Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Knife of Narcissus by Carolyne Chand ~ Pre-Release Review, Guest Post and Giveaway.

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Romans, debauchery, sex slaves, arranged marriage, politics and unrequited love. This book had all the elements that made it a winner for me, one of my favourite time periods and an M/M romance. Totally enthralling.

Carolyne is with us today talking about why a serial. A question that many may have and Carolyne tells us exactly why.

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Guest post ~ Why a Serial?

It's been encouraging to see serials making a comeback. It's helped that, with ebooks, a story can be whatever size and shape and subdivisions it needs to be, no constraints. Some tales can be limericks. Some can be the epic of Gilgamesh. Ebooks also make it easy to send instalments to readers—no more hanging around on the docks waiting to grab the latest chapter of David Copperfield. Which is great for the way I write. When I saw other romance writers using the serial format, it was as if someone had unlocked a door and said it's all right to step through too. At a workshop an awfully long time ago, the main critique for the story I brought was that, instead of following a traditional three-act structure, readers counted four, five, six, seven acts...and the story wasn't even finished. It wanted to be nine acts. Maybe eleven. It wasn't sure. I stuck it in a trunk and shut the lid so I wouldn't have to hear it complain anymore. It took years of struggling against my instincts to realise that what I was writing were episodes in a story of many parts that didn't easily fit the classic structure of: Inciting Moment > Rising Action > Climax > Falling Action > Resolution ...or, as some people have put it, and what that description has always seemed to me to be: The male ejaculatory arc Ahem.

Moving on. Writer and writing guru Chuck Wendig has a better way to describe a story:

“Oh Fuck, A Problem, and Shit Gets Worse And Worse Until Our Protagonist Finally Fixes The Fucking Problem.”

That does still assume a more or less upward spiral, but he allows that there can be all sorts of mini-spirals and resolutions underneath. Since he agrees with me, I like his approach. A well-done serial story may not have to follow traditional expectations (one rise, one climax, one resolution), but it shouldn't just break off at X number of words, pass Go, then start the next chunk of words. I don't think each section has to end on a cliff-hanger, though that's fun too. There's an extra part that's special to the serial format: skipping the post-climactic denouement where the story rolls over and falls asleep, instead it takes a rise again into a hook for the next book...and onward to multiple climaxes (lucky story). All the other types of stories should have serial envy. This suits an erotic romance with lots of sexy times and the struggle of lovers to be together. The erotic elements alone, if the author is doing her or his job right, could be too much for a single continuous narrative. Serials give the reader a built-in moment to breathe in between all those passionate clinches and all that emotional wracking to regroup then dive back in. If I'm doing my job right as an author, each time the reader plunges back into the story, it will be for a deeper and deeper dive. Until my hero fixes his problem, gets his man (we hope), and finally gets some sleep.

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Title: The Knife of Narcissus

Author: Carolyne Chand

Publisher: Self-Published

Release: 24th August 2014

Genre: M/M (Historical)


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Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumes that the debauched and chaotic days of Nero are behind them now that Rome has settled down under a sober new ruler, Vespasian. Lucius may be only the son of a merchant, but his newly arranged marriage to an older widow will bring powerful connections and an enviable life. If he keeps himself on a respectable path.

That seems impossible when he discovers that his heart lies somewhere not at all respectable: his lifelong friend Trio, the reserved and serious son of one of the most reserved and pious families in the city.

As Lucius is pushed along the course of duty to family, to his promised spouse, and to Rome itself, he begins to see under the surface of his city, into a net of intrigues, manipulation, and corruption that can carry him upward in status and and bring him what he most wants...or destroy both him and the people he loves.

Mark’s Review

You can’t beat the Romans for a bit of debauchery and a bit on the side with a sex slave. I love my historical stories, I love my romans, so an M/M romance set in Roman times and Carolyne Chand with her first two parts of the series The Knife of Narcissus is on a winner for me – WOOHOO!! An M/M Roman saga.

Lucius and Trio have been friends since they were children, however Lucius is now about to be married, arranged by his father and all in the name of increasing the families social class if it wasn’t already high enough, so even this early on the political dealings begin. The story sets a scene of Rome that I found realistic, well described and I was immediately swept back to an ancient time and walking down the streets of ancient Rome. Since their boyhood fumblings, Lucius has developed a little more than a crush on his best friend and is determined to make love to him. However, Trio is reticent even though he also has very strong feelings for Lucius but has a harder time coming to terms with his emotions than Lucius. I could feel the emotional turmoil taking place inside him. On the one hand his love for Lucius on the other his denial to come to terms with his true feelings. He really is one confused young man, oh I wished he would just throw caution to the wind and accept what is staring him in the face.  

The first two parts of this series for me really deals with Lucius discovering his homosexuality or “gayness” and exploring the possibilities, almost like a gay sexual awakening. He avoids contact with women even though his father sends him to brothels, but he always manages to avoid the deed. Fascinated by Greek poems and drawings he is determined to discover more. Thank goodness there are slaves like Perseus who can teach and mentor him in the ways he wants. So gradually he becomes more experienced. I like the way that Carolyne gets the balance, as of course I’m sure back then, using and abusing the slaves for sex would have been a daily occurrence and nobody would think twice about it. It was all about just getting your rocks off so to speak in some respects. Separating the emotional feeling of love and the physical sex act with no emotions. After all what were slaves and brothels for in those days anyway? Obviously a time I feel that was a lot more in touch with their basic animal instincts, for want of a better phrase, before society and conventions started to impose more rigorous  behavioural codes. That makes reading an M/M romance in this period for me personally raw and gritty, also no one needs to get upset about cheating as there wasn’t any in the sense of how we see it today. Your marriage was one thing, one of duty and responsibility; getting your end away with the slaves or in the brothels was another.

Lucius is married off to Velleia Aeliana who was married before to a much older and wealthier man who has died and is now widowed. She is barren and obviously this is just a marriage of convenience. However, family expectations of the wealth she will bring with her into the marriage are obviously of great benefit. However, he can still not bring himself to sleep with her, he knows that his inclinations and attractions are definitely with men and one in particular. I could just feel Lucius’s fear almost of having to perform the act to seal the marriage, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Constantly making up excuses in order to avoid the issue. I could so sympathise with him, after all I wouldn’t be able to either, even if it was a case of close your eyes and think of England. I would probably have to think of a great deal more than England – lol! Velleia is of course more than aware of what's up although she never broaches the subject directly. Marriage to her is just a duty too. But poor Lucius, caught and trapped between duty and his true emotions. For some reason I don’t trust Velleia and whether or not she’ll turn out to be a snake in the grass later will remain to be seen.

Now here we come to the deal with serials in my opinion. The first two parts end for me on a somewhat bitter sweet note. Is there a spark of hope for Lucius and Trio, or is it all going to back fire on them? Lucius is left and high and dry, no resolve, so the question is how does it continue from here?  Is Velleia going to be a problem? How is Lucius going to manage his marriage and still try and find love with Trio? So the first two parts end with lots of questions left. I wouldn’t call it a cliff-hanger, but more lose ends that still need to be tied together. Personally, I love serials as it keeps you on the edge of your seat and gives you pause for thought before the next book comes out. I personally have no problem with this although I appreciate some do, but I see it a little bit like the literary version of a soap or sitcom. Even some of the most successful TV based programmes are serials, like Downton Abbey to name but one as an example. So no I don’t have a problem with serials in literary form either. Just keeps me interested and hungry for more.

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Series Reading Order and Release Dates

In keeping with the serial flavour of the story, I will be reading the series and reviewing the following books in the series on their respective release day. Also Carolyne will be accompanying each release with a guest post on some aspect of Roman life – can’t wait! I’m sure it’ll be absolutely fascinating.


Release: 24th August

Guest Post: Why a Serial?


Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumes that the debauched and chaotic days of Nero are behind them now that Rome has settled down under a sober new ruler, Vespasian. Lucius may be only the son of a merchant, but his newly arranged marriage to an older widow will bring powerful connections and an enviable life. If he keeps himself on a respectable path.

That seems impossible when he discovers that his heart lies somewhere not at all respectable: his lifelong friend Trio, the reserved and serious son of one of the most reserved and pious families in the city.

As Lucius is pushed along the course of duty to family, to his promised spouse, and to Rome itself, he begins to see under the surface of his city, into a net of intrigues, manipulation, and corruption that can carry him upward in status and and bring him what he most wants...or destroy both him and the people he loves.


Release: 8th September

Guest Post: Digging Out the Details ~ Delicious and Dangerous Roman Cookery (with a recipe for ancient cookies)


Lucius Sentius had always assumed the debauched and corrupt days of Nero were over. He was wrong. Being celibate and sober may be good for the reputation, but it’s a dead-end path for an ambitious Roman looking to rise to wealth and power in the city.

His friendship with the man he loves has been broken by the flare of passion between them, his wife has a better command of his household than he does, and gossip around the city about his hedonistic lifestyle is growing faster than any actual attempt to be wanton. When his new brother-in-law hires him to take on a mysterious task for a powerful, unidentified patron that requires someone willing to set aside all scruples, Lucius throws himself into a chance to prove his worth.

It’s enough to make a man turn to the gods for help. In Lucius’s case, the one goddess who seems to listen—to the right sort of worship—is Venus....


Release: 22nd September

Guest Post: Digging Out the Details ~ Clothing, What Does a Roman Wear Under his Toga or How Do You Get Him Out of It?


Lucius Sentius, son of a prominent merchant, ambitious young Roman himself, and exemplar of the new generation in a newly strengthened Empire, is building a reputation. Mostly a terrible one, and mostly thanks to a possibly insane poet who has taken an interest in elegizing his allegedly wild ways in graffiti on toilet-house walls.

Notoriety will only keep the man Lucius loves away from him. Trio has fled the city, leaving a tangle of half-truths between them, sending baffling missives. The answers the gods seem to be making to Lucius’s prayers are only more knots to unravel.

Lucius is determined to set at least one part of his life and reputation right—his marriage bed. A few rehearsals first with appropriate teachers seems to be the obvious solution to get past his hesitation. But life and love are never as simple as he would hope. And his wife, Velleia, has plans and secrets of her own.


Release: 6th October

Guest Post: Dub-con, Non-con, and Writing About Slaves in Historical Fiction


The quest to find his wife’s lover has embroiled Lucius Sentius in corruption and debauchery at a high level. The men he must confront are tied to the emperor, and the price of their help involves a strange game of humiliation. The corruption of a city that shrugged off mad emperor Nero, and replaced him with a new brand of decadence, fits Lucius like a well-draped toga. If he’s willing to wear his new guise.

Velleia has been carrying a secret not so different than Lucius’s own: love lost to distance and circumstance. To help the wife he now respects, he will have to take the risk of becoming the man his reputation claims him to be.
His brother-in-law Aulus’s secrets are just business: a shipment of smuggled goods that is drawing Lucius ever more deeply into dangerous intrigues. And looming over it all, Trio is due to return to the city of Rome.

Whatever secrets Trio is carrying have built a wall of thorns between him and Lucius, a wall Lucius is no long sure he has the means to tear down. Lucius may already be what Trio feared he would become. Revealing the truth of their lives could be too painful for both of them.


Release: 20th October

Guest Post: Crazy Roman Emperors


The cargo Lucius has smuggled into Rome for his brother-in-law Aulus is enough wealth to power an army, bringing them both to the attention of the imperial family. Now Lucius stands in a precarious position between two dangerous princes, poised to be either a favored courtier or an inconvenience marked for disposal—and forced to navigate his way through the same sexual intrigues Aulus has hinted that Trio, the man Lucius loves, is also a part of.

Trio is still a Gordian Knot Lucius intends to cut open. Knowing now that Trio is caught in more than the guilt of unmanly, un-Roman love for a friend, Lucius sets out with him and their two attendants on the search to find Velleia’s missing slave. In the remoteness of the Campanian countryside, under the looming, smoke-shrouded mountain that commands the skyline, Lucius intends to devote himself to refueling the flame he knows still burns between him and Trio.

Nothing will stand in the way...except perhaps Arpalycus, the handsome and tempting slave who has become for Lucius much more than servant, far more than confidante.


Release: 3rd November

Guest Post: Put on Your Party Toga ~ It’s Saturnalia Season and The End of the Serial.


Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumed that the debauched days of Nero were long behind them. He was wrong.

Swept into the sexual games of powerful men, he has had to navigate intrigues, lies, and rumour on his path to status and respectability. Torn between reputation and love, ambition and obligation, his heart still lies somewhere not at all respectable: a very un-Roman love for his very Roman friend Trio, the sort of relationship that only the most powerful—or the most ignored—may have.

In the course of a summer Lucius has gone from curious innocent to devoted worshipper of Venus, following both his heart and other instincts. But his dedication to the goddess stands between him and what he truly hopes to win. In the remoteness of the Campanian countryside, Lucius tries to refuel the flame between Trio and himself.
He is no longer the person who fell in love. But neither is Trio...

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About the Author

I write things. Strange things. A few short stories have been published under other names. I’m working on a choose-your-own-darned-path adventure set in ancient Rome, because I just can’t get enough of that setting for some reason. I’m tiptoeing around self-publishing a Rome-based naughty novel called Knife of Narcissus. Two other stories set in the same world, but with different characters and at different places on the timeline, are mostly written.

Against everyone’s better judgement, I spend a lot of time writing about swords and sandals. Sometimes I write about Revolutionary War vampires, cross-dressing girl pirates, and elves in spaceships, too.

Connect with the Author



Buy Links


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Carolyne will be giving away one ebook copy of The Knife of Narcissus Parts I-II to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below.

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  1. Outside of comic books, I've never read anything in serial format. Not sure if I have the patience for it. This sounds really interesting, though.

  2. I can't believe I didn't know about this series--it sounds amazing!


  3. Romans were known by giving in to any sort of pleasures they might fancy. So I guess this books are going to be ... Interesting. Count me in

  4. Romans and MM, you have me hooked. Love the sound of this serial and definitely one I will be reading soon. Great review.

  5. Sounds really good !!! I just hope it will be reasonably priced ( sometimes the serials aren't ).
    Can't wait to read it!

    1. Sounds really good can't wait ti read it!

  6. I will confess to being an ancient history whore - Rome, Greece, Egypt - love them all!

  7. This sounds like a great series, please count me in

  8. I love m/m and would love to give these a try!

  9. Sounds like a fascinating series.

  10. My first really good (sexual introduction) into Rome was HBO's series Rome. So I am very interested and excited about this series. Thank you for this Giveaway!

  11. wow, one of my favorite times in history AND a mm romance, I am on it!!!

  12. Love the idea of romans and m/m combined!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. I found this post very interesting, fascinated and want to re-read it again as I am sure I have missed something and want to learn more. I love history stories and with the added bonus of being a mm romance and a series I hope I am lucky with the draw :)

    Thank you for this post and Mark your review was most helpful, a series and cliff hangers I suppose just like Charles Dickens when he released his books in parts in a tabloid paper, making us wait for the next part how exciting and nerve racking at the same time. I might have to do the same as what I did with the series 24, wait until it finished then watched in marathon chunks! Thank you for an interesting giveaway

    1. Thank very much Sula, it's always nice to receive some feedback. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you in the draw.

  15. I like M/M and these sound good!