“It’s about Roman blood, survival and money. Mostly yours.”
In an alternative New York, Karen Brown is running for her life. She makes a snap decision to flee to Roma Nova – her dead mother’s homeland, the last remnant of the Roman Empire in the 21st century. But can Karen tough it out in such an alien culture? And with a crazy killer determined to terminate her for a very personal reason?
Stifled by the protective cocoon of her Roma Novan family, deceived by her new lover, she propels herself into a dangerous mission. But then the killer sets a trap – she must sacrifice herself for another – and she sees no escape.
A thriller laced with romance and coming of age, this first in series is Roman fiction brought into the 21st century through the lens of alternative history and driven by a female protagonist with heart and courage.
This 10thAnniversary hardback edition includes bonus content: Three character ‘conversations’, two short stories and the story behind INCEPTIO.
INCEPTIO 10th Anniversary special edition hardback:
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All other formats (ebook, paperback, audio)
Enjoy an Excerpt from INCEPTIO
[Family background and romantic note]
[Conradus Mitelus speaks to Karen/Carina]
‘There’s something I must ask you,’ Conrad said, his expression serious now. ‘It’s why I was in Washington. What do you know about your family? I mean, your mother’s family.’
‘What’s that to you? Do you know them?’
‘Bear with me. It’s important.’
‘No, you explain first.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to know.’
I looked at him, searching for clues in his face, but his expression was bland and, despite the eye colours seeming to shift, his gaze was steady but not cold. I shrugged. ‘Mom came from Roma Nova, like you. My father told me they met when he was in Europe, in Roma Nova, on business. She came here to the EUS, they married, she had me and then drove herself off a cliff when I was three.’ I heard the bitterness in my voice. ‘I never knew what made her leave like that, and Dad never discussed it.’
He pressed my hand as if to comfort me. After a few moments, he said, ‘I can’t answer that, but I can fill in some other gaps for you. Do you have any family documents or old photos?’
‘Do you always challenge everything?’
‘Yes, especially when I’m not told the reason.’
‘I will tell you, but can you get the papers first?’
Why would I? He was a stranger. An exciting, beautiful one that I found deeply attractive. But he was a foreigner who looked like he was under surveillance. Maybe I needed to check with the cops or the FBI first. I hesitated. I could imagine how stupid it would sound to them – I’d file a complaint and he’d turn out to be an old family friend. Would they take any notice of me anyway? I was already on their security watch list.
The hell with it.
I decided to show him the photographs to start with. In my bedroom, I pulled out the box stashed on the top shelf of my closet: my parents’ wedding; them with me as a toddler; my father alone; my foster parents, the Browns; high school friends. In the end, it was easier to hand him the whole box. He picked out the ones of my mother looking like any other American housewife and mom and discarded the rest. I had to dig around in my file box for the certificates and passports. I kept them bundled on my lap, but showed him her old Roma Nova passport, the corner clipped off.
‘Have you ever been in contact with any of your mother’s relations?’
‘I had a letter now and again from my mother’s mother, but nothing since I came to New York. When he was alive, my father insisted that I wrote back. I remember going to see her once when I was a kid. After my father died, I went to live in Nebraska with his cousins. This grandmother kept inviting me for a visit, but they wouldn’t let me go. It was too expensive, they said, and Uncle Brown didn’t like foreigners.’
‘What? There was plenty of money for that sort of expense. Were they that narrow-minded?’
‘Hey! They gave me a home when my father passed on.’ I defended them, instinctively, out of duty. I always had sufficient to eat and was adequately clothed. I hadn’t been Cinderella, but I was firmly outside the core family circle. Maybe, despite all his efforts, they’d never forgiven my father his Englishness. Although the withdrawal by the British in the 1860s had been amicable on the surface, resentment endured, especially in the rural areas where they’d been big landowners, and still were.
I came back to the present with a jolt.
‘What do you mean – “plenty of money”?’
‘Your mother left you her personal portfolio, and your father’s electronics business will be yours when you’re twenty-five. You’ve got income from both held in trust.’
‘You have to be kidding.’
‘Haven’t you had any of it?’ His eyes widened in surprise. ‘At all?’
‘Since I’ve been in New York, Brown Industries has sent me three thousand dollars every quarter from New Hampshire. I try to save most of it, but I have to use some of it for my rent.’
‘Your grandmother, Aurelia Mitela, set up a portfolio for her daughter when she went to live in America. Naturally, it came to you on her death. Your father and your grandmother formed a trust for you so you could be comfortable, go to college, do whatever you wanted.’
I heard the words. I saw his lips forming them. I ran them through my head again. I sat completely still, numbed. The only sound in the apartment was the refrigerator humming in the kitchen.
Uncle and Aunt Brown must have known about the money. I’d wept angry tears of frustration when Uncle Brown forbade to me have any thoughts of going to college. I knew Ivy League had been way out of my reach, but the state university should have been possible. How could they have done that to me?
‘And just how do you know all this?’ I had recovered speech but couldn’t keep the steel out of my voice.
‘From your grandmother. Your father wanted you to grow up like any other American girl, but left instructions in his testament that you should be told everything at eighteen. That obviously didn’t happen.’ Conrad handed the photographs and passport back to me, his face grave. ‘He probably never imagined these cousins would keep it from you.’
Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her ten-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue. INCEPTIO starts the adventure…
She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading historical, crime and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.
Six full-length Roma Nova novels, including INCEPTIO, have won the BRAG Medallion, the prestigious award for indie fiction. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The Bookseller selected SUCCESSIO as Editor’s Choice in its inaugural indie review. The Historical Novel Society recently selected JULIA PRIMA, the first Foundation story set in the 4th century, the accolade of Editors’ Choice.
Alison lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.
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