Echoes of Stone and Fire by Rosie Chapel
Echos of Stone and Fire is the second book of Hannah’s Heirloom Historical Romance Series by Rosie Chapel
Pompeii was once a bustling port nestling under a forbidding mountain. Then in AD79, the mountain erupted, smothering the town under a thick blanket of ash and volcanic debris, leaving it lost for centuries. Now, rediscovered and a world renowned heritage site, archaeologists from across the globe yearn for an opportunity to uncover the town’s past. Some things though, are best left alone – revealing the secrets hidden beneath the stones could prove perilous.
Eighteen months have passed since Hannah and Max left Masada, Herod’s isolated fortress in the Judaean desert. The place where, just as they admitted their feelings for each other, they were wrenched apart. Hannah slipped into an ancient world, discovering how her ancestor had received the ruby clasp – her talisman. Somehow she survived the ensuing tragedy and Max’s love was strong enough to bring her home. Since then, Hannah has had no awareness of her ancient counterpart and wonders whether the slender thread that united them had been broken, lost beyond time, leaving only a memory.
On a spur of the moment trip to Rome, familiar dreams recur. Unable to recognise where her ancestor is, but realising that she is not on Masada, Hannah struggles to understand the reason behind her visions. Then, a chance meeting with two friends sees Hannah and Max invited to join an excavation team, one whose goal is to determine what lies beneath the ruins of Pompeii. Although excited to be a part of such an investigation, Hannah experiences a growing sense of unease, an unnamed fear circling at the edges of her consciousness.
Her worlds begin to converge and Hannah realises to her horror, that her fear, this reconnection of minds, must be related to Vesuvius and that the woman she is bound to was actually in Pompeii before the eruption. Hoping she can somehow warn her ancestor without being drawn back into her other life, Hannah tries to convey her knowledge through her dreams.
As before however, fate intervenes. After entering a house which bears a Hebrew inscription, Hannah falls back through time. Although familiar with this fusion of souls, she still has to rely on her instincts to adjust to life in ancient Pompeii. A world where her ancestor is a physician to gladiators engaged in mortal combat, where riotous mobs run amok and where a ghost from the past returns to haunt her. All the while knowing she needs to save her family from the devastation that will befall this town.
Will Hannah escape the cataclysmic eruption? Can she persuade her loved ones to flee before burning debris engulfs the town? Will she ever find her way back to Max the love of her life waiting, not so patiently, millennia away? Or will echoes be all that remain?
A Word from the Author
Echoes of Stone and Fire – Behind the Book
About half way through writing The Pomegranate Tree, I realised that I could not say goodbye to my characters after one book. Hannah’s journey, in fact the journeys of both of my Hannah’s refused to be contained within one novel. My main challenge with developing this second book, however, was to come up with another scenario, another plot line, one that would cause my modern heroine to reconnect with her ancient ancestor and to formulate a convincing way for her to slip back through time. I didn’t want her to have to suffer another devastating injury, so it took me a little while to work out how I was going to manage it.
The first book in the Hannah’s Heirloom sequence, The Pomegranate Tree is set on Masada, Herod’s isolated citadel in the Judaean Desert. It was here where two of my main characters, Hannah and Maxentius, first met and where Hannah’s modern counterpart became a witness to a series of events as they unfolded; from the storming of the fortress by Zealot rebels in AD66, to the retaking of Masada by the Romans around AD72/3 after a lengthy siege and countless deaths.
Whatever I wrote about, it should not take place many years after this event or all of my characters would be too old, especially Maxentius who was about 33 at the end of the first book. It didn’t take me long to recall that the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in AD79, was close enough in time to work. All I needed to do was come up with a valid reason why Maxentius and Hannah would be living in the doomed city, so far from Masada and what would prompt my modern couple to be visiting. Further, although the catalyst is the eruption of Vesuvius, there was not enough, with just that, to fill a whole book. Pompeii, however, is home to many astonishing things. A whole town beautifully preserved, including the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre, hundreds of houses and public buildings, frescoes and thousands of incredible artefacts all buried in the AD79 eruption.
I have studied this period of Roman history quite thoroughly; the first century AD is by far my favourite and it wasn’t long before I had dug out every book I owned on Pompeii, researching the life of the city prior to the eruption. Also, I have been lucky enough to spend time in the ruins of Pompeii, an endlessly fascinating and unique centre, especially to those of us who love history. This meant that I could, at the very least, picture the places I was talking about, the streets, the houses, the Forum, the amphitheatre, the Gladiators’ School and the Palaestra.
Pompeii appeared to have been a hot bed of tension for several years leading up to the eruption. Nearly twenty years previously, Emperor Nero had banned all gladiatorial games for ten years after a wild riot and it seems that there was an ongoing disaffection within the town following the political upheaval caused during AD69, the infamous Year of the Four Emperors.
It was as good a reason as any to require a peacekeeping force to be stationed at Pompeii. So Maxentius could be recalled to Rome and posted there as Garrison Commander of said peacekeeping unit. The main garrison was based outside of the town walls, but a house had been appropriated as a headquarters within the walls. This meant that there were always a soldiers on hand, should their presence be required urgently.
Unable to determine whether or not this headquarters had even been uncovered in any of the excavations, I decided to choose one myself – well the story is fictional. By chance I came across the most incredible website called Pompeii in Pictures. This site (http://buff.ly/1rmWDW4) includes a complete photographic plan of the town, enabling me to select a building, or city block and see what had been excavated within each one. It included public buildings, villas, baths and so on – absolutely amazing and very detailed.
While I was trying to decide where to place the headquarters, I chanced upon an excavated building in Regio I, situated within Insula 11 and close to the amphitheatre. The excavators, owing to an inscription in the entrance hall, had named this house The House of the Hebrew. This two-storey house was next door to another substantial building, which could easily be transformed into my headquarters. It was too good to be true and I was hooked. The website has plenty of photos of the excavated buildings, giving me an idea of what they might have looked like in antiquity. I spent hours looking through all the images, reading about the houses and how they were positioned relative to the rest of the town.
Right then, Maxentius will be Garrison Commander, he’s sorted – what about Hannah? Having spent much of the first book developing them, it was important to me that she continued to use her healing skills. What better way than as a medica, or physician, to the men who trained at the Palaestra, or sports ground, as well as to those living at the Gladiator’ School which included prisoners of war and condemned criminals. This would be a very usual job for a woman, but then Hannah is no ordinary woman.
So, I have a town where riotous mobs roam the streets, prisoners and criminals are forced to fight in the arena and a mountain is about to blow it’s top. Getting my modern couple there was probably the easiest part. A holiday in Rome, with an unexpected side trip to Pompeii to assist with the ongoing investigations into what might be found beneath the current excavations. What’s not to love about that?
Okay, so I still needed to work out how my modern and ancient heroines would reconnect but finally, I had my plot. Hannah’s journey was about to become a whole lot more interesting and Echoes of Stone and Fire was born.
(Rosie Chapel, 21th April 2016)
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Check out the other books in the same series
Hannah’s Heirloom Book 1: The Pomegranate Tree
Hannah’s Heirloom Book 3: Ember of Destiny