She writes everything that I love, check out her interview here through the tag. This is glorious.
Liberty by Kim Iverson Headlee is a Historical Romance.
Betrayed by her father and sold as payment of a Roman tax debt to fight in Londinium’s arena, gladiatrix-slave Rhyddes feels like a wild beast in a gilded cage. Celtic warrior blood flows in her veins, but Roman masters own her body. She clings to her vow that no man shall claim her soul, though Marcus Calpurnius Aquila, son of the Roman governor, makes her yearn for a love she believes impossible.
Groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps and trapped in a politically advantageous betrothal, Aquila prefers the purity of combat on the amphitheater sands to the sinister intrigues of imperial politics, and the raw power and athletic grace of the flame-haired Libertas to the adoring deference of Rome’s noblewomen.
When a plot to overthrow Caesar ensnares them as pawns in the dark design, Aquila must choose between the Celtic slave who has won his heart and the empire to which they both owe allegiance. Trusting no man and knowing the opposite of obedience is death, the only liberty offered to any slave, Rhyddes must embrace her arena name, Libertas—and the love of a man willing to sacrifice everything to forge a future with her.
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With the party’s noise muted somewhat, Aquila paused beside a column, bade Vederi to give them some distance, and faced her.
“Gladiatrix, I am sorry for any unseemly behavior this evening.”
A nobleman apologizing to a slave? Had the world gone mad?
His gaze intensified. “I am serious. I did not intend to cause you discomfort.”
She glanced past him. The braziers were still burning bright and warm. The aromas of roasted meat and fish still wafted from the dining hall, along with bursts of raucous laughter. Her guard still kept his gaze trained upon them. As she regarded Aquila, her stomach’s fluttering resumed.
Mayhap she was the one who’d gone mad.
“My lord, I thank you.” Her honor demanded a trade in kind. “I am sorry I raised my rudus against you, and I thank you for intervening with Lanista Jamil on my behalf.”
“I deserved your scorn. You did not deserve to feel the lash for my transgression.”
“My mistake.” He reached his hand toward her, seemed to think better of it, and rested it against the column. “You attacked me because I killed a worthy opponent, did you not?”
“Yes, my lord. I—” There could be no remedy other than the truth. “I viewed it as an act of murder. And I despised you for failing to change the sponsor’s decision.”
“It was murder,” he ground out between clenched teeth. “But I was sponsor that day.”
“You?” She felt her jaw slacken. “But why couldn’t you—”
“That man was my father.” His fist pounded the column with a dull thud. “He ordered me to obey or die.” An ocean of anguish washed through his tone.
Thank you for visiting us today! We understand that you have quite a tale to tell. Let’s start with a few questions about you, and then you can tell us about the book.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Rhyddes ferch Rudd, which in your tongue means Freedom daughter of Red. The blood of ancient Celtic warriors flows in my veins, though I am a farmer’s daughter by the circumstance of my birth.
How did you first meet your writer?
My bones were discovered by some men and women of her era, almost two millennia after I was laid to rest. Because of the wealth of gladiator-themed grave goods buried with me, these people surmised that I must have been a popular gladiatrix. But it was Kim Headlee who unearthed the details of my story for all to read.
Do you sneak into your writer’s dreams?
Most certainly, though oftentimes I find the realm quite crowded with many other folk with whom I am not acquainted.
Did you ever think that your life would end up in a book?
What is a book?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would have a tighter rein upon my tongue, which often buys me more trouble than I can afford.
We’d love to hear about your setting. Where and when is it and what makes it special?
My life spans much of the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, one of a very few men ever to claim that title who did not abuse his power for personal gain. When my lover Aquila came to me with news that this man was in danger, I could see the loyalty and respect—and concern—in Aquila’s eyes, and for that reason alone I chose to help him protect his sovereign, even though I cared not who ruled and who died in that gods-cursed empire.
Tell us about your journey. What are your goals and what obstacles stand in your way?
More than anything—even more than my freedom—I yearn to be Aquila’s equal. As a foreign slave in an empire where citizenship stands paramount, where an arena fighter such as I can only be considered the equal of other gladiators, actors, undertakers, and whores, this goal seems impossibly remote. Aquila has declared that he would renounce his aristocratic status, wealth, and power for me, but I cannot in good conscience allow him to destroy himself on my account.
And yet the gods have granted the impossible to other mortals. I pray that I am worthy to receive such a boon from them, for surely divine assistance is the only way for Aquila and I to bridge the social chasm that separates us from a lasting future together.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in your story and why?
While fighting in the bowels underneath the massive Flavian Amphitheater, better known to you as the Colosseum in Rome, I chanced upon the bestiary. My odious owners were unfortunate enough to be there too. I am certain the tiger enjoyed the hunt, especially its conclusion, though I daresay I enjoyed it even more—even though it placed me in peril of my life. I shall leave it for you to imagine the details of what I witnessed in that dark, dank labyrinth and beyond.
Do you like the way the your story ended?
Does a cygnet enjoy shedding its scruffy plumage to become a sleek adult swan? Of course it does; don’t be an asinus!
Would you be interested in a sequel, if your writer was so inclined?
If I understand your meaning correctly, you refer to the telling of another tale. My beloved brother Owen shall be the focus of such a tale, along with the woman whom he is destined to rescue, love, and marry—despite the fact that her people and ours are blood enemies.
Did you help your writer come up with the title or do you know how this title was chosen?
The title of my tale is Liberty, the word in your language that translates to the Latin word Libertas, my arena name, which I adopted since Rhyddes is too difficult for the Romans’ stiff tongues.
Thank you, Rhyddes, for stopping by and letting us get to know you.
And thank you for taking the time to converse with a lowly gladiatrix-slave. I earnestly pray the association shall not bode ill for the preservation of your social status.
About the Author
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, Great Pyrenees goat guards, and assorted wildlife. People and creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins–the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-twentieth century–seem to be sticking around for a while yet.
Kim has been a published novelist since 1999 with the first edition of Dawnflight (Sonnet Books, Simon & Schuster) and has been studying the Arthurian legends for nigh on half a century.
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