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Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay : a review

I’m delighted to be sharing Elena’s guest review for Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay.

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book cover for Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay

Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay

  • Category : Historical Romance
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Headline Review (18 Jan. 2024)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1472293223
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1472293220
  • Amazon | Waterstones | Goodreads

Shadows in the Ashes Summary

Brimming with romance, adventure and vivid historical detail, Christina Courtenay’s gripping dual-time novel travels from the present day to the fires of ancient Pompeii.

The sunlight caught her gold bracelet, sending a flash that almost blinded her.

She closed her eyes, but jumped when the earth started shaking and there was an almighty boom behind her.

Present Day
Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…

AD 79

Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.

The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…

Shadows in the Ashes Review

Cat is in an abusive marriage – for so long she has been scared of her husband until their daughter Bella’s safety is called into question. Finally fleeing the marriage with the help of her mother and neighbour, Suzanne, she escapes to Italy, where her mother is from, to get away from her life and ensure everyone’s safety.

Finding a waitressing job she can combine with translation work she meets Connor who is doing research on volcanology. After he asks her to do some translation for her, they grow closer and visit Pompeii and neighbouring areas for research. While there, Cat begins to have visions which are linked to the ancient gold bracelet she wears, gifted to her by her mother. These visions are of an Ancient Rome.

In 79 AD, Raedwald is a gladiator, sold to slavery by his brother. When he is put in charge of guarding the beautiful Aemilia, he knows he cannot fall in love with her as she is his master. When Vesuvius erupts, all hell breaks loose and they must escape Pompeii. He’s determined to get revenge on his brother and be with the woman he loves but there is danger at every turn.

This dual timeline book is a wonderfully immersive read with a lot of historical detail. I loved how vivid the depictions of Roman life were, and so detailed!

I enjoyed both the historical and current storylines and both women had very similar lives which made it eerie and fascinating.

The way Cat was drawn to Connor echoed Aemilia and Raedwald’s relationship and as the story built to a dramatic finale it was impossible to put the book down.

Absolutely loved this story!

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About the Author

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association, now a Vice President, and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes.  SHADOWS IN THE ASHES (dual time/timeslip romance published by Headline Review 18th January 2024) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).



Twitter @PiaCCourtenay


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