Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: Daughters of Rome

Kate Quinn
Daughters of Rome
By Kate Quinn
Berkley Books, April 2011

About the Book

A.D. 69. Nero is dead.

The Roman Empire is up for the taking. With bloodshed spilling out of the palace and into the streets of Rome, chaos has become the status quo. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything—especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome . . . .

Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as emperor. Her sister, Marcella, is more withdrawn, content to witness history rather than make it. Even so, Marcella has her share of distinguished suitors, from a cutthroat contender for the throne to a politician’s son who swears that someday he will be emperor.

But when a bloody coup turns their world upside down, Cornelia and Marcella—along with their cousins, one a collector of husbands and lovers, the other a horse-mad beauty with no interest in romance—must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one emperor . . . and one empress.

My Review

I love reading novels set in first-century Rome. The culture of that day seems almost parallel to the 21st century. While it isn’t the first book I’ve read about the Roman Empire, it’s one of the better novels set during that time period. This novel had very realistic characters, and while there was some sexual tension at times, it fits the story and was not there to merely titillate the reader. It reminded me of how much I adore Francine Rivers’s writing style and how much I enjoyed reading her Mark of the Lion Series back in the mid 1990s.

The unique thing about this novel is that it took place during the year of the four emperors. I’ve read historical accounts of the ancient Roman Empire and some were set around 69 AD, but this is the first book I’ve read that fictionalized true life events. The perspectives shifted between four cousins, all women, who grew up together and were from prominent families. The politics of the time period were intriguing as were the parties (where people ate so much they had to throw up in order to indulge in more food), chariot races and gambling, arranged marriages for political gain, and hostile takeovers by people craving power. I found it interesting how fickle the people of Rome were, but how they also had to shift alliances each time there was a new emperor in Rome.

This author put and interesting fictional twist to this historical tale and suggested that a scheming woman may have been behind the changes in power. I found that intriguing, especially how in the end she was caught in a trap of her own making. That part of the theme made me think of monarchies in England and how people were often afraid for their lives when the king changed from one blood line to the next. Those were intriguing times as well.

I loved all of the characters in this novel and the tension in their relationships. I also loved how women had power, and at the same time they were ruled by men. A woman’s only hope for true happiness would be to have a good man in her life because an evil man could use and abuse her. And other than possibly getting divorced, there wasn’t much women could do to protect themselves. Anyway, I love this author’s voice and style. I got a copy of Mistress of Rome, which is her first book, and plan to read that next. The back cover description sounds like my kind of story.

Michelle Szymanoski
Michelle Sutton author —Healing Hearts

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