride.

As the plot thickens, Elissa tries to protect herself and her sister from Nero’s extreme madness and preoccupation with sex, violence, and his own self proclaimed godhood.  Meanwhile, the man she secretly loves has met a man named Paul and introduces her to “The Way”.

As she struggles to understand the cryptic comments that Paul makes, while avoiding Nero’s advances and threats, she finds herself in ever increasing danger.  The threats spread to those around her, and she chooses to sacrifice herself to protect those she loves, and Nero eventually has her buried alive.  She realizes too late that no one is safe from Nero’s madness, and decides to rely on the goodness of god that lives within her for her future – however short it may prove to be.

The book does finally come to a close, but for me, the ending was somehow disappointing and left far too many dangling ends in the plot, although all very minor ones.  Yet, even with the dangling plots, there is not enough magic at the end to feed a desire for a sequel.

The characters do not have enough depth for you to care much about them.  Only Elissa has any real character development, and perhaps Nero.  There is no doubt in my mind that the book is fairly accurate, and even falls short of the reality of Nero’s madness and preoccupation with evil.  The plot is engaging enough to make it interesting, but not “edge of your seat” interesting.  I had no problem putting this book down, and several times considered dropping it for good.  I kept reading mostly to find out how Paul would fit into the plot.  He is introduced late in the book, and is a very minor character, at least from my viewpoint, his character is a minor one, and quite weakly developed.  I am quite sure that others will think Paul too much a part of the plot and overbearing.

In all, I was very disappointed with the book, and will not be keeping it around for my daughters to accidentally trip over.

Note:  Not for young or immature readers.  Extreme adult themes throughout.

Genre/Theme:  Historical Fiction, Nero, Roman, Church History

Reading Level:  ADULT - self-explanatory
Profanity: HIGH - many instances of strong language to
EXTREME - strong language common throughout text  - while most of the book and the characters are within a  less extreme vocabulary, Nero occasionally crosses the line into extreme, and is usually at least in the High category.
Sexuality: OBVIOUS - blatant sexuality in text, but not explicit  - Very little of the book is actually sexuality, but nearly every occurrence of Nero involves both sex and violence and his perverse and deviant enjoyment of it.  While most of these encounters are merely obvious ... a few crossed into the explicit
EXPLICIT -  -  these are scenes involving Nero, and are mostly sickening.  They are short, and merely border on the explicit.  They are few, and never last more than a few paragraphs or a page or two.  Such is the nature of Nero.
Other: There are many scenes of violence, and while the greater part is ok reading, there are parts that I am sure came somewhat close to what the horror of Nero actually was.  Nero wallowed and gloried in the perverse sins and the suffering of others.  Somehow, as bad as this book shows him to be, I don’t think it came close to the whole truth.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to read my book, Rachel, and write a review.



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