Independent reviews for JULIA PRIMA

From the Historical Novel Society – 1 February 2023. Editors’ Choice

“This is a stunning historical novel set in the 4th century. Julia, the daughter of the ruler of the provincial town of Virunum, worships the Roman gods at a time when Christianity has become the official religion of the Empire. She considers herself divorced, under Roman law, from her Christian husband, the bishop’s nephew, but since the Christians of the time considered marriage indissoluble, she is not entirely divorced. When Julia falls in love with Lucius Apulius, a Roman soldier who believes in the old gods, her father banishes him to Rome. Julia, accompanied by two servants, the painter and ex-soldier Aegius and her body servant Asella, goes on a dangerous journey from Virunum (in present-day Austria) to Rome to be reunited with the man she loves, while an enemy from her past pursues her along the way.

This is the prequel to Alison Morton’s Roma Nova series of alternative history thrillers, in which a remnant of the Roman Empire survives to the present day, but it is set centuries before the other books, so it can be read on its own. It takes place before the alternative timeline diverged from the real timeline, so it is a regular historical novel. Julia seems like a spoiled princess at first, but she develops into a strong, admirable heroine, fighting her enemies with a sword as well as any man. Her two servants, Aegius and Asella, have fascinating backgrounds, and there is more to them than meets the eye. Morton’s descriptions of the countryside on Julia’s journey are magnificent, and you feel as if you are traveling along with her. The later Roman Empire is a rather unusual setting. Many more novels are set during the early Empire. I enjoyed reading about this fascinating time, and I highly recommend the book.”


From Linnea Tanner, reviewer for the Coffee Pot Book Club – 10 October 2022 (excerpt)

“Author Alison Morton has masterfully written a captivating story that immediately draws you in and keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. The tale vividly describes a decaying Roman empire caught in a political whirlwind of Christian leaders striving to counter Roman law and culture established during the time when pagan beliefs were accepted. Though Julia is a Roman citizen, she embraces her Celtic heritage. Fiery and independent, she is an engaging character who is determined to choose her own way. Still, she recognizes the tightrope that her father is walking to appease a power-hungry Christian bishop, the Roman governor, and the needs of his own people. Unexpected twists, keeping me on the edge of my seat, ultimately tied back to the prologue.

Surprisingly, I was most engaged with the secondary characters of Aegius and Asella. As the story unfolds, their backstories connect directly with the dangers they encounter on their journey with Julia. Throughout Julia’s life, they have influenced the decisions she has made. The relationship between Julia and Lucius is not as well developed as her friendship with Aegius and Asella. The story emphasizes Julia’s pathway to independence and not romance.

JULIA PRIMA is a captivating, suspenseful tale of a young Celtic woman striving for independence to follow her heart in the constraints of the Christian Roman empire.”

Full review here:

From Deborah Swift, multi-published historical fiction author – 5 October 2022

“What a rollercoaster. I’ve been meaning to get to this series for ages, and worried that I would need to know something of the other books – but no, this book stands perfectly alone and will have you eagerly flipping the pages to find out what happens next. In Noricum, Roma Nova, its 370 AD and royal daughter Julia Bacausa lives a relaxed life with her father, who was once an elite fighter. One day at the market she is caught by surprise by her intense feelings for a Roman soldier. (Julia has been divorced by her own Pagan laws, but her Christian husband Deodatus still refuses to divorce her.) After this hot and passionate encounter she doesn’t expect to see the Roman again, but wouldn’t you know it, when the Roman commander visits, the same Roman turns up again as part of a delegation to her father. His name is Lucius Apulius, he is the commander’s Tribune, and his arrival in Julia’s life certainly brings complications. At the outset I expected Apulius to be the obvious alpha male, but through the story he turns out to be much more than that. Julia herself is bold and courageous, and unafraid to tackle anything in her way.

The novel is written in crisp vivid prose which really evokes the sights, sounds and smells of this alternative Rome. It is hard to believe the story is a fabrication because the Roman history has been so well welded to the narrative. This is a fast moving adventure with characters to believe in, plenty of travel, a fair bit of violence, and a hot and passionate romance.

I can see why this series has been highly praised and I heartily recommend Julia Prima to all who enjoy a thriller with a strong woman at its heart.”

Full review:

From Helen Hollick, Amazon Vine Voice on her Of History and Kings blog – 2 September 2022

“We meet Julia Bacausa when she herself is about to meet Tribune Lucius Apulius, the man who is to become the most important person in her life. I will give away no spoilers, but what is to follow is a page-turner adventure of misunderstandings, determination, passion and thrilling action.

The physical journey Julia undertakes in Julia Prima is written with such skilful flare that you feel you are riding with her and her companions along every mile, wary of what might be looming ahead, or following behind. We travel with her by sea, and stand with her, awed, by that first sight of Rome.

There also with Julia’s mental journey – you could strangle her at times for her ill-thought impulses, but cheer when she finds the courage to keep going on her quest, despite the many difficulties thrown at her. The supporting cast of believable friends (and enemies) are as just well written.

So, good writing, intriguing plot, superb research, realistic characters and an engrossing story. What more could readers want?”

Full review:

From David’s Book Blurg – 25 August 2022

“Now to the nitty-gritty.. plot.. FANTASTIC. I’ve read a lot of the authors work and I really felt this one just packed an extra punch.. it’s more emotional.. a desperate journey which I found more intense and gritty.. LOVED IT!

Development wise everything is paced well and as always the author manages to mix plot and romance seamlessly. If you are a follower of my reviews you’ll know I’m not a fan of romance when it feels forced into a story but Alison Morton adds these aspects naturally allowing the story to feel real… you feel the connections between the characters.

While I loved the character of Julia and her shear strength & determination I also fell in love with Aegius and Asella who accompany Julia on her journey. I’m not one for spoilers but these 3 together are what makes this book work.

Wonderful writing with an easy flowing exciting plot. What more could I ask for!

A spectacular 5*”

Full review:

From Mystery People – 14 September 2022

Julia Prima is the first in a new series that explores the roots of Roma Nova, the alternative history created by this author. It is primarily a romantic adventure novel with an element of mystery, as Julia tries to defeat the unknown enemy who wishes to destroy her, although, because of the information contained in the prologue, the reader is better informed than the protagonists.

The setting is skilfully portrayed, and the historical details are authentic and convincing and cast a different light on the religious differences of this time. Julia is an increasingly engaging protagonist as she faces loss and danger with courage and becomes less arrogant as she travels disguised as the daughter of her two companions.

This is a book that should be enjoyed by anybody who is fascinated by the history of the Roman Empire at this turbulent time as well as those who have enjoyed the stories of Roma Nova, which the author has already published. It is also a good read for those who like courageous and competent female protagonists who will not allow others to dictate the major decisions of their lives. An interesting read, which I recommend.”

Full review:

From Christina Courtenay – pre-publication

“This is an engrossing tale of love, adventure and treachery, within an authentic historical setting filled with fascinating details of Roman life. The author has done an amazing job researching this period and her knowledge shines through at every turn. I really felt as though as was there, first in the little backwater town of Virunum in Noricum, then travelling through the mountains and down the coast towards Rome.

The heroine is the spoiled only daughter of a prince to begin with, but when it matters, she’s incredibly strong and fights for what she wants. I was rooting for her all the way and loved the fact that she knows how to wield a knife or sword to defend herself and takes no prisoners, always standing up for herself.

The secondary characters, her companions Aegius and Asella, both had some surprises up their sleeves, and the hero Lucius is the perfect love interest. The story also gives the reader a wonderful insight into the difficulties of the times, pitting those who cling to the old gods against the increasingly stronger Christians who give no quarter.

It all makes for a truly exciting adventure and epic romance that kept me on the edge of my seat. I absolutely loved this addition to the Roma Nova series and hope there is much more to come!”

From Nicola Cornick – pre-publication

“JULIA PRIMA gripped me from the start and didn’t let me go. This prequel to the Roma Nova series is fast-moving and compulsive. It drew me into a richly-imagined world that is so vivid you feel you can touch and taste it.

I adored the character of Julia, strong, brave and yet vulnerable, and even when I wanted to shake her for her impulsive nature, I was rooting for her to win through. A superb page-turner bursting with passion, action and excitement. Highly recommended.”

From historical fiction author Sophie Perinot – pre-publication 

“JULIA PRIMA is a love story but so much more. It is a twisty tale, pitting Julia and her loyal friends against a man with a bitter, festering desire for intrafamilial vengeance. Will Julia reach her beloved, the Tribune Lucius Apulius, in Rome? Or does her road lead only to ruin and revenge? As the novel drew to its climax I held my breath.

Readers of JULIA PRIMA  will be immediately captivated by Alison Morton’s evocative descriptive powers and strong narrative voice. Morton’s Julia is a compelling central character who knows her own mind, sexuality and power and is not afraid to express all of them. As Tribune Lucius Apulius, Julia’s love interest puts it: “You thrust straight to the vulnerable spot, don’t you, Julia?”.

The novel’s other players are also well-developed, including Christianity. And make no mistake, the wave of hardline Christian zealotry sweeping the Empire in 370 AD is not merely a backdrop, it is a character in this JULIA PRIMA . Seething, breathing, destroying lives and careers. Christianity is one of the novel’s two true villains—the other is just as frightening and better at hiding in the shadows.”


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, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, will be out on 23 August.

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