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.