Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
581 Pages
Reviewed on 09/25/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Brothers is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, crime, and interpersonal drama subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience and was penned by author M. E. Taylor. In this enthralling and atmospheric novel, Taylor unveils a tale of forbidden love, hidden secrets, and ultimate redemption. Set against the backdrop of ancient Rome and Britain, the story revolves around the secret romance between the slave Verluccus and Gaia, the sister of his master, Gaius Marcius. Their love faces an inevitable end when Verluccus must depart for Rome with Gaius, unaware that Gaia is carrying his child. A tragic plan devised to protect her secret goes awry, casting a shadow over Gaia's life. As fate unravels, Gaius is attacked and left for dead, and the missing Verluccus is wrongfully blamed. After overcoming challenges and proving his innocence, Verluccus attains freedom and wealth as a metalsmith. The narrative takes an unexpected turn as he discovers he has a son.

Author M. E. Taylor delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and reconciliation while offering a window into the societal dynamics and complexities of ancient times, and the balance between the two is perfectly pitched for a deeply engaging and resonant dramatic read. The book's historical depth and emotional core are conveyed through the lived experience of the narrative and dialogue rather than chunks of slow prose, which makes it a captivating read that explores the bonds that can form even in the most challenging circumstances. I personally found this epic read an enriching experience that transported me to a different era while highlighting the enduring power of love and the pursuit of justice. I felt deeply for Gaia and her predicament as well as the trials that Verluccus undergoes, which were viscerally described for maximum impact. Overall, Brothers is a recommended read for fans of historical fiction everywhere and a perfectly balanced novel that contains everything a great story should.

Jamie Michele

Brothers by M. E. Taylor takes place in Lucius Marcius' Roman household, where a young Briton slave named Victor arrives to aid his ailing son Gaius, but his scars from abuse raise concerns. Lucius grapples with ethical dilemmas, seeking counsel from freedman Cordatus. Meanwhile, tribune Decimus Lepidus Aemilius Virens aids Tanodonus' search for his brother Verluccus. Verluccus does return to mixed reactions and Gaius seeks to redeem him, sparking family disputes. Verluccus' integration is tumultuous as is his bond with Gaia, Lucius' daughter, which is extremely dangerous. Marcus manipulates Verluccus for his own ends, driving a wedge between Gaius and Marcus. Verluccus seeks Cunobarrus' freedom against immense conflicts, personal relationships, and battles that ravage the era, as well as a singular, epic gladiatorial game that has the potential to settle his fate once and for all.

Anyone who looks at the cover of Brothers by M. E. Taylor will likely see the novel as a historical romance, which it is to a certain degree. However, I personally feel that it is so much more and to simply view it based on the relationship between Verluccus and Gaia does the story a huge disservice. Brothers is not really a romance; it is the saga of a man who rises up in the most extraordinary way at a time when everything around him was structured to keep his face to the ground. The family dynamics are expertly portrayed and the period details lend to the book's immersive experience. Like the series Rome, Taylor takes us on an armchair tour of power disparity, the use of women as pawns in the Machiavellian scheming of men, and the stolen agency of the men and women forced into human bondage—which was not always just by birth or through capture in war. I can see Brothers spinning off in multiple directions, even prequels, and i think others who read it will feel the same. Recommended.

Astrid Iustulin

Brothers by M. E. Taylor tells a gripping story set in the province of Britannia during the reign of the emperor Domitian and his successors. Here, we meet Verluccus, who, when he was barely a child, is taken away from his home to be with Gaius, the son of Lucius Marcius Phillipianus. Verluccus immediately escapes, but after many years, he is brought to Lucius Marcius as a prisoner because of the brand that indicates he is a Roman's property. What happened to Verluccus during those long years, and why is he called Verluccus the Bloodspiller? Will he acknowledge Gaius as his master? And how will his love for Gaia, the younger sister of Gaius, end? It is up to readers who love history and have a sense of adventure to find out.

Brothers is a book that I found fascinating. The vicissitudes of Verluccus and the other characters are the best a lover of historical novels could wish for. All kinds of action happen in this book, and M. E. Taylor explains everything in the clearest way and always keeps the reader's attention. I especially liked finding out what Verluccus' life was like after he escaped, but I must say that his whole story is interesting to discover; while reading I often wondered how things would turn out. Also, I have to say that I liked the way Taylor portrayed all the characters, especially as regards the relationships they have with each other. This is only the first volume in the series, and I hope to read the sequel soon to find out more about Verluccus and the rest of the cast.

Rich Follett

Brothers by M. E. Taylor is a masterfully crafted piece of historical fiction that carries the reader back to the Roman occupation of Britain. A large part of the magic of well-written historical fiction is that it serves as a kind of time travel for readers, making them feel as if they have been transported back to former times and other lands. M. E. Taylor’s choice of language and vivid descriptive passages strongly evoke both the period and the Roman way of life. The narrative centers around Verluccus, a slave, his master, Gaius Marcius, and Gaius’ sister Gaia, with whom Verluccus shares a forbidden love. Honor, betrayal, revenge, treachery, and power struggles infuse the story with a breathless quality that will surely keep the pages turning, and the sweeping literary landscape ensures that there is never a dull moment in this extraordinary tale of desire set against the backdrop of one of the most dynamic eras of human history.

One bonus feature is a comprehensive list of characters and locations at the end of the book. This is tremendously helpful for anyone struggling to keep track of the Roman names and places, many of which have similar names (as they did during the Roman Empire). This index reflects M. E. Taylor’s prodigious attention to detail and copious research. It is truly a pleasure to read the work of a historical fiction writer who invests so passionately in the authenticity of the narrative. The result is a kind of enchantment found in no other genre, and seldom at such a high level. Historical fiction enthusiasts will be richly rewarded by M. E. Taylor’s Brothers, which captures the world of ancient Rome in thrilling and deeply human ways. A wonderful work!

Grant Leishman

Brothers by M. E. Taylor is a fascinating tale of life in early Britain under Roman occupation. Gaius is the son of a wealthy and just Roman governor. When Gaius mysteriously falls ill, it seems the only thing that can save the young man is a poor shepherd boy, Verluccus. Stolen from his family, Verluccus is branded and brought to Gaius but promptly escapes and joins his brother in waging a rebellion against the accursed occupiers of their land. Nine years later, when Verluccus is badly wounded in a Roman massacre, the brand identifies him as belonging to Gaius’s family. After being returned to them, he agrees to swear fealty to Gaius and to become his slave. Complications abound when Verluccus and Gaius’s sister Gaia, despite her being married, fall madly in love and she becomes pregnant with his child.

Brothers is a thrilling adventure that takes readers inside the relationship between master and slave in Roman Britain. Author M. E. Taylor shows both sides of the master/slave relationship revealing that as much as there were cruel and treacherous masters who viewed the Britons as little more than animals and sport for their warriors, there were also considerate and fair masters such as Gaius’s father who, within the bounds of current convention, treated his slaves as individuals and human beings. It is fascinating to compare the justifications for slavery over two thousand years ago with those of recent times; they were the same. The idea that slaves were “better off” as slaves than as freemen and that it was the master’s duty to “civilize” the heathens is a concept that runs through all of history and was as invalid in ancient Britain as it is today. I appreciated watching the character development, especially of Gaius who, as a young boy, viewed Verluccus as a companion and even a friend. Yet, as he matured, his attitude toward Verluccus and all the slaves hardened and changed much more into the master/slave relationship. The love affair between Verluccus and Gaia also provides a softer, delicate touch to the narrative, making this a well-rounded, character-driven adventure that will satisfy all readers' tastes. This is an excellent read and one I can highly recommend.