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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My review of Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

About the book:

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress.

My review:

Have you ever read a tragically beautiful story that made you want to sigh at the end? Even though historians will know the general outcome of a story because of their knowledge of history, Quinn still makes it compelling to read. I'd thought the only compelling author of fiction set in Ancient Rome was Francine Rivers. Quinn is just as good, but without the inspirational twist you'll get in Rivers's books. At the same time, while bloody and realistic, I didn't feel like Quinn went over the top in sensuality or brutality. Most of the story was subtle in regards to Quinn's description of Roman depravity and none of it felt titillating to me. I found that facet of this mainstream novel refreshing.

The cool thing about this story is by sheer accident I read the second book in the series first, but the first book in the series actually takes place after the second book. Then from the description of the third book, it follows the first book. Not to confuse you, but if you like to read things in the order that they historically occurred, then I would read the second book first (Daughters of Rome) followed by the first book (Mistress of Rome) and end with the third book, which I have yet to read. But it's on my must-read list.

If you've read The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers, you'll want to get a copy of this book.  While the stories are different, the setting and themes are similar. The main heroine is a Jewish slave girl who escaped the Masada massacre, and the main hero is a gladiator. The author uses other characters' points of view as well. But there weren't so many that it became confusing. The pace of the novel excited me in an edge-of-your-seat manner. I had a hard time putting it down, but I have a full-time job, so when I wasn't working, or exhausted, I picked up this book to read. I am now a fan of Kate Quin and will be reading more of her books in the future. If you love Roman history, you'll want to read this book.

Mistress of Rome was published by Berkley Books and released in 2010. This was Kate Quinn's debut novel.

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