Wednesday 17 January 2024

BLOG TOUR: Betrothal & Betrayal (The Empress Irini series Book 1) - Janet McGiffin

Seventeen-year-old Thekla needs her quick wits and knife to track down her betrothed, a soldier who has left her at the altar for the third time. Elias the monk travels with her to Constantinople where she meets Irini of Athens, an extraordinarily beautiful orphan her same age who has been brought by powerful Emperor Constantine to marry his son, Co-Emperor Leon. The two women join forces to survive this vigorous capital of the Roman Empire of the East which is rocked by religious and political strife. But will Thekla help the ambitious and ruthless Irini of Athens find the power that she craves?

What did I think?

Betrothal & Betrayal is set in 8th century Greece and this is a period of history I knew nothing about until I turned the pages of this fabulous book.  With a 17 year-old protagonist, it's in the YA genre but it's hugely enjoyable for adults too.

Thekla is a very strong female character and you certainly don't want to mess with her as she has a knife and she's not afraid to use it.  When her groom doesn't turn up for the wedding, she sets off to Constantinople to find him.  Myrizikos either needs to marry her or break off the betrothal, but Thekla finds that looking for her betrothed is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

What I loved most about this story (apart from Thekla herself) is the real historical figures in the cast of characters.  There is also an actual cast of characters list in the back of the book, which proves really useful as I sometimes lost track of who was who.  I was also delighted to find maps of the Roman Empire and Constantinople at the beginning of the book.

As Thekla is the main character, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this is the Empress Irini series and Irini's part grows bigger as the book progresses.  Irini is another strong female character and again, she is one I wouldn't want to cross.  Irini is married to the Emperor's heir and she is determined to become Empress, despite some devious attempts by other members of the Emperor's household to send her back to Athens.

Entertaining, enlightening and evocative, Betrothal & Betrayal is a wonderfully vivid piece of historical fiction that brings 8th century Constantinople to life and I really enjoyed my virtual visit.  I can't wait to read more of the series to see what happens to Thekla.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:

Janet McGiffin divides her time between her apartment in Manhattan, her family in Washington State, and her friends in Athens, Greece. She was born in Fairfield, Iowa into a newspaper family and learned to write copy as a teenager by writing obituaries for the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state. After university, she worked for the Milwaukee Health Department where she gained first-hand knowledge for her best-selling mystery series published by Fawcett Press, NY, featuring Doctor Maxine St. Clair, an ER doctor in an inner-city hospital. She worked as a press officer for the Washington state senate, then moved to Athens, Greece where she wrote grant proposals for small non-profit women’s organizations in Mediterranean countries. She also wrote a humor column for the Athens News newspaper with field archaeologist Adrian Vrettos, wrote two English language easy readers for Cambridge University Press, UK, and a series of hiking articles for She researched her Byzantine-era Empress Irini Series through extensive travel in Greece, followed by six months of research at the Bodleian libraries in Oxford, England. She enjoys hiking in Greece, England, Wales, and Scotland.

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