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Two centuries after it was built by the Emperor Hadrian, a Roman couple has come to Britannia to take charge of the Wall, which keeps the barbarian Celts out of Roman Britain. Young Valeria is the daughter of a senator, as dowry she's brought this command to Marcus Flavius, who badly needs some military experience to advance his career. But plumping down the beautiful Valeria and the Marcus in the wilds of Rome's frontier provokes jealousy and passions that lead to war. In particular, the brutal and ambitious soldier Galba Brassidias and the Celtic chief Arden Caratacus are both drawn to Valeria and despise her husband.

If some of the characterizations seem kind of idiosyncratic and ahistorical--their actions, emotions, and openness are awfully modern--there's nonetheless ample enough action and romance to speed us past any tendency to overanalyze it as a work of history. There's also a fascinating tripartite culture clash, with the conflict between the somewhat rigid social conventions of Rome and the wilder, freer life of the Celts and then percolating beneath both the burgeoning influence of the new religion, Christianity, which will plow them both under eventually. It's all framed by the device of an investigation into events that have already transpired, which allows for some discursive passages on the background of the tale but does fracture the narrative at times. You may find yourself wondering why Mr. Dietrich doesn't just get back to the main story.

As historical romances go it's not up to the standards of a Sharon Kay Penman, but it's an ideal beach book, one that you can hand to the spouse when you're done with reasonable confidence they'll enjoy it.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Historical Fiction
William Dietrich Links:

    -AUTHOR WEBSITE: William Dietrich
    -EXCERT: from Hadrian's Wall
    -INTERVIEW: An Interview With William Dietrich (Harper Collins)
    -REVIEW: of Hadrian's Wall (N.S. Gill,
    -REVIEW: of Hadrian's Wall (Sydney Smith, BlogCritics)

Book-related and General Links:

    -Hadrian's Wall Country