Thursday 5 August 2021

Read an excerpt from Brook Allen's fabulous novel - Antonius: Son of Rome @1BrookAllen

Antonius: Son of Rome
(The Antonius Trilogy Book 1)
By Brook Allen

Publication Date: March 15, 2019
Publisher: Dawg House Books
Page Length: 425 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

After young Marcus Antonius’s father dies in disgrace, he yearns to restore his family’s honor during the final days of Rome’s dying Republic. Marcus is rugged, handsome, and owns abundant military talent, but upon entering manhood, he falls prey to the excesses of a violent society. His whoring, gambling, and drinking eventually reap dire consequences. Through a series of personal tragedies, Marcus must come into his own through blood, blades, and death. Once he finally earns a military commission, he faces an uphill battle to earn the respect and admiration of soldiers, proconsuls, and kings. Desperate to redeem his name and carve a legacy for himself, he refuses to let warring rebels, scheming politicians, or even an alluring young Egyptian princess stand in his way.

All was dark. It was well after the sixth hour that night, when nobody stirred except whores, thieves, and men with scores to settle. 

Marcus waited, leaning against the walls of a sandal-maker’s shop. He’d been waiting for hours. More blood would flow tonight. But this time it would be the blood of someone who deserved to die.

He straightened, hearing voices. His heart began to race. 

Four men exited the domus Callias on the Esquiline, one of the finest in the district. Marcus observed their path down the hill, then silently stole out of the shadows, keeping a careful distance. He paused, letting them pass under torchlight near an upper-class tavern. 

Damn. Callias wasn’t with them. He was hoping he would be. But Callias seldom went out at night. He had too many enemies. 

Still, one man stood out. Forever etched on Marcus’s memory, he was the largest of the four and wore a curiously patterned black-and-white cloak. 

Fingering the hilt of his gladius, Marcus moved in closer, drawing his hood lower over his face. He stumbled on a raised stone in the pavement. It caught his sandal, making an unexpected slapping sound. 

Quickly, he flattened himself into a tight space between buildings, holding his breath.

One of the men looked back. Fortunately, he must have seen nothing, for he turned back to his friends, sharing a joke, accompanied by raucous laughter. 

Near the bottom of the Esquiline, they veered off toward the Subura. Marcus breathed some relief as they led him past Clodius and Curio’s old brothel. At least he knew the area. He glanced at the wavy glass rondel on the door, but there were no signs of lamplight. All was dark.

Just beyond, the street widened amid shops surrounding a well. 

Marcus chewed his lip. This added space allowed more room to maneuver with four assailants. Plus it made sense to fight in familiar surroundings.
Long ago, old “Bastard” Lupus had given him instruction on how to take on more than two men at a time, but only in theory. Several years later, under Vindelicus’s tutelage, the Gaul had challenged Castor, Gaius, and Lucius to “attack” Marcus all at once, staging a mock brawl. It was hardly realistic. Castor had no clue how to handle a blade, and his brothers thought the whole business a laughter-filled game. 

Tonight he was taking on four men at once, and he didn’t care what happened as long as he killed the one with the black-and-white cloak. 

Silently as possible, Marcus drew his virgin gladius. With his back against a shop wall, he cried out, “Salvete!” All four men turned at once. Marcus pointed his gladius at the man with the distinctive cloak. “You’re dead.”

Cloaked Man smiled like a cur with bared teeth, stepping forward readily. His lip curled into a sneer. “Is this your suicide, Antonius? Taking us on will get you killed.”

It wasn’t worth responding. Marcus simply positioned his gladius in hand and held his ground. There was no sense in conversation. He was here for one thing only.

Cloaked Man’s speed in smoothly drawing his pugio was impressive, and the other three weren’t far behind. 

Marcus waited, heart pounding. Cloaked Man lunged at him, and their blades scraped. As expected, the others all joined in. Unmoving, Marcus focused on keeping his back against the wine shop’s entrance. He needed to have all of them in full view in front of him.

Old Bastard Lupus had warned him never to allow an enemy in from behind. If they were all visible, he might be able to last. 

One of them, with a scar down his nose, darted too near. 

Marcus punched his gladius forth like lightning, taking him down with a howl. 

Now there were three. 

Patiently staying his ground, he forced them into the offensive.

Cloaked Man suggested to one of his men, “Go round his other side. He can’t keep this up forever—can you, Antonius?”

Marcus ignored him, eyes constantly darting from one man to another.

“Did she bleed hard? Did she die?” Cloaked Man barked like a dog.

Marcus ground his teeth. The mockery enraged him, but he channeled his hatred into the fight. One man skirted to his left, his stance unbalanced. Still, he attacked swiftly, trying to get in close with his pugio. Instinctively stabbing, Marcus took him square in the chest, but in doing so, he opened his right side to the other two. 

Cloaked Man took full advantage. Marcus gasped in pain, taking a slice in his shoulder. Turning to fend off the blow, he felt a swooshing rush of air as the second assailant’s blade narrowly missed his neck.

Shoulder throbbing, he blinked in shock, his heart beating erratically. Blood crept down his back like warm fingers. Marcus backed away toward the wall, retreating just enough to gather his wits. 

Only two more. Both had their legs spread in a firm stance. These men were clearly capable of withstanding a good fight.

Rome was a city that never slept, and hearing the scuffle, a crowd of curious plebs had gathered. They stood well out of harm’s way, some holding oil lamps, others torches. It actually made fighting easier, their light illuminating the blackness. 

“Together, from both sides,” Cloaked Man instructed his partner. The other man, with dark, reddish hair, nodded. 

Marcus thought he was probably Gallic.

With little pause, they rushed him simultaneously. Intuitively using his right leg, Marcus tripped the Gaul, jabbing his weapon downward into his flesh. Then, turning clumsily, he maneuvered into the open square, now facing Cloaked Man alone. Red Hair’s shrieks were reassuring. At least he was down and out of the fight. 

Now Fadia’s murderer was against the wall

Plebs were noisily pitching bets, wagering who’d win, and shouting encouragement to both men. Things turned ugly when several bystanders thought it might be fun to hurl rocks and garbage at them. 
Something hard smacked Marcus’s back, making it sting. Cloaked Man took a few hits himself. When an onion pelted the side of his face, the impact was Marcus’s opportunity. His opponent’s attention strayed as he blinked and shook his head. 

Charging forward ruthlessly, Marcus’s thrust was so powerful it pinned Cloaked Man against the wall of the wine shop. His plunging gladius skewered Fadia’s killer, his only response a sagging jaw, shaking limbs, and bloody bubbles gurgling from his mouth. 

Meanwhile in the crowd, some pleb was displeased with the outcome. When Marcus turned, wearily facing the assembly of gawking faces, a well-aimed stone struck him square on the bridge of his nose, smashing the cartilage. It knocked him senseless, and for the second time that day, he dropped heavily to the ground, unconscious.


This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Author Brook Allen has a passion for ancient history—especially 1st century BC Rome. Her Antonius Trilogy is a detailed account of the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony, which she has worked on for the past fifteen years. The first installment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published in March 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and meets Cleopatra for the first time. Brook’s second book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antonius: Soldier of Fate is the last book in the trilogy, spotlighting the romance between Antonius and Cleopatra and the historic war with Octavian Caesar. 

In researching the Antonius Trilogy, Brook’s travels have led her to Italy, Egypt, Greece, and even Turkey to explore places where Antony once lived, fought, and eventually died. While researching abroad, she consulted with scholars and archaeologists well-versed in Hellenistic and Roman history, specifically pinpointing the late Republican Period in Rome. Brook belongs to the Historical Novel Society and attends conferences as often as possible to study craft and meet fellow authors. In 2019, Son of Rome won the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year Award. In 2020, it was honored with a silver medal in the international Reader’s Favorite Book Reviewers Book Awards and also won First Place in the prestigious Chaucer Division in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, 2020. 

Though she graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Music Education, Brook has always loved writing. She completed a Masters program at Hollins University with an emphasis in Ancient Roman studies, which helped prepare her for authoring her present works. Brook teaches full-time as a Music Educator and works in a rural public-school district near Roanoke, Virginia. Her personal interests include travel, cycling, hiking in the woods, reading, and spending downtime with her husband and two amazing Labrador Retrievers. She lives in the heart of southwest Virginia in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. 

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx