When Clovis moves to conquer Gaul in 486 A.D., only Syagrius, King of the Romans, has the courage to stand in his way and pays a fearful price for his defiance.
Shattered by a defeat that costs him his wife, his son, his city and his army, Syagrius wanders through the collapsing world of a dying empire to find refuge with a procurator broken by his past, a centurion haunted by betrayal and a priestess desperate for love, all too proud and too honorable to compromise with the corruption that threatens to destroy them.
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Journalist John Gorman has been fascinated with Late Antiquity and with Syagrius since he first encountered both of them in college history class forty years ago. He has traveled extensively in Europe researching background and sources for this mysterious Roman ruler and his time, a time when an empire fell, and the Dark Ages threatened to drown the West in an ocean of bigotry and blood, a time of testing for trust and integrity in a collapsing world of corrupt institutions and failing leadership. For the past two decades, the author has worked as a freelance journalist in Florida, contributing to publications ranging from Modern Maturity to National Fisherman. His essays have appeared in New York Newsday, the Tampa Tribune, Atlanta Constitution and many other important newspapers in the United States and abroad. Although John has published many short stories, King of the Romans is his first foray into book-length fiction.
"As the last Roman province crumbles, Syagrius escapes into a world little suited to a man with a strong moral code. The development of this tension peaks nicely before the climatic final scene. Gorman has put a human face on a period of history which is usually covered in a few short paragraphs. Syagrius (is) true to the values that built the Empire; he simply lives in a world that has discarded them."Mike Huck -- INSCRIPTIONS
"King of the Romans is satisfying as a historical novel and a tale of adventure, but it succeeds on other levels as well. We are shown unspeakable cruelty and corruption. We also are treated to deep friendship, love and courage, as Syagrius and his companions battle their own personal demons along with more prosaic enemies. Gorman does not provide easy answers or pat happy endings. Instead, he celebrates the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit."Ilene Sirocca -- THE RUNNINGRIVER READER (tm)
"One thing I found particularly interesting about King of the Romans was the hook. Just as the characters are introduced, the reader is immediately hooked into their environment, their mannerisms and their destinies. Perhaps it was because Gorman used that relaxing moment after making love to start the story? Or maybe it was because he is a man who convincingly wrote a woman's thoughts."Pamela Wilfinger -- Editor of Inscriptions, the weekly e-zine for professional writers
"I was completely hooked by the opening of the story. Are we sure John Gorman isn't a woman's pen name? Wow! If he is for real, he is a damn good writer."Gardenia McNeal -- (customer comment on King of the Romans)
"Considering the visual aspects of the story, I think it would make a great motion picture. Furthermore, Gorman's research was superb. When he used such words as "cohorts" he had a specific Roman military meaning. The history was accurate, and the story was plausible. It was an exciting visit to that day and time which will always be with me."Clarence A. Sears
When Sophia finished work the next day and was about to leave for lunch, Valerius asked her to wait a moment. He hesitated before he spoke.
"Last night, the tribune called to my attention the unseemliness of our liaison, which, of course, respect for my exalted station obliged him to 'pass over in silence.'" Valerius smiled at the elegance of the phrase. Sophia would have appreciated it too, had she been sure where this speech was going.
"I have also learned that you have been seen about the town these past months, consorting with our priestess, almost as though you were a free woman. I have resolved to act appropriately, do, as the tribune would say, 'as our worthy forefathers often did in such situations.'"
Sophia was puzzled. Valerius was obviously serious, but something else lay beneath his earnest mien.
"The solution is here," he said, opening a drawer and taking out a small scroll bearing his seal.
Sophia gasped. Was she to be beaten and sold again? Was there any man on Earth as faithless as Valerius? Would she never learn?
He handed her the scroll. "Read it," he commanded. "Then we'll go to lunch."
Sophia's fingers shook as she unrolled the parchment. It was a Certificate of Manumission. Her freedom.
"After we eat, you will make two copies," Valerius told her, "one for the archives here and one for Cassandra to keep in the temple. I will sign and seal them both. The original, you take with you wherever you want to go."
Sophia sank into a chair. She feared she would faint.
"There are scrolls like yours prepared for all my slaves," Valerius explained, "to take effect upon my death. They are good people who have served me well. I will not have them fall into Marcia's hands."
"Where am I to go?" Sophia asked slowly. "What am I to do with this freedom? With my cropped ears and these scars, I'm not safe anywhere beyond the border. I'd not reach Heraklion before some slave trader seized me, tore up that certificate and shipped me off to Africa."
Valerius stared at the floor. "I am sorry for everything that happened to you. I would make it right if I could. Is there anything else I can do now? Do you need money, an escort somewhere?"
"I didn't mean it that way," Sophia replied quickly. "I - It's just that I do not want to leave Matala, to leave you, to leave what I have here. There is nowhere I want to go. Everything I had is gone. Let me stay."
Valerius sighed with relief. "I will still need a secretary," he admitted. "The job pays one gold piece a month with your keep, plus whatever you can earn doing letters for people on your own. You can work off the thirty-five I gave Glaucon for you. After that..."
Sophia was looking out the window, scarcely hearing, trying to compose herself. She turned back to him, her voice unsteady, as she stood up.
"Let's go to bed. I want you to make love to me."
"In the middle of the day?"
"I want the daylight. I want you to see everything - this once - so you will know what you have taken into your bed, into your life.