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Persona Non Grata by Ruth DownieTitle: Persona Non Grata

Author: Ruth Downie

No. of Pages: 348

First Released: July 2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N): At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home—to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words “COME HOME!” Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family.

But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he’ll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius’s brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins…

Comments and Critiques: I find that in order to best write most of these reviews, I have to give myself a few days to process what I’ve read. This book falls into this category. My initial impression was that I was unsatisfied with Ruso and Tilla and the entire setting. All of the characters’ actions seemed too…modern – sitting at a desk, receiving mail, looking over the bills, and so forth. The language, however, is what really bothered me. It was as if our current vernacular was taken and put into a Roman or Gaulish setting, which to me is not a true accurate historical picture. In fact, I would find myself utterly disgusted by some of the phraseology.

In addition, I was disappointed in the characterization of the women. Other than Tilla, most of the women in the book are silly, trite, and utterly obsessed with shopping and appearances. I have no use for women of this nature, and when Ruso expresses a desire that he could find a way to force the women to listen to him, I found myself wishing he could too.

However, I say that and know that I had a very difficult time putting down the book. I stayed up late, read through lunch, and so forth. I was genuinely interested in solving the murder mystery and understand how Ruso was going to solve his credit problems. The book couldn’t have been that bad if I read it obsessively over the course of a few days!!

I was fascinated by descriptions of Gaulish/Roman medicine and even of the events at the amphitheatre. I wish Ms. Downie would have gone into greater detail because, to me, it appeared to be the most authentic historical portions of the book.

My feelings about Persona Non Grata remain mixed. I still remain fairly turned off by the language and some of the situations described in the book. And yet, I really enjoyed getting to know Ruso, his family, and especially Tilla. As I mentioned, I truly cared about what happened to him, how he was going to get out of trouble and how the book was going to resolve itself. Therefore, in spite of its apparent flaws, I would have to recommend this book to others. I may even have to hit the library and pick up the first two books to read the first few adventures of Ruso and Tilla.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Marketing for the opportunity to review this ARC!

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