TITLE – Liberty, second edition
SERIES – N/A
AUTHOR – Kim Iverson Headlee
GENRE – Historical Romance (ancient Rome)
PUBLICATION DATE – Dec. 2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 464 pages/118K words (excluding backmatter)
PUBLISHER – Pendragon Cove Press
COVER ARTIST – Natasha Brown
Winner BooksGoSocial Best Book 2015.
They hailed her “Liberty,” but she was free only to obey—or die.
Betrayed by her father and sold as payment of a Roman tax debt to fight in Londinium’s arena, gladiatrix-slave Rhyddes feels like a wild beast in a gilded cage. Celtic warrior blood flows in her veins, but Roman masters own her body. She clings to her vow that no man shall claim her soul, though Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, son of the Roman governor, makes her yearn for a love she believes impossible.
Groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and trapped in a politically advantageous betrothal, Aquila prefers the purity of combat on the amphitheater sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics, and the raw power and athletic grace of the flame-haired Libertas to the adoring deference of Rome’s noblewomen.
When a plot to overthrow Caesar ensnares them as pawns in the dark design, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart and the empire to which they both owe allegiance. Knowing the opposite of obedience is death, the only liberty offered to any slave, Rhyddes must embrace her arena name—and the love of a man willing to sacrifice everything to forge a future with her.
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The door shut with a terrifying clang.
“Sir!” She clutched the cold bars, failing to bleed the raw panic from her tone.
The guard paused with the key in the lock.
A hundred questions clamored for release. Every one started with, “Why?”
He frowned as if trying to discern what she’d asked. She wasn’t sure herself. “Why the lock?”
’Twould do, for a start. She nodded.
He scrunched one shoulder. “Lanista Jamil’s orders.” He twisted the key. The lock engaged with a loud click. “For all warriors—gladiators. And you, Gladiatrix.” He withdrew the key, hooked the ring on his belt, and stepped away.
“May I know your name, sir?” It felt ungodly strange asking that of a captor, but she hoped to reclaim a hint of humanity in this inhumane place into which the gods had thrust her.
“Vederi,” he said without breaking stride.
He had disappeared from sight before she realized he hadn’t bothered to ask her name.
So much for humanity.
She sank onto the cot, head in hands and heedless of the straw poking her thighs through the mattress’s canvas cover, and sobbed out all the rage, fear, despair, and grief that had harried her for the past fortnight, feelings pride had forbidden her to show the soldiers or the slaver or her new owner or his servants or even that pampered Roman—especially him—denying them all the chance to wield those emotions against her. Pain as visceral as a blade’s thrust sliced into her gut. She dropped to her knees and pressed her cheek to the wall, painting it with her tears and pounding the cool slate with the heel of her hand.
“Da, how could you!”
Each futile thump knelled like another nail driven into the coffin housing the remains of her freedom.
Character interview of Rhyddes, heroine of LIBERTY:
Thank you for visiting us today. We understand that you have quite a tale to tell. Let’s start with a few questions about you, and then you can tell us about the book.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Rhyddes ferch Rudd, which in your tongue means Freedom daughter of Red. The blood of ancient Celtic warriors flows in my veins, though I am a farmer’s daughter by the circumstance of my birth.
How did you first meet your writer?
My bones were discovered by some men and women of her era, almost two millennia after I was laid to rest. Because of the wealth of gladiator-themed grave goods buried with me, these people surmised that I must have been a popular gladiatrix. But it was Kim Headlee who unearthed the details of my story for all to read.
Do you sneak into your writer’s dreams?
Most certainly, though oftentimes I find the realm quite crowded with many other folk with whom I am not acquainted.
Did you ever think that your life would end up in a book?
What is a book?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would have a tighter rein upon my tongue, which often buys me more trouble than I can afford.
We’d love to hear about your setting. Where and when is it and what makes it special?
My life spans much of the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, one of a very few men ever to claim that title who did not abuse his power for personal gain. When my lover Aquila came to me with news that this man was in danger, I could see the loyalty and respect—and concern—in Aquila’s eyes, and for that reason alone I chose to help him protect his sovereign, even though I cared not who ruled and who died in that gods-cursed empire.
Tell us about your journey. What are your goals and what obstacles stand in your way?
More than anything—even more than my freedom—I yearn to be Aquila’s equal. As a foreign slave in an empire where citizenship stands paramount, where an arena fighter such as I can only be considered the equal of other gladiators, actors, undertakers, and whores, this goal seems impossibly remote. Aquila has declared that he would renounce his aristocratic status, wealth, and power for me, but I cannot in good conscience allow him to destroy himself on my account.
And yet the gods have granted the impossible to other mortals. I pray that I am worthy to receive such a boon from them, for surely divine assistance is the only way for Aquila and I to bridge the social chasm that separates us from a lasting future together.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book and why?
While fighting in the bowels underneath the massive Flavian Amphitheater, better known to you as the Colosseum in Rome, I chanced upon the bestiary. My odious owners were unfortunate enough to be there too. I am certain the tiger enjoyed the hunt, especially its conclusion, though I daresay I enjoyed it even more—even though it placed me in peril of my life. I shall leave it for you to imagine the details of what I witnessed in that dark, dank labyrinth and beyond.
Do you like the way the book ended?
Does a cygnet enjoy shedding its scruffy plumage to become a sleek adult swan? Of course it does; don’t be an asinus!
Would you be interested in a sequel, if your writer was so inclined?
If I understand your meaning correctly, you refer to the telling of another tale. My beloved brother Owen shall be the focus of such a tale, along with the woman whom he is destined to rescue, love, and marry—despite the fact that her people and ours are blood enemies.
Did you help your writer come up with the title or do you know how this title was chosen?
The title of my tale is Liberty, the word in your language that translates to the Latin word Libertas, my arena name, which I adopted since Rhyddes is too difficult for the Romans’ stiff tongues.
Thank you, Rhyddes, for stopping by and letting us get to know you.
And thank you for taking the time to converse with a lowly gladiatrix-slave. I earnestly pray the association shall not bode ill for the preservation of your social status.
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, Great Pyrenees goat guards, and assorted wildlife. People and creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins—the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-twentieth century—seem to be sticking around for a while yet. She has been an award-winning novelist since 1999 (Dawnflight 1st edition, Sonnet Books, Simon & Schuster) and has been studying the Arthurian Legends for nigh on half a century.
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