Review: Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Chateau 2nd editionRuss Peterson receives a mysterious invitation in the mail for a vacation at a chateau in the south of France and his curiosity compels him to accept. Once there, Russ is astonished to find out that his last physical exam showed a genetic marker that identifies him as a time traveler, and therefore a member of an exclusive society located at Chateau d’Eternite.  As a historian, it is a dream come true for Russ, but being a time traveler has its rule and risks along with the gift of being able to visit any era on any geographical place in the world.

When Russ travels back in time to Roman Gaul, he is almost killed by a wild boar when he is rescued by Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus.  Before he knows what is happening, Russ is traveling back to Quentus’ estate as his lover and companion.  Russ finds that the more time he spends with Quentus Maximus in Rome, the more he feels at home and alive than ever before.  Soon Russ must return to his time as the end of his vacation draws near and he must make a decision, should he stay or should he go?  Which will win, his heart and lover of Rome or his head and his future life?

I love Ariel Tachna’s stories and was looking forward to her take on time travel so I am surprised to find myself as conflicted as Russ over his story.  First let’s address the elements I loved.  I think the idea of a chateau filled with time travelers makes a wonderful basis for a series.  Any number of people are appearing and disappearing at any given time, so the potential for a variety of characters and stories is unlimited as the eras they can visit.  Great idea, and the caretaker of the Chateau is a real enigma whose story should be told as well.

Secondly, I liked the characters and settings in ancient Roman Gaul.  Quentus and his close circle of friends are both interesting and nicely layered.  Tachna has done her homework on the time period and it shows in her details from their clothing to the designs of their households. When Russ, called Rastus, and Quentus visit the baths or alone in the estate, her descriptions enable the reader to visualize the setting with ease. All these elements contributed to a story I enjoyed reading,

However, I did have some issues with sections of the story that blunted my enjoyment with Chateau d’Eternite.  First off, I found it hard to believe that historian Russ would accept with equanimity the fact that he carried (or even that there was such a thing) a genetic abnormality that made it possible for him and a small percentage of other humans to travel in time.    Russ doesn’t even break stride as he goes from one revelation to the next, each more outrageous and unrealistic based on his current knowledge.  The caretaker has Russ’ personal information, ie, results of his last physical and Russ doesn’t throw a fit?  Russ is told that he can time travel and is taken on a short trip to prove it.  Does he think he is hallucinating? Not really, again, he is affable and almost nonchalant in his reactions to seeing Versailles being built.  I just didn’t get that at all, nor did I believe it.   Russ reacts in the same way when visiting ancient Rome and meeting Quentus.  They move almost immediately into a sexual relationship with overtones of D/s, and later, Russ argues with his Roman lover over the modern concept of equality within their partnership that would not have been possible during that time period.  I just had a hard time suspending my doubts about their relationship and the character of Russ in particular.  As a historian, I think he would have been scrabbling around looking at everything, picking things up, making drawings, in awe of his situation. I mean, here is his passion for the past in front of him, where is the giddiness I would expect from someone who has made historian the focal point of his life? But I never got that feeling from Russ’ character, and I was disappointed in that aspect of his character.  I would have loved to have seen this from the viewpoint of someone truly amazed to find himself in these circumstances.

One thing that might bother some readers is that the ending is somewhat “bittersweet”.  We find out exactly how long Russ and Quentus have together in the past while missing out on the details of their life together.  I thought it very realistic but others may have a problem with it depending upon how they define HEA.

Pick it up if you like time travel stories, ancient Rome, and the works of Ariel Tachna. This is an expanded version of a short story published earlier.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  Just a gorgeous cover, I loved the model and thought him a perfect representation of Russ.

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 200 pages
Published March 29th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 1st 2012)
ISBN 1623806070 (ISBN13: 9781623806071)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3761

Guest Post by Sam Starbuck and Contest for The City War Blog Tour

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Sam Starbuck here to blog about his latest book, The City War, published by Riptide Publishing:

Hello everyone! I’m pleased to be hosted by Scattered Thoughts today as part of a blog tour for  The City War, my first novella to be released with Riptide Press.

This is the second part in a series of posts I’m doing about the process of writing historical romantic fiction, and how one gets from being a history nerd to a romance writer in a few easy steps; today’s entry is about the delicate dance of historical fiction. To thank you all for reading, I’m offering a chance to win $10 in credit with Riptide Publishing; every comment you leave on the post today and for the entire tour enters you to win!

Something that comes up frequently when people talk about writing historical fiction of any subset is the difficulty of Getting Everything Right. If you set a story in ancient Roman culture — as the Warriors of Rome series is — it’s easy to leave out things we’re aware don’t belong: microwaves, cellphones, pianos. It’s often harder to leave out things we don’t know don’t belong — did the ancient Romans have books, or only scrolls? Did they have plates and cups? Did they have toilet paper? (Yes, Yes, and No.)

It’s daunting, the idea of having to know a dead culture so well that you can create a whole world without screwing it up.

But it’s also fun.

One of the things I researched for The City War was the food served at feasts, particularly feasts for the nobility of the highly class-stratified culture of Rome. 

The servants brought in trays of apricots in sweet sauce and lentils imported from Egypt, roasted thrushes, goose livers in garum and oysters in cumin sauce.

“The servants brought in trays of apricots in sweet sauce and lentils imported from Egypt, roasted thrushes, goose livers in garum and oysters in cumin sauce. Cassius occasionally licked sweet apricot sauce off his thumb, glancing at Brutus with lowered eyelids to see if he noticed. Brutus saw that Aristus did, and the older man drank more wine than usual. Brutus just busied himself counteracting the heat of the cumin with bites of honey-soaked melon, and ignored them both as children. He was getting tired of Cassius’s air of mystery.

By the time the servants brought in the pig—small but well-cooked, and stuffed with tender laurices and fragrant spices—Brutus saw the horse-boy watching the dancers as well, crouched in a shadow behind a tall window that let the breeze pass from the outer yard into the triclinium.”

It sounds delicious and poetic, but sometimes that’s part of the trick of historical fiction; goose livers in garum seems luxurious, if slightly gross to our modern sensibilities, until you find out that garum is a sauce made from fish that’s been left to decay in the sun for days. “Stuffed with tender laurices” makes the mouth water — until you look it up, as one of my editors did, and realize that a laurice is the term for the unborn fetus of a rabbit, a delicacy in ancient Rome. But part of the joy of writing for this era in particular is the fierceness and the nearness to the food chain that even the upper classes were required by their limited technological means to engage in. It was an earthy time.

Historical fiction is about getting the world right, but also getting the sense of the world right. It’s important to understand the spirit of an era — and sometimes to temper it a little in places, particularly when writing romance, which I’m also addressing today over at  Well Read.

Bio: Sam Starbuck is a novelist and blogger living in Chicago because he enjoys trains, snow, and political scandals. By day, he manages operations for a research department at a large not-for-profit, and by night he is a pop-culture commentator, experimental cook, advocate for philanthropy, and writer of fiction. He holds two degrees in theatre, which haven’t done much for his career but were fun while they lasted. His love of ancient cultures and art crimes makes him a very strange conversationalist at parties. His novels include Nameless, Charitable Getting, and Trace, published independently, and The City War, published with Riptide Publishing. He blogs here, and you can check out his writerly accomplishments here.

The City War 

Blurb: Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.

You can buy The City War or read an excerpt here at Riptide Publishing.

Thank was wonderful.  My review of The City War will be posted tomorrow and you won’t want to miss it. And don’t forget to enter your name in the contest.  Just leave a comment and you are entered into the contest to win $10 in credit at Riptide Publishing. The Winner of the contest will be announced at the end of the tour.

Good luck, everyone.  And my thanks to Sam Starbuck and Riptide Publishing for stopping by today.

It’s Thanksgiving and the Week Ahead!

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Hard to believe I will be cooking away starting Wednesday.  I have pies to bake, and a fresh turkey and stuffing that need my attention.  There are some last minute things to get like the pears and baby arugula for the salad.  I know it never gets eaten as the focus is on the bird so it will only be a small salad this year.  The mashed potatoes and fresh green beans are the domain of my mother and the mango cranberry relish is being supplied by my daughter and her husband.  Things are looking good and I can’t wait to start smelling those wonderful aromas that mean family, closeness, and Thanksgiving.

This is going to be a great week here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  We have some terrific books and Riptide Publishing is visiting for a guest post on their Warriors of Rome blog tour,  Love Spartacus or strapping gladiators in leather?   Don’t miss this one.  On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I am blogging about novel playlists, authors and the importance of understanding the music central to a character.  Trust me, it’s not as dry as it sounds when we are talking about  bands like These Arms Are Snakes or The Flying Burrito Brothers!

So here we go, a little percussion please:

Monday, 19th:                            Knitter In His Natural Habitat (Knitting#4) by Amy Lane

Tuesday, 20th:                           Warriors of Rome Blog Tour, Guest post by Sam Starbuck

Wed, 21st:                                   Review of The City War by Sam Starbuck

Thursday, 22nd:                        Lesser Evils (Infected,  #6) by Andrea Speed

Friday, 23rd:                              When It Comes to Understanding People or Characters is Music the Key? Thoughts on Novels and Playlists

Saturday, 24th:                          The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

For all the Americans, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.  For everyone else, be happy and safe too!