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.

 

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

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The final volume of this marvelous series by Stephanie Dray has once again awakened in me a fierce envy of her ability to tell a tale.  Riveting, complex characters, their every emotion escaped through the pages and drew me into the fabric of their joys, sorrows, defeats and victories.  There is very little in the historical record about Cleopatra Selene, but what the author has done with that very little is just plain and simple good tale telling.  Her Selene is believable; from the frightened child being paraded in Octavian’s Triumph, to a Queen, mother and revered priestess of Isis, you get the sense that this could be her historical record or at least a reasonable facsimile.  Throw in the depiction of Augustus and his quest for more and more power, his manipulating of Selene and Juba, the tension between the contestants to be Augustus’ heir and you have an epic story that even a crusty old cynic might get a little misty over.  5 stars

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

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Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra is once again marvelously portrayed by Stephanie Dray in the second book of this trilogy tale.  The author is on form as she brings the child of book one into a woman driven by the prospect of becoming Queen of Egypt and restoring Isis to prominence.  Of course, in order to reach those lofty goals she has to contend with a devious Augustus and his take no prisoners wife, Livia.  The story is mostly set during Selene’s reign as Queen and wife to King Juba of Mauretania and details her struggle to maintain the legacy of her mother while learning the dos and don’ts of statecraft and dealing with the maddening antics and commands of Caesar Augustus.  The author has given us a tale full of intrigue, hope and desire.  It’s a dangerous game trying to outfox a man determined to add to his power over the Roman world and his determination to protect his legacy and the future of his family’s role in ruling the world.  The tale is also replete with some surprises, both good and bad, yet Selene finds the strength to persevere in a world where she is often misunderstood by those who want to bring her down.  I am looking forward to the finale.  5 stars.