Heroines' journeys - Not always physical ones

Roma Nova heroineAs readers, we like to see our main character progress in some way. She or he doesn’t need to save the world, make a grand marriage with a duke or make a groundbreaking journey into space. But their story does need a resolution. It could be acceptance, it could be a move somewhere else, it could be a different career.

But we like them to develop personally and to be in a different place from the beginning of their story. After all, most of us like to think we’ve matured on our life journey.

The Roma Nova heroines tend to travel a great deal. but that’s merely trains, planes and automobiles as the film title goes. Or horse, wagon and litter in the 4th century stories. But it’s the inner journey, the self-learning that appeal the mosts. As a writer of thrillers, I enjoy giving my main characters a jolt or two personally along with plenty of conflict that naturally belongs to a thriller story.

Into the detail…

Taking Carina, who starts as Karen (before that name took on a negative aspect on social media. I’m glad now she had a name change. 🙂 ) In INCEPTIO, she’s  neither happy nor unhappy. She’s learnt to harden up after the death of her parents and being farmed out to unsympathetic cousins until she was eighteen when she left. But under that shell, she’s not very confident and has medium expectations of life.


Suddenly being parachuted into danger, a new very strange life dents her confidence and increases her need to please and be accepted. She does have flashes of toughness and decisiveness, but that part of her nature was mostly hidden until a pivotal moment in her story. At the end of the book when the story is resolved, she’s developed into a person who feel much more “comfortable in her skin”.

In CARINA, she’s much more confident of her abilities, but she has to learn a hard lesson that despite the ethics of that society, even in Roma Nova corruption and greed are present as everywhere else.

In PERFIDITAS, she faces personal, professional and political dilemmas and has to take a course of action she find immensely conflictual. Only her sense of duty gets her through it, although she has to accept a high personal cost.

In SUCCESSIO, she’s that bit older with a growing family of teenage children. Family tragedies of different kinds impact her career as well as personal life and she must decide what her priorities are at this stage of her life. She will be changed irrevocably.

Aurelia in the late 1960s to early 1980s has quite different issues. In AURELIA, she a very effective Praetorian soldier but has to face a rupture with that beloved career when a tragedy strikes. She’s not adept in social situations – she takes things too seriously. Her weakness is a fear of her nemesis, a man who has threatened her since they were children. I did give her a break from him in NEXUS, which is more of a crime thriller, but here she learns the value of friendship as a giver as well as a receiver.

Aurelia and Caius – lifelong enemies(?)

In INSURRECTIO and RETALIO, she will do anything to save her daughter but also her beloved Roma Nova, at the cost of her own freedom and life. She has to overcome suspicion and prejudice and learn to be patient as well as use her skills and courage. RETALIO starts with her physically and emotionally weakened, and ends with personal triumph but a devastating personal loss. She has to ‘gather up her grit’ as her granddaughter Carina will say in the future and do her duty. But it hurts…

Julia Bacausa in the 4th century begins her story in JULIA PRIMA outwardly as princess with every privilege, but internally a complete mess. After a legal divorce that her ex-husband refuses to recognise, she has taken it to heart as a terrible failure and has little self-respect or faith in herself as a woman. But she must make a momentous emotional decision from which there is no return. Her journey is that despite her strong will and warm heart, she has to learn how to cope with hardship and prejudice without losing her background culture if she wants to attain her goal.


Her daughter, Galla, is more measured in EXSILIUM. She changes from a compliant Roman daughter and wife into somebody with inner strength and outward decisiveness that often scares her herself. But it’s not the easiest path. Her sister Lucilla is much like their mother, Julia, but surprises her family in the end.

In brief…

As with people In Real Life, characters in stories can’t be perfect. They can be intelligent and competent, but like 98% of the human race, they have inner fears, weaknesses and doubts. The key to the Roma Nova characters is that they must learn through experience, whether heartbreaking, affirming or joyous. Duty is a strong thread woven through all the Roma Nova stories, but those carrying it out are, after all, merely human.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is now out.

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