By Morgan O’Neill, author of Love, Eternally, After the Fall, and Return to Me
Our Roman time travel series gives us a terrific array of heroes, misfits, and scoundrels, who drive our heroine to distraction for oh-so-many reasons. We are Cary Morgan Frates and Deborah O’Neill Cordes, who write as Morgan O’Neill, and we have our own tastes in men. We also have differing ideas in what makes them really bad or truly good, and what drives our heroine to want to clean their clocks, or turn out the lights and have her way with them.
Rating our men from 1 to 10 has been a delight, and we can’t wait to find out what you think of our decisions.
1. Magnus, our sweet! and tortured hero – We agree that he’s a 12 out of 10, or maybe even a 20. A handsome Roman senator and military commander, Magnus must decide whether to serve his loathsome emperor, or follow his heart by rescuing our time traveling heroine, Gigi, from the emperor’s vile clutches. For Cary, Magnus’s innate qualities of justice and compassion set him apart as a true hero. For Deb, Magnus’s startling physicality and pagan beliefs make him a very different hero from the archetypical kilted warrior. And because we love Gigi, too, we wanted to make sure Magnus was everything she could ever hope for.
A glimpse of Magnus from Gigi’s point of view. They’ve traveled back in time once more on a quest to save their friends from a terrible fate, despite the risk of changing history forever. From Return to Me, Book Three of the Roman Time Travel Series:
As far as Gigi knew, they were the only two people around for miles. They’d found a cave overlooking the azure sea, one large enough to shelter them and their horses. Gigi tended to them, while Magnus built a fire. The heavy layer of stubble on his face reminded her they were almost a week out of Portus, and she was anxious over their slow progress. Rain had bogged them down, but as evening came the skies cleared, promising a quicker road tomorrow.
Gigi patted her mare goodnight and then sat by the fire. Magnus already had their dinner spread out on a cloth: bread and olive oil for dipping, plus dried figs and cheese.
Her stomach growled. “Are we celebrating?” she asked in English. “This looks lovely after all the muck and rain and eating jerky all week.”
Magnus studied her face. “Your eyes belie the gaiety in your voice. You look troubled, my sweet.”
“I can’t shake the feeling we’re getting further and further behind schedule.”
“I agree. I’ve been thinking we should sail from Vada Sabatia. It can’t be far off now, and there’s sure to be a ship heading to Hispania.”
“Oh, that’s a great idea!” Gigi heaved a sigh of relief and gave him a quick kiss. “I feel so much better. Let’s open that wine.”
He grinned, picked up the wine skein, and poured two cups full. “By the way, yes, we are celebrating. We’ve found a cave. We’re dry. And I’m going to make love to you for the first time in days.”
“Suddenly,” Gigi smiled, “I’m not dry any more.”
Magnus threw back his head and laughed, then touched his cup to hers. “Drink up.”
The red wine tasted wonderful, fruity and mellow. Relaxed, she watched him rummage through his gear and come up with their iPod. He turned it on and Andrea Bocelli’s voice filled the cave, singing, “Your Love.”
“You are my life’s greatest gift.” Magnus sat beside her and touched her face. “We have loved for ages, haven’t we? Beyond time.”
Gigi took his hand and kissed it. “And we will love for ages more.”
“Beginning with tonight.” He pulled her close, kissing her throat, her mouth.
Her lips parted and she tasted him, wine and warmth and love.
2. Emperor Honorius, our rank, debauched, sociopath villain – We diverge on this one. Cary gives him a 10 out of 10 since she loves to hate him, because he is evil and feckless. Deb looks at it in the opposite way, wanting to give him a 1 out of 10, but settling on a 2 because he does have one redeeming quality: he loves his chickens and guinea fowl (a historical fact).
A glimpse of Honorius from Princess Placidia’s point of view. He is telling his eighteen-year-old sister whom he has chosen for her husband. From Love, Eternally, Book One of the Roman Time Travel Series:
Honorius’s lips twisted into a little smile. “The lucky fellow has himself reassured us he has harbored tender feelings for you for some time and shall strive to be a good husband to you. You are young and strong, and he is anxious for sons. Flavius Constantius––”
“Constantius?” Placidia drew back in horror. “Oh, Honorius, how could you? He is so ugly––and old. When he looks at me with those bulging eyes . . . God save me! He must be at least fifty. I cannot––I will not marry him!”
His mouth dropped open. “What did you say?”
She swallowed. “Honorius, he is repulsive, a mockery of my wishes and my status. If you insist upon this folly, then I will remain a virgin.”
He lunged, hurling his wine straight into her face. She was stunned, as much from the cruelty of the act, as from the fearsome stinging in her eyes, the blinding insult to her dignity.
Suddenly, her scalp was blazing with pain as he grabbed her hair and wrenched her off the couch. This was not her brother. No, no, this was a stranger, a mad man! The transformation was startling, overwhelming––and the pain, the pain! She heard herself shrieking.
He dragged her across the room, roaring, incoherent, until he stopped before the doorway. “By Christ’s wounds, you will marry him,” he seethed. “No one disobeys our royal commands. No one!”
He flung her down, her jaw whacking against the floor, teeth clattering.
“Guards!” he yelled.
Placidia was barely aware as brutal hands grabbed and lifted her. She was limp, so far gone she could hardly whimper, let alone struggle against them.
“Henceforth, dear little sister,” Honorius’s hot breath filled her ear, “you shall be confined to your villa under heavy guard. You shall not leave until you acquiesce and marry Constantius.” He moved off, ordering his men, “Remove her from our sight!”
She had never cursed anyone before, never. But now, she was like a creature caught in a snare, a prisoner of her humiliation and despair, and she lashed out.
“Damn you, Honorius, damn you to hell!”
3. Athaulf, prince of the Visigoths – We love him almost as much as Princess Placidia does; 10 out of 10 for both of us. According to historical records, Athaulf was extremely handsome, and we’ve given him beautiful hazel eyes, which captivate Placidia. But theirs is a forbidden love, because of implacable politics and impending war.
A moment from Athaulf and Placidia’s initial meeting, in After the Fall, Book Two of the Roman Time Travel Series:
Placidia trembled at Athaulf’s masculine beauty.
“My lady,” he said, “it was my greatest pleasure to meet you, for you have opened my eyes to what is good and fine about Rome.” He took her hand and kissed it, then released her.
Her skin tingled with the memory of his touch. “Athaulf,” she whispered, realizing his name was already precious to her. “Athaulf, we cannot leave it here. We must meet again.”
He looked startled and then gazed at her eyes, her lips. Placidia felt the rush of her blood, a deep surge of desire.
“We shall meet again, if God wills it. Farewell, sweet Placidia.”
She watched him leave, her throat tight with emotion. It was the first time he had spoken her name. She prayed to all the saints in Heaven it would not be the last.
4. Eberwolf, a Visigoth who loathes Athaulf – We diverge here, too, because Deb feels pity for him due to his tragic back story, while Cary cannot excuse his vindictive nature; 2 out of 10 for Deb, -2 out of 10 for Cary.
A glimpse of Eberwolf from our novel Return to Me:
Sergeric heard the jangle of jewelry and turned to see what Eberwolf was doing. A shift in his saddle and a glare were the man’s only responses.
He laughed and turned back to the gate. Eberwolf looked ridiculous in the mimi costume, but making him wear the clothes of a comical and womanish character was a stroke of genius. Sergeric was convinced no one in Barcino would guess the extent to which Eberwolf lusted for Athaulf’s downfall.
Or suspect his skill as an assassin.
5. Lucius, Magnus’s cousin – Lucius is a diamond in the rough when he meets Magnus and Gigi for the first time. A handsome rogue with a brave and true heart, he plays key roles in several tension-filled escapes and rescues. Deb gives him a 9.5, because he is a bit dishonest at the outset, and Cary gives him a 10 because he’s scrappy, quick to laugh, and always willing to help.
A glimpse of Lucius, from Gigi’s point of view, in Return to Me:
Gigi had spent her time at their skipper Lucius’s elbow, learning everything she could. Despite her misgivings about ancient vessels, this one had proven sturdy and easy to handle. The boat didn’t leak at all, and the only water in the bottom came from the occasional high wave. Lucius had chosen the perfect vessel to steal.
About twenty, he was funny, lighthearted, and very bright. He was also extremely handsome, with blond hair and blue eyes, not quite as blue as Magnus’s, but gorgeous, nonetheless. He looked like he should be surfing in Malibu, or giving Ryan Gosling a run for his money on stage and screen.
In closing, our goal is to have each of our characters leap off the page and become memorable for you. We hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of our heroes, misfits, and scoundrels from Love, Eternally, After the Fall, and Return to Me.
Now some questions for you. Whether you want to clean his clock, or turn out the lights and have your way with him, who is your favorite among our men, and why does he capture your imagination?