Thea is a Jewish slave, who is under the thumb of Lepida Pollia – who’s an ambitious cruel socialite. Arius is a gladiator, known as Arius the Barbarian. He catches the eye of both Thea and Lepida but ultimately falls for Thea. After finding out their romance, Lepida does what she can to separate them, leading to their separation. Thea bounces back on her feet after several hardships and becomes a well known singer for Roman aristocrats. She attracts the eye of Emperor Domitian and becomes his mistress. Lepida isn’t far behind in her plotting, filled with jealousy and hate towards Thea, but all Thea wants is her life with Arius back, and to be away from the Domitian and his games.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a very good historical fiction This is one of the best I’ve read so far. There is lots of fighting action (gladiator fights), romance, and lots of drama. Just the way I like it in historical fiction. However, what I love about this book is, that it moved me in many ways. The emotions in this book was like a roller coaster. You were happy one minute, the next you were sad, and then you were boiling in rage (usually because Lepida is such a …witch..to say the least). The plot was well done and well written. It’s been broken into several point of views of different characters so you get to see the story in different angles which is certainly nice to see and adds more to the book.
The characters in this novel were excellent. The chemistry between potential pairings were really well done and well written. Of all the characters, I liked Thea and Vix. Marcus also held a soft spot for me too. I was glad Thea wasn’t written out as a damsel in distress type of heroine. I noticed as the story progressed, she became stronger and I admired her even more for standing up to Domitian and to not to give in to what he wants. What I also enjoyed reading was, every female in this book had their strengths (and of course weaknesses) but their strengths were much more prominent and focused in the book.
Vix made me laugh, because although he was a brat, he had the best insults and comebacks I have ever read. I liked how he wasn’t afraid of Lepida, even though she had the means to get back at him and potentially kill him.
I hated Lepida. Oh wow did I ever hate her. I’ve hated some characters in the past but Lepida wins all the medals for being villain of the year. She’s scheming, cruel, nasty, evil, vile, all the names you can think of that are negative. In fact, Calpurnia sums it up by saying that she’s “the most criminal wife in Rome”. Calpurnia actually calls her several colorful names which I enjoyed reading and laughing at. (Lepida gets what’s due to her in time so reading the book and seeing her fall is quite a treat).
The only criticism I find in this book is it shifts from first person to third person quickly and I’m not sure why it’s been done this way. It’s a little strange but it’s not enough to distract the reader from reading and enjoying the story. Some readers might find that a little irksome – however it didn’t bother me.
So far, I think this is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in 2010. It’ll be hard to top this one off. Fans of Ancient Rome will love this novel and will become attached to this story as I am. I think this book is definitely a keeper. From the historical note at the end, there maybe another story coming featuring some characters from Mistress of Rome. I can hardly wait to see the next one if it does come out!
I give it a 10 out of 10.