Ahh, that tumultuous period after Gaius Julius Caesar’s assassination. A power vacuum now exists in Rome providing the drama as the contestants for that power vie for and against each other. Lots of work for the agents who used to work for the now divine Julius and who are now firmly in Antony’s camp carrying out his wishes and commands throughout Italy and beyond. Given that the historical events are pretty well known it would take a creative imagination to render the fictional bits believable and intriguing. The author has done that through the actions of the elite group of agents conjured up to bring the story to life. They mesh seamlessly with the likes of Antony, Octavian, Cicero etc, as they interact with friends and foes. The story flows nicely as it heads to the tension filled collision of Antony and a Cicero provoked Senate. As well as providing an intriguing tale, the author has splendidly described the geographical locations; an example of that is Antony’s retreat from Mutina into the Alps following Hannibal’s route. My only real complaint is that book 3 isn’t out yet. 4.7 stars
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.
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.