The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

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The sequel to I Am Livia continues to follow the reign of Octavian/Augustus Caesar and is told from the perspective of three of the important women in his life; Livia, his wife; Julia, his daughter; and the daughter of Cleopatra and Antony, Cleopatra Selene.  Once again I was enthralled with the author’s ability to take a period of history and make it come alive with all of the emotion, the fears, the makings of a dynastic family amid constant turmoil.  The portrayals of the main figures in this at times triumphant; at times tragic tale, are redolent with realism; it could have happened this way.  Livia is a true help mate for Tavius; Julia a daughter whose frustration at being just a tool for her father searches for passion; Cleopatra Selene brought up with no hope of plotting her own future finds purpose and happiness.  The Daughters of Palatine Hill is a masterful rendition; the author possesses the knack for keeping the reader thoroughly entertained; a page turning delight as the story progresses to Julia’s banishment.  A well done tale indeed.  4.8 stars and a Hoover Book Review hope that there is more forthcoming from Phyllis T. Smith.

 

The Ides by Peter Tonkin

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The Ides of Mars is fast approaching and there are evil portents aplenty warning Gaius Julius Caesar to beware of the day.  As is well known, Caesar did not heed the warnings; his violent death ushering in another period of Roman civil war and the rise of emperors.  In The Ides the reader experiences a different take on this history shaking event as we follow the story through the eyes and actions of a cadre of agents who seek to protect Caesar from those who would do him harm.  The tale is replete with wonderful characters, a story line that is filled with surprises, and a detailed view of the city of Rome and it’s varied citizenry from lowly plebs and former soldiers to the aristocrats who vie for power during the unsettling aftermath.  I read a lot of Roman historical fiction and this rendering of those climatic days rates up there with then best of them and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars

I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

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One of the reasons I have watched the BBC production of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius so many times is Sian Phillips portrayal of Livia, the powerfully wicked wife of Augustus and Mother of the Empire.  One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Livia is the vastly different light Livia is portrayed by Phyllis T. Smith.  Instead of the scheming woman clearing a path to the throne for her son Tiberius, we find a woman longing to help her husband gain control of the Roman Empire; becoming not just a wife, but an adviser who manages to soften the harsher side of her Tavius.  The author has given the reader some excellent characters to embrace in a historical setting that determines the future of Rome and the world.  Emotions run high and are on display in this tale; a tale that is well known, Octavius and Antony and who will rule the world.  That backdrop to the story of Livia, and seen mostly through her eyes, provides a page turning delight.  I came upon this book kind of accidentally and am glad that I did.  5 stars  Highly recommended by the prestigious yet humble Hoover Book Reviews.

Pax Gallica – Marius Mules IX by SJA Turney

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Things are heating up between Caesar and the Senate.  The Senate calls for him to lay down his legions and return to Rome for prosecution while Caesar seeks to be made a Consul.  Marcus Falerius Fronto, ex-legate of the Tenth Legion has been declared an outlaw and takes his family to Massilia whereupon he decides that despite his differences with Caesar, the only way to regain what the Senate has taken from him is to rejoin Caesar.  Meanwhile there is an uprising in Aquitania led by an enigmatic man known as The Smiling King and Fronto is sent there with one legion made up of veterans ready to retire to put down the incursion and settle the veterans in that region.  Throughout this series, the author has created some very memorable characters, both Roman and barbarian.  In Pax Gallica, that honor belongs to The Smiling King; driven by vengeance, fueled by sacred vows, and totally ruthless in his pursuit to bring down Caesar.  Fronto needs all of the steadfast, professional demeanor of his ‘legion’ just to survive the opening salvos from this new enemy.  Fronto also needs all of his guile and experience to try to stay one step ahead of Smiley but is inexorably and with much loss led to where The Smiling King wants him.  Mr. Turney delivers yet again a muse inspired tale filled with drama, mystery, heroic deeds, loyalty, and most importantly a story of many twists and turns as he sets the stage for the inevitable showdown between Pompey and Caesar.  5 Stars and a Hoover Book Review query, Why haven’t you started this series yet?  🙂

Conspirata by Robert Harris

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The middle book of the trilogy,  Conspirata encompasses Cicero’s life during his Consulship and the subsequent fall out from the Catiline Conspiracy.  Through the voice of Tiro, the uber secretary, the author continues an excellent reading experience chock full of history enhanced with intrigue and emotion.  Cicero rides a stormy sea as he vacillates between victories, doubt, and a surprising predilection to turn his fears into heroic acts.  The characters ring true, from the pompous (Catalus, Hortensius), to the pretentious power seekers (Pompey, Crassus) and a unremitting, ruthless Caesar.

It had been quite a while between my reading of Imperium and Conspirata.  I predict that it won’t be as long before I start the final volume, Dictator.  4.8 stars & The Hoover Book Review’s coveted “It’s a Good One, Boys & Girls” award.

 

Soldier of Rome: Heir to Rebellion: Book Three of the Artorian Chronicles by James Mace

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Artorius and company are garrisoned in Lugdunum after quelling the Sacrovir revolt but there is still a remnant of the rebellion, led by Heracles, and he is terrorizing the area looking for revenge.  The author delivers, once again, an exciting tale of intrigue filled with action, anguish, and even love.  Artorius continues to develop and is becoming  much more complicated and well rounded and is only one of the interesting characters the author has created.  Without giving away any of the story I can state that Heracles, a former leader of the Sacrovir Rebellion, is one nasty piece of work and the plans he executes are loaded with atrocities…atrocities that hit close to home for Artorius and his cohort commander.  All in all, it is an enjoyable read that gives the reader glimpses of what it was like to be part of a Roman legion with a sub-plot of Sejanus’ relationship with Tiberius and his grab for power. 4.3 stars….looking forward to book 4.

 

 

 

 

Magnus – Triumphator by Robert Allen Johnson

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When one looks back at the history of Rome during this period that saw the ushering in of the end of the Roman Republic, one cannot help but be amazed at the number of so many pivotal characters; Marius, Sulla, Cicero,Crassus, Pompey and waiting in the wings, Gaius Julius.  No wonder that this period gets so much attention from authors, however, it takes a good author to take on a character that has been portrayed by many different authors, in many different ways.  Robert Allen Johnson has done just that in this series on Gnaeus Pompey Magnus.  He has given us a Pompey that is more human, more prone to doubt and yet more determined to succeed.  In the second installment, Triumphator, Pompey begins to grow, becomes less rash and more calculating and to some, more dangerous.  The author has created a work that rings true, a page turning delight that has one almost hoping that this version of Pompey will see through Caesar’s ambition and bests him in the end…almost.  4.8 stars and Hoover Book Review’s Seal of Approval.  Can’t wait for book three.