Monday, September 08, 2014

The Knife of Narcissus Part 3 by Carolyne Chand ~ Release Day Review, Guest Post and Giveaway.

The Knife of Narcissus 3

The saga continues………. Part 3 and is there any hope for Lucius and Trio on the horizon? Well, I guess we’ll find out.

Carolyne is Digging Out the Details ~ Delicious and Dangerous Roman Cookery ~ with a recipe for ancient cookies! So if you fancy trying out your ancient culinary skills Carolyne has exactly the right thing for you in this guest post to accompany Part 3.


Guest Post ~ Delicious and Dangerous Roman Cookery (plus cookies)

The day-to-day details make historical fiction come to life for me, especially when it's a time period I don't know very well. I want The Knife of Narcissus to do the same, and give readers a total immersion in another place.

My family is a mixture of different cultures and different cuisines, but all have a belief that to share the local food is to understand a place and the people there. So for me, a story has to include a lot of eating--whether it's a senator's banquet or a simple sausage a plebeian nibbles in a storefront tavern.

Main character Lucius's family cook serves up some potentially lethal taste combinations (you'll eat it and enjoy it or you'll have it for breakfast). Jellied turtle eggs with minced meat and herbs, salted sea urchins, peppered peacock, and a fish course that apparently left no fatalities. The draft originally included pickled sow's womb with sautéed brains--an authentic and beloved Roman meal--but it made an early reader queasy.

The reason for so much "creativity" was a combination of the same reason why Mediaeval recipes also involve a lot of flavourful sauces and spices (to disguise food that's gone off), the fact that cooks could tend a pot all day or spend hours stuffing a larger animal into a smaller one, because you didn't waste any part of an animal, and because the variety of fresh ingredients was limited depending on location and season. A chef for a wealthy household had to keep jaded palates excited. Presentation and decoration were often more important than content or even tastiness, if all you had to work with every day were the same root vegetables and some fish. This reached a height in the debauched excess of Nero's court, where gourmand courtiers demanded excitement. The largest collection of recipes to survive from approximately the same time, the cookbook of Apicius, contains, luckily for us, both the everyday and the unusual, the delicious and the medicinal, and tips on how to keep spoiled meat from spoiling further before you serve it to someone.

There's a cookie recipe that I particularly like. See the end of this guest post. Yum.

Roman cookery wasn't quite the same as modern Mediterranean cooking, even though it uses a lot of the same ingredients. The core staple, as fundamental as salt, was garum, a fermented fish sauce.

How to make basic garum:

take a bunch of small fish
seal in barrel
go about your life
return when you remember where you left the barrel

Factories flourished throughout Rome, making different quality grades and adding secret spices, and there was a healthy trade in kosher garum. The best modern substitute is Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce, or Worcestershire sauce in a pinch. To leave this ingredient out of Roman cookery is to lose the essential taste of ancient mealtime.

An ingredient that was so popular that it was eaten into extinction was a North African plant called silphium. The closest we come to it now is "false silphium," or asafoetida, sometimes called devil's dung. That name will give you an idea of how pungent it is. My grandmother used it for poultices to cure...well, anything. I store a small amount of asafoetida in a sealed jar in a plastic bag in a tin canister. Because if you aren't careful, asafoetida will get out at night and mug all your other spices. You can also substitute powdered garlic.

How to be an upstanding Roman:

Mix garum, false silphium, vinegar, and dry white wine. Season with thyme and garlic to taste. Use as salad dressing and stomach-ache cure. Drink two cups every morning and take a brisk cold bath, and you'll feel proper Roman morality coursing through you in no time.

If you'd rather not get roughed up and left on the side of the road by a condiment, Apicius's dessert section is less hazardous. It's full of delicate peppery treats sweetened with honey: fried bread, fruit compotes, nut bars, custards, and cookies.

How to make must cookies:

This easy and guaranteed non-dangerous cookie recipe can be served as dessert or with pork-based dishes. Romans didn't use yeast, but some of their ingredients might have naturally contained it; so, if you wish, you can add some. I never have--I suspect with yeast you'll end up with rolls rather than cookies.

Don't worry about precise measurements when cooking, but this will give you a guideline.

1lb/500g flour
8oz/300ml must (sweet white wine boiled until the quantity is reduced by half; substitute white grape juice or juice concentrate). Prepare extra must in case the dough needs more liquid.
2oz/60g grated cheese such as a mild cheddar or mild sheep's milk cheese
2TB anise or anise seeds
2TB cumin or cumin seeds
1TB white pepper

Grease a cookie pan. Layer it thoroughly with bay leaves (it's important that the pan be completely covered, or the bottoms of the cookies will burn).

Mix all ingredients into dough, adding more must if necessary. If desired, add 2 teaspoons dried yeast, cover with a towel, and let stand in a warm kitchen for 15 minutes.

Pull off cookie-size balls. If you added yeast, let the dough balls rise for another hour.

Drop dough balls onto pan (dough may be very sticky--dusting your hands with flour will help)

Bake at 350F/180C for about 30 minutes, but check periodically

Serve immediately. Enjoy a wanton Roman-style afternoon of cookie-eating!



Title: The Knife of Narcissus ~ Part 3

Author: Carolyne Chand

Publisher: Self-Published

Release: 8th Septmber 2014

Genre: M/M (Historical)





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....

Mark’s Review

Lucius is still pining for Trio but to make things worse he has now high-tailed it out of Rome and is in Polontis on business. Is he running away from Lucius? Who knows, but I could feel the heartache and disappointment in Lucius, however for Lucius the daily business still has to go on. Aulus, Velleia’s elder brother, pays Lucius a visit and asks him to transport a cargo from Alexandria to Rome, but won’t say what. If you ask me it all sounds extremely suspicious and I hope that Lucius doesn’t get himself into trouble, but what can you do? It’s family and he feels obliged to help. Again I smell a rat here, but I guess we’ll find out later what the deal is.

Lucius also decides he is getting rather flabby around the middle and unfit. He signs up to a gym run by gladiators which put him through his paces. Oh my, I had to smile because obviously some things don’t change, the battle against an expanding middle was probably the same then as it is today. Well, with a strict regime of diet and exercise Lucius gradually begins to get himself into shape. However, if I had horny, muscly, hot gladiators with six-packs for a personal trainer then I would probably put myself through all kinds of physical fitness torture – lol! The heat level here was oh my…..had to get my fan out to cool down.

Despite all of this Lucius seems to only want to have great sex, get drunk and not really take care of his affairs in his household. Here Velleia seems to have the upper-hand and although she doesn’t really play a major part in part 3, I reckon she is still a silent snake in the grass waiting to cause trouble. Don’t trust her, don’t ask me why, just a feeling but she seems a little too aloof for my liking. Lucius’s father gives him a slave from his household Atalanta and Velleia takes her unwillingly under her wing. I just feel that Lucius needs to tkae the woman in hand Roman style otherwise I think he’s seriously going to have a problem n his hands.

Trouble is brewing and the word on the street is now starting about Lucius’s preference for men and not being able to control his household. As always rumours are can be vicious and damaging for one’s reputation, but there is never any smoke without fire I guess so I reckon he has a few loose tongues in his household that also need taking care of, but how do you find out who’s been talking when the whole town is now talking?

Part 3 however left me with one very hot ménage, WOW – cold shower was needed after that episode and something arrives which gives Lucius a small glimmer of hope with Trio. I also felt the hope lifting in Lucius’s heart that maybe all is not lost, but I guess we’ll have to wait for Part 4 to see if it leads to anything. Damn!……… to read Part 4 now!



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?

Mark’s Review


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...


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


Barnes & Noble


All Romance Ebooks





Carolyne will be giving away one ebook copy of The Knife of Narcissus Part 3. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below. Good luck X

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. The book sounds fab,thank you for the giveaway :)

  2. The book (and the series) sound awesome!

  3. Thank you for a chance to win book III :) I love the recipe section, but I am not sure about the fish garum, or that I might have a few allergy problems with the cookies :( thank you again Mark for your interesting post and review

    1. Hi, Sula--Carolyne here! I came by to see how the guest post looks, and read that you have some allergy problems with the cookie recipe. I'm sure, depending on the allergies, you could substitute things like gluten-free flour, different spices, or a substitute for what the cheese provides (I think some recipes substitute lard, which...blah).

      My experimentation in the kitchen this week (I'm tweeting ancient recipes) is sticking as close as possible to the original ingredients, but maybe a later experiment can be finding substitutes that still provide the same taste and experience of ancient dining. I have so many food allergies, myself, but I somehow got lucky and can eat most of the things in the ancient Roman pantry.

      And: Thank you so much for your interest in the book!

  4. Thank you for a chance to win the third installment. The series sounds interesting.

  5. So excited for this part. It sounds fantastic and I am loving the serial.