• Not Your Garden-Variety Roman Lady

After living with Theodosia Varro for the six years it took me to write Rubies of the Viper—during which time she quite literally had her own way with the story—I’ve developed a great respect and affection for her. The best test for me is that, after spending so much time with her already, I still find her fascinating enough to want to continue exploring her life in a sequel.

Here’s how I see Theodosia… and there are no spoilers here!

Personality-wise, she’s stubborn, impetuous, and thoughtless—with a love of horses, bright clothing, personal independence, and self-determination—but she also demonstrates remarkable kindness and generosity for an upper-class woman of her time.

Socially, she’s a misfit from birth… a half-Greek/half-Roman girl given no training whatsoever for managing the wealth and high social position that fall into her lap at the beginning of the novel. She was raised by a Greek slave nurse—a surrogate for the mother who died in childbirth—who had no capacity to prepare her to be a proper lady. Her father treated her in a way that no “ordinary” patrician girl would ever have been treated: more as a fun companion than as a future Roman wife and mother. He taught her to love books and ride a horse as well as a man, but made no provision for her marriage and no effort to ensure that she was equipped to survive after his death. (See What Theodosia Never Learned and Is Theodosia Stupid? on this site.)

Emotionally, she’s naive, unprepared, and inexperienced at first… easy prey in a society full of ambitious, money- and status-seeking men. She grows in wisdom and experience as the story progresses, and it’s safe to say that the Theodosia of Chapter 30 is a far cry from the Theodosia of Chapter 1.

In my eyes, this adds up to a multi-dimensional character who learns to hold her own despite the many forces aligned against her. Theodosia creates many of her own problems, but by the end of the novel, she proves to be clever, resourceful, courageous, resilient, honest with herself and others, willing to admit mistakes, and strong—both physically and emotionally.

As one Amazon reviewer pointed out… Theodosia “leaves several characters so appreciative of her that they risk their lives and freedom on her behalf.” I’d say that’s a pretty good sign of an appealing protagonist.

If you’ve read Rubies of the Viper, please leave a comment and let me know what you think of Theodosia Varro. Just remember… no spoilers, please!

—text copyright © Martha Marks—