Thursday, 13 July 2017

Book Review: Dark Heart, by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Reviewed by Carolyn Miller

Can love survive a dark heart?

Rome, 235 A.D.

A series of ritual murders of young boys recalls memories of Rome's most wicked emperor. Magistrate Marcus Cornelius Drusus has discovered the cult extends to the very heart of Roman society.

Despite his personal wealth and authority, Marcus is a slave to his past - conflicted by his status as an adopted son, bitterly betrayed by his wife and forced to give up his child.

Kyna knows all about betrayal. Sold into slavery by her husband to pay a gambling debt, she found herself in Rome, far from her home in Britannia. Bought by a doctor, she is taught his trade and is about to gain her freedom when her mentor is murdered by the cult.

When the same group makes an attempt on her life, Kyna is forced to give up her freedom and accept Marcus' protection. With no one to trust but each other, mutual attraction ignites into passion.But how far will Marcus go for vengeance when he learns the cult's next victim is his son?

Can the woman who is free in her heart heal the man who is a slave in his?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a historical novel set in ancient times – the last one was Francine River’s excellent ‘Mark of the Lion’ series. ‘Dark Heart’ by Elizabeth Ellen Carter is another riveting read. When offered the chance to read an early copy of ‘Dark Heart’ I jumped at it – partly because of the intriguing premise, partly because I wanted to sample Elizabeth’s writing, and yes, partly because of the fabulous cover (call me shallow J).

I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the blend of historic fact and fiction, I enjoyed the slow build up of romantic tension, I loved the seamless interweaving of references to Cicero, Ovid, etc. Most of all I loved the natural presentation of faith, how a new believer and a man searching for ultimate truth were able to find answers beyond the mystery that anchors this story. I found the use of Bible verses very effective, appropriate and palatable for a readership not strictly Christian. Don’t get me wrong: ‘Dark Heart’ has plenty of sensuality, but it’s balanced with tenderness and a sense of honouring each other. Evocative descriptions really helped recreate 3rd century Rome, so that it’s apparent Elizabeth has done her research. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Thanks to Elizabeth Ellen Carter for providing a free copy of this book.

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, especially that of the Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency novel 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' released in the US in February 2017, and is available at, Koorong and Book Depository, and her second novel ‘The Captivating Lady Charlotte’ released June 27 and  is available now.
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  1. Carolyn, thanks for sharing Elizabeth's novel with us. She's a new name to me. I do love historical fiction when you're never sure what is fact and what is fiction. I'm discovering as I get older that I'm more interested in history when it bored me as a kid.

    1. Hi Ian - isn't that the truth?! Maybe schools should have a mandatory historical fiction section as part of their history syllabus to encourage students to learn more about particular time periods (although some vetting might be required!)

    2. Carolyn - great idea. I think it would have been a much more fun way of learning history. I learnt so much at school about the Dickens era, Austen's Regency period (see I'm learning, Carolyn!) and so forth from reading novels.

    3. Historical fiction is a wonderful way of introducing a time and place, but even more importantly bring historical figures to life.

      My introduction into deep history was through historical romance. My gold star standard was one I read when I was 17, an absolute saga of a bodice ripper set during the War of the Roses. The author introduced the time and place beautifully and fleshed out some of the real historical figures.

      Needless to say, I was delighted when they found the body of Richard III and because of that book, I believe that he never killed the nephews in the tower.

  2. Thanks for the review Carolyn. It sounds like an intriguing book and a great introduction to Elizabeth's writing. It is a beautiful cover 😊