Friday, February 25, 2011

Today's Sponsor: Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak

Book Blurb:

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.

• New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks says,
“...a writer of real talent...a promising new voice.”

• New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen says,
“Suzanne Tyrpak weaves a spell that utterly enchants and delights. Her writing is pure magic.”

            • A torrid tale of love, honor, and sacrifice pitted against horrific acts of murder, betrayal, and depravity.  Rife with intrigue and brimming with exquisite detail, Vestal Virgin is a deftly paced masterpiece of historical fiction.  I hope Tyrpak is planning another foray into this ancient world . . . and soon!
— Eldon Thompson, author of The Divine Talisman

5.0 out of 5 stars EngrossingDecember 28, 2010
This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
I loved it all: the story, the characters, and the setting. I felt like I was walking in ancient Rome. Many of the details about the times were new to me, and fascinating. I loved reading about the strong women in a time when most women had no power. This book has it all: the conflict between good and evil, old and new religions, love and hate, doing the right thing vs. protecting family. Gripping. I have also read and loved other, very different works by Suzanne Tyrpak (most notably Dating My Vibrator, also available on Kindle). She is a fine writer whose talents shine in a variety styles and genres.
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Robert HarrisDecember 28, 2010
jeroen ten berge (Welllington, New Zealand) 

This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
I've been a big fan of Robert Harris since 'Fatherland', and when he delved into Roman history and offered 'Pompeii' - combining well researched history with fictional suspense, I was once again absolutely blown away. 'Vestal Virgin' is without doubt as good, and a must read for anyone who loves a fantastic story set in ancient times as turbulent as today's.

5.0 out of 5 stars Strong Women CharactersJanuary 1, 2011
L.C. Evans "Author" (North Carolina, USA) 
This review is from: Vestal Virgin (Kindle Edition)
In general I'm a fan of historical fiction, including ancient Rome, so I was immediately drawn to Vestal Virgin. I was not disappointed. The author did a superb job with the setting. She deftly worked in details of life in ancient Rome, and I could easily understand the everyday life of the times and exactly what it meant to be a vestal virgin. The sights, the smells, the sounds--all seemed real as I watched the characters' lives unfold.

The virgins typically were chosen as children and took vows to serve for 30 years. Vestal virgin Elissa is the main character and she is no exception to the strict laws. As a vestal, she is an educated and powerful woman who starts out wanting to avenge her brother's death at the hands of the tyrannical Nero. She ends up finding a better goal. Along the way she is pursued by Nero, who thinks he is a god. But courageous Elissa is also a mystic and she works to decipher an ancient prophecy that foretells the destruction of Rome. Elissa's younger sister Flavia is another strong woman character. Ambitious Flavia has a different goal from her sister--she wants to become Nero's wife.

I read this book quickly, unable to put it down. I was caught up in the story and totally invested in the lives of the well-drawn characters. I loved Elissa and even Flavia, who behaved like a naive and spoiled child, won me over in the end. The men characters, though well-drawn, did not appeal to me as much and came across as weak in comparison to the women.

Very enjoyable book and I would like to read more by this talented author.

Author Bio:

Suzanne Tyrpak ran away from New York a long time ago to live in Colorado. Her debut novel is Vestal Virgin, suspense set in ancient Rome, available on Kindle and Smashwords—and soon to be released in trade paperback through Amazon.  Her collection of nine short stories Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) is available on Kindle and Smashwords. J.A. Konrath calls it, “Pure comedic brilliance.”  Her short story Downhill was first published in Arts Perspective Magazine. Rock Bottom is published in the Mota 9: Addiction anthology, available on Kindle.  Her short story Ghost Plane was published by CrimeSpree Magazine. Venus Faded appears in the anthology Pronto! Writings from Rome (Triple Tree Publishing, 2002) along with notable authors including: Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, Terry Brooks and John Saul. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers awarded her first prize in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and Maui Writers awarded her third prize in the Rupert Hughes writing competition.
Excerpt from Vestal Virgin:
Veils of mist rose from the Tiber’s rushing waters and swirled around Elissa’s feet. She walked across the bridge and felt like she was walking through a cloud.
Footsteps, muffled by the fog, tapped softly behind her.
Or was it rain?
She stopped. So did the tapping.
She glanced back, half expecting to see Angerona. Shifting vapors swallowed the river, swallowed everything. Clammy wetness seeped through her palla, and the tunica beneath her stola clung to her back. Brushing a limp strand of hair out of her face, she listened for footsteps, heard only the steady beat of rain.
When she reached the far side of the bridge, a labyrinth of twisting lanes told her she was in the Hebrew Quarter. Here, women remained cloistered in their homes and were rarely seen, men mumbled prayers in Hebrew, and pork was a forbidden meat. The Jews were a strange people, though Elissa saw few of them today. The Day of Saturn was their Sabbath and all the shops were closed.
She wondered which way she should turn. She only knew she sought the shop of a tentmaker. There were no streets signs, no numbers on the houses. Just graffiti. The cobblestones were slick with rain. Reaching out her hand to steady herself, she touched a wall dripping with water, and something slimy brushed her face.
Stifling a scream, she hurried on. Saw no sign of a tentmaker.
Backtracking, she walked along another street.
Fog crept toward her from the river, and she could barely see her shoes. The idea of finding Justinus seemed ludicrous. Commonsense told her to return to the House of Vestals before she was discovered missing.
Or worse.
            People often met their death in Rome’s deserted alleyways. Just last week a woman had been raped and stabbed. Retracing her steps, she sought something familiar. She would have asked for help, but every door she passed was closed.
She hurried by a stinking pile of rags.
The rags shifted.
From beneath the tattered pile of cloth a gnarled finger appeared, beckoning for her to come closer. She heard a wheezing sound. Blood-shot eyes peered out from the mud-caked rags.
“You seek the truth?” said a rasping voice.
“I seek the prophet Paul.” 
The gnarled finger extended, pointing a blackened nail.
“But I’ve just come from there.” 
“Then you did not go far enough.”
“To find the tentmaker’s shop?”
“To find what you are seeking.” Eyes glinted in an ancient face, though whether male or female, Elissa couldn’t guess. A gash festered on the creature’s forehead.
“You’re hurt,” Elissa said.
“An old wound that doesn’t heal.”
“Maybe I can help you. Tell me your name.”
“You don’t recognize me?”
“Should I?” 
The creature sucked in air. We met last autumn at the Circus Maximus, but I looked younger then. Opening its mouth the creature revealed double incisors. “My name is Agrippina.”
The gnarled finger beckoned. “Rome burns and from union unholy the sister will bring forth a son. Have you heard these words before, Elissa?”
A chill ran through Elissa’s heart. “How do you know my name?”
“I know many things. I know the meaning of the prophecy.”
“What is it?” Elissa inched toward the pile of rags.
“Come closer.”
She took another step.
“Your answer lies in Book Fourteen.”  
Bony fingers, cold as death, wrapped around Elissa’s ankle. Her scream was followed by a clap of thunder. Breaking from the creature’s grasp, she turned and ran. Rain pelted her with icy needles, stung her face, soaked through her palla.
Fog descended, dark and thick. When she glanced back, the pile of rags was gone.
Certain she heard footsteps, she called out, “Is anybody there?”
Within the soup, she saw a face, pale and frightening.
The face was joined by others. Waxen masks of the dead destined to wander from their graves, eyes smoldering within the shadows.
The slippery cobblestones caused Elissa to stumble. Regaining her balance, she sprinted through a twisting alleyway.
“Though I walk through a valley dark as death,” she recited, her voice thin and breathless. “I fear no evil for you are with me.”
Lemures surrounded her. Mouths gaping, hands outstretched.
Through a shadowy veil, Elissa saw her brother.
She ran toward him, tears streaming from her eyes as she threw herself into his arms.
His body felt warm and wonderfully alive.
She looked up at his face.
“I thought I heard you calling.”
            She peered into the fog. A sign swung on squeaking hinges above a doorway. It advertised a tentmaker’s shop.
Justinus drew her close, and their mouths merged in a kiss, more insistent than the rain.