Merrimon Book Reviews

"A Sick Child brought into the Temple of Aesculapius" (1877) by John William Waterhouse

Statue of Aesculapius
the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek mythology

Cybele with her traditional attributes (cornucopia, lion and crown in the shape of city walls). The face is an individualized portrait of Roman woman, probably of a high status. Roman marble, ca. 50 AD.

From Merrimon Book Reviews
A Noble Captive
A Noble Captive by Michelle Styles
by Michelle Styles


Honor, passion and divided loyalties!
In 75 BC without a Roman navy, piracy has become a serious problem that threatens shipping and capturing Roman citizens for ransom, or ina worst case scenario, slavery.  Within this historical moment, Michelle Styles sets her second Roman romance.  Captain Androceles captures Marcus Livius Tullio on the high seas and brings him to the Temple of Kybele.  As a proud defender of Rome and his men, Tullio bargains stands up for a better position than the dark hold of the pirate's ship.  There his men will suffer and die but will he find himself in a more precarious position in the temple as a prisoner under the watch of the sybil?  Helena will do everything in her power to protect the people under the Temple's protection.  When Tullio asks the sybyl for the  protection of the Kybele, she must do the bidding of the goddess despite her hatred for Rome and all for which it stands.  Determined to protect his men, Tullio must find a way to turn the tables in his favor and show Helena that he, and thus Rome as well, is a strong and honorable advocate.  Helena must protect her secret at all costs but the closer she finds herself to this strong handsome man, the more she fears that she will succumb to his charms.  She cannot betray her people, not when the fate of the Kybele temple might rest in her power.  The more Tullio sees Helena and her proud determination, the more he realizes they have in common.  Can Tullio and Helena, each sworn to protect conflicting interests, find a way to protect each other from the dangers they face?  Can they follow the love in their hearts or will their alliances prevent them from choosing love over duty?

Both Helena and Tullio are proud and honorable characters.  Each is driven by their duty to others.  Each has a boldness tthat makes them take risks when a man or woman more faint of heart would hesitate.  Each feels a compassion for people in their charge.  Once in her charge, Helena cannot help but feel compassion for the plight of this crew, and yet she must watch her step because if he gets too close to the truth, one slip might betray her people.  With his life and the life of his men at stake, Tullio must prove to her the honor of Rome.  Helena is both innocent and courageous as she faces the greatest danger to the Temple of Kybele.  A simple harmless subterfuge to protect the sybil's position suddenly puts everything at risk when Tullio threatens to unmask her.  Tullio must ferret out her weakness and use it to his advantage, but when he does, how can he ever betray the woman who has stolen his heart?   When forced to choose between love and duty, what will Helena choose.

In A NOBLE CAPTIVE, Michelle Styles creates strong characters perfectly matched in temperment with a riveting conflict, both personal and historical, that drives them apart.  Androceles makes a wonderfully wicked villain. Michelle Styles increases the drama of the conflict not only through his character but through the historical setting as two opposing forces meet on the island that houses a holy temple.  Through Helena, the reader is drawn into the life of the Kybele temple, feeling their plight, and cheering for her boldness and courage in the face of danger.  Through Helena, the reader sees the dignity of the temple as well as the innovations, the tricks and the deeply felt respect for the sibyl's powers.  The reader feels the heart of the religion.  A religion remote and distant to a modern reader takes on a whole new understanding through Michelle Styles' characters and setting.  As the temple faces dangers within and without, the romance between Helena and Tullio deepens in drama and emotion.  Michelle Styles takes readers on thrilling ride to the happy ending as duty and love challenge her characters to the limit.

In her second Roman romance, A NOBLE CAPTIVE, Michelle Styles takes the reader into a fascinating period of Roman history, making history come alive in the personal lives of her characters.  The view of the Temple, especially the activities of the sibyl fascinate with the details of daily life and the larger perspective given of the temple's place within the dynamics of the realm.  Michelle Styles gives the reader a feel for the ancient religion in the hearts of the temple residents.  Amid the conflicts between Androceles, Tullio and Helena, the reader feels the pulse of the period.  Michelle Styles grounds her romance in meticulously researched historical detail.  A NOBLE CAPTIVE gives the reader the joy of learning history that comes from historical romance, and yet it does more.  A NOBLE CAPTIVE also brings the history into the reader's heart, feeling history through her character's hearts, from the inside as well as the dramatic moment of history that challenges them from the outside.  A NOBLE CAPTIVE is an excellent choice for romance readers who crave both history and romance without having to sacrifice either for the other.  A special kudos to Michelle Styles for her passionate exploration of the more unusual corners of history in the historical romance genre!
Publisher: Mills and Boon Historical Romance (January 2007)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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