Elisabeth Storrs’ novel, “The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome”, is a fascinating historical romance that takes place in 406 B.C. I don’t generally gravitate to stories quite that far back in time; but I was drawn into the world of the novel right away.
Rome’s closest neighbor, the Etruscan city of Veii lies just across the Tiber. In order to broker a truce at a time when Rome’s soldiers had been depleted a young Roman woman of partial noble birth, Caecilia is wedded to an Etruscan nobleman and warrior, Vel Mastarna.
Caecilia arrives in Veii to find a world vastly different from the one she left in Rome. The gods worshipped are different, the women are independent and the lifestyle is hedonistic. She vows to remain true to her Roman virtues but is slowly tempted by Mastarna and the society which doesn’t quite accept her. As Rome strengthens its army, political troubles roil in Veii and Caecilia longs for home while she fights her attraction to Mastarna.
Storrs did a wonderful job depicting the differing cultures and the temptations that Caecilia tries to overcome. Caecilia is a great character and it is a treat how she grows into a mature, thoughtful woman over the course of the story. The character of Mastarna was multilayered. He was caring and attentive to Caecilia but driven by his own demons. I liked that Storrs did not make him handsome, but rather scarred and ugly.
I was a bit disappointed in the ending until I realized there is a second book. Now I’m looking forward to reading it to find out what happens next!