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A Gladiator's Word is His Bond - an Editorial Review of "Pompeii Fire"

Book Blurb:

AD 79

Drusilla was the woman of his dreams. Suetonius swore his eternal devotion to the merchant's daughter.

A gladiator's word is his bond.

Present Day

Classics professor Damiano De Luca feels ridiculous in the gladiator costume he wears after losing a bet, and seeing Stephanie Marlowe waiting in line outside the Pompeii Archaeological Park makes him feel even worse. She's gorgeous … and looks so familiar. Without thinking, the handsome Italian addresses Stephanie in the old tongue: "Salve, Drusilla."

Her reply? "Salve, Thraex."

Through untold disaster in the recesses of time and up to the present day, Dom and Stephanie must discover the truth about Pompeii Fire.

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Author Bio:

Award-winning author Sharon E. Cathcart (she/her) writes heart-warming romance and historical fiction with a twist!

A former journalist and newspaper editor, Sharon has been writing for as long as she can remember and always has at least one work in progress.

Sharon is a member of the Association of Ancient Historians, Archaeological Conservancy, Archaeological Institute of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Historical Novel Society.

Sharon lives in the Silicon Valley, California, with her very patient husband and several rescue cats.

Editorial Review:

The thing that niggled most at his mind was how familiar she seemed. While it made no sense, Damiano was certain they had met before. His travels to the United States in the past few years before the pandemic were limited to academic conferences rather than leisure travel, which made it less likely. Still, the thought was not readily dismissed. Damiano had difficulty falling asleep that night; when slumber finally overtook him, his dreams were full of the American woman.

Having developed agoraphobia through the pandemic, Stephanie desperately needed something to push her to get back out into the world. To no longer fear stepping outside of her house was something she had to work on, and a job would be the best way to force herself outside. However, she didn’t expect to land a journalism job that would send her to Pompeii, to spend time in the village and write about it, in a bid to jumpstart tourism in the area after the pandemic. As soon as agreeing to the job, Stephanie began to have wild dreams. A Thracian gladiator haunted her as she slept, his green eyes clear in her mind. And when she meets Damiano De Luca in Pompeii, a university professor with the same green eyes as the gladiator in her dreams, Stephanie begins to feel that, perhaps, she is living a life she has lived once before. Pompeii Fire (Fires of Time) by Sharon E. Cathcart is an immersive story of love through the ages, of a time long forgotten reborn into the modern day, and of history coming back to live once again. When Stephanie met Damiano for the first time, with him wearing the costume of a Thracian gladiator due to a lost bet, she didn’t expect to connect with him quite so quickly. They got along well, almost too well, as though they had known each other for a long time, rather than just a few days. Together, they explore Pompeii, Damiano showing off the village he grew up in, and Stephanie taking note and pictures of things she wants to equally show off in her article. It does not take long for friendship to move further, blooming from acquaintances, to friends, to something more. Damiano is the perfect gentleman, and the way he treats Stephanie is wonderful. He makes sure she is comfortable at all times, and is ready to step in or step away if she is not. Stephanie is a character you cannot help but like, she is brave, ready to step outside of her comfort zone when she knows it is the right thing for her, and not afraid to follow where life leads her. Especially if life is leading her into the arms of a frighteningly handsome Italian man.

They walked through the Forum, past its many temples, and through the marketplace. People stared at them and whispered. Suetonius was mortified. A little girl offered him a shy smile; her blue eyes and brown hair reminded him of home. One seldom saw dark hair and light eyes outside of his people. He managed a sad smile of his own as she tugged on her mother’s hand and spoke urgently. The woman looked over, shaking her head. He wondered what was said, but put the thought from his mind. There was no point in wasting time on the matter; his fate was sealed.

Suetonius was taken as a slave at only eleven years of age, and after facing the humility of walking through a crowded marketplace, tied within a long line of boys, he must face the gruelling training of a gladiator. But, even as he grows older, stronger, and more popular, he cannot shake the sight of those blue eyes, staring at him through the crowd. He can’t help but wonder where the girl is now, and what she might be doing. Suetonius’ story was certainly an interesting one. I know little about the lives of gladiators, and to follow him, growing into the role of a gladiator, and his fighting role being chosen while he is so young, was both interesting and heartbreaking to follow. To be so resigned to a life of misery and pain at such a young age is enough to make your heart bleed for Suetonius.

“Haven’t you thought about who you’d like to marry, though? We’re supposed to be wives. Who is the handsomest boy you’ve ever seen?” Drusilla remembered a pair of green eyes under shorn black hair, long ago in the Roman Forum. “No one you know. Let’s go play with Invictus some more.”

Drusilla, similarly, could not shake the image of Suetonius. To meet again, after so long, and to fight for love despite such slim odds, and the gods seemingly working against them, shows how much they feel for each other. Their love gave them the confidence to fight, and it is a fight harder than any Suetonius has faced in the gladiatorial arena. The pure and genuine love between Suetonius and Drusilla was beautiful to read, and they are a couple you can truly root for. These characters truly live among the pages, and to join their world as you read is absolutely wonderful. After meeting these characters, I didn’t want to leave them, for they are so lovely, and so clearly in love with one another, I simply could not step away until I knew if their love was destined or doomed. This book has been written with exceptional care to detail, to combine two storylines, one in the modern day, and one thousands of years in the past, is more than enough cause for praise. The two threads of this novel have been woven together into a beautiful tapestry of words you can’t stop reading, mesmerising you until you find yourself having finished the book. With so many details and snippets of each storyline dotted in around the story itself, this book comes across as very real in the telling. To be able to create such a gripping story, in what is a relatively short book, is certainly highly commendable. A novel of love never lost, simply laying idle and waiting to be re-found, Pompeii Fire (Fires of Time) by Sharon E. Cathcart is a book for the true romantics, for those who believe in eternal love. For when love is real and pure, the flame may flicker, but it will never truly die out.


“Pompeii Fire (Fires of Time)” by Sharon E. Cathcart receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” Award of Excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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