It's been a while since I read anything but romance, and I thought it was time to return to a favourite genre of mine: historical fiction. I left off mid series after reading Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn, so she's the author I decided to return to.
Summary: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withdrawn, content to witness history rather than make it.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. Summary from goodreads.com
I really like Kate Quinn.
Her books are easy to read, the prose flows like melting wax and the
story is told so beautifully that you're just sucked into it. Because
for me, Daughthers of Rome started slow. But then before I knew it, I was
invested in these four Roman women and their lives. I felt sorry for
them, but my admiration for their strength of character grew as the
story of the Year of Four Emperors was told.
Cornelia at first,
came across as the fussy, prudish ever do right of this foursome. I was a
little dazed by her husband's death, and slightly indifferent to her
grief, but that's only because I didn't know Cornelia then. Later, when
she takes Drusus as her lover, and she starts to leave behind the
conventionality of bring a patrician, Cornelia grew on me. A woman
seeking her own happiness? Putting aside the dangerous politics of the
times and her family's good standing to turn down suitors to honour
herself and the memory of her husband? I got to respect that.
Reinventing herself with Drusus? Beautiful. Love this strong woman.
Because this is a story about strong women, I discovered.
the flirty, empty headed trollop of the family comes next. That's all
she is in the beginning, a woman too busy with her love affairs for her
own child, buying a slave for her own sexual pleasures. And she becomes
the character I admire most. She is, oddly enough, very kind, non
judgemental. Lollia gives to the poor during the flooding of the river
Tiber, comes to love her body slave, and just becomes that wise woman of
the world all young women should talk to once in their life--at
nineteen, mind you. She protects her child and slave from her barbarous
husband, and she's just nice. I like her. Quiet strength is often the
Diana the huntress, I was so curious about her.
Shunning suitors, loving horses, learning to drive a chariot. I thought
she'd find some grand love but I laughed when I realized that love was
her horses, and probably only them. I should have realized that she was
too much her own person, too independent to end up any other way than
making her own way in the world. And I smiled with triumph when she
unravelled Marcella in the bath house. Utterly brilliant, and
beautifully timed by Quinn. And highlighting that Diana is far more
intelligent than anyone has ever really bothered to notice.
The beautiful, but rather ignored intelligent woman of this foursome.
Not destined to be Empress, not able to really be a historian, with
nothing to occupy her time or her insightful mind, I felt sorry for her
at first. She was just so unimportant to her family. To everyone almost.
But then I watched her mind slowly snap with her own bitterness and
plotting, and I'm not sorry for her own anymore. By the end, when she's
still underestimating her sister and cousins, she comes across as
slightly mad. Marcella becomes Empress of Rome, a fate she never wanted
or sought after with all her plotting. It's a fitting end for this
author of history. I don't like Marcella much, but I'm sad to think it
was her lot in life as a woman, that drove her to such an end.
I missed Thea and Arius. I know Vix's story is
next, but that just shows you how much I loved Quinn's first book.
So...four and a half glittering stars