Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

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There are times when this humble scribe finds it difficult to articulate or to even come close to the right words to use.  This is one of those times.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterpiece of a series that culminates in Lady of the Eternal City.  There aren’t many books that reduce me to tears or has me screaming in disbelief but  Kate has done those things to me repeatedly throughout.  On top of the emotions, she also has me believing that this is the way things might have actually happened.  That’s what comes out of a fiction so well written; so well researched.  I cannot recommend the Empress of Rome series highly enough but you must begin with book one; otherwise you will miss out on the muse inspired character developments, the emotion touching prose, the elegance of language that permeates all four books.  I, for one, will have this series on my To Read Again List.  5 Stars

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

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First off let me start by begging Kate Quinn for the use of her magical Muse.  The combination of the author’s fertile imagination and the delicate yet lush landscapes inspired by that Muse has produced a multi-layered tale of intrigue and adventure.  The backdrop to the intrigue is the reign of Trajan and who will succeed him.  The obvious, and only choice, in the mind of the Empress Plotina, is their ward Hadrian but Trajan is not of the same mind as his wife’s.  The relationship between Trajan and Hadrian as portrayed in this tale reminds me of the frosty relationship between Augustus and Tiberius in the BBC drama I, Claudius.  Hadrian to Trajan is just as Tiberius was to Augustus, very useful but not in the succession plan.  The adventure comes in the form of Trajan’s war in Dacia and reintroduces us to Vix, the child gladiator now returned to Rome in pursuit of his dream of glory in the legions.  Enter Sabina, my favorite character in the book I think, enigmatic, adventurous, and niece to Trajan and probably closer to him than anyone else in the imperial  household.  A tempestuous affair between Vix and Sabina is interlaced through the dramatic events of the narrative.  And Titus, poor background seeking Titus, his unlooked for rise in Rome is one example of the author’s skill at character development.  Another gem in the category of a well drawn character is the Empress Plotina.  Forgive me another I, Claudius analogy but Plotina is much like Livia, both masterful manipulators of events, both with boundless ambition, a most delightful lady.

The end of this tale, well it’s not really an end, is it?  Ms. Quinn leads us right into the next episode, which I for one will be getting to asap.  5 stars

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Lady of the Eternal City

S.J.A. Turney's Books & More

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Kate Quinn first came to my attention last year when I read Day of Fire, the collection of cross-threaded tales by various Roman authors set against the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. I have to say that normally, since my trend in reading is towards the military and espionage end of the historical fiction, I probably wouldn’t have read a book with this title or cover until I had run out of books where legionaries smash someone over the head, but the thing is: Kate Quinn’s contribution to that collection of Vesuvius tales was one of the highlights of it – one of the finest pieces of writing. It showed her skill at the craft of not just writing, but storytelling. And in recent years I have learned to approach literature with an open mind. So when I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy of Lady of…

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No Roads Lead to Rome – R.S. Gompertz

Another hilarious jaunt through the garden spot of Hispania, the city of Tarraco. I say another as I read the second book in the series,Aqueduct to Nowhere, first. The governor has been murdered and his replacement has arrived and in trying to impose his style of governing finds to his dismay that he is handcuffed by corporate entities that really run things(sound familiar?). Severus,one of the main characters, is thrown from his home during a fit of proscription and ends up a conscript legionnaire. His commanding officer is Centurion Marcus Valerius a twenty year veteran who only wants to retire and collect his pension. The city is broke and owes Hadrian his tribute; Winus Minem, erstwhile adviser to the governor, hatches a scheme to corner the wine market. They order the city garrison to cross the border into Gaul and acquire oak wood barrels, a task they carry out in shall we say, an over enthusiastic manner. The story is full of the unlikely, the ironic and the just plain funny scenarios. One in particular, Severus is standing post as the legion is camped. He ventures to investigate voices off in the distance. What he finds is his father preaching to a group of outcasts on Moses and the Burning Bush. The conversation and negotiation between God and Moses concerning the Commandments is worth the price of admission.
No Roads Lead to Rome is a madcap tale of intrigue, greed, heroism; all the traits that made Rome great. It is a wonderful satire on what makes a society run, for good or ill. 5 stars.

Aqueduct to Nowhere by R.S. Gompertz

A bit about the author:

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R.S. Gompertz grew up in a suburb of Disneyland. Since then, he has lived and worked in the USA, France and Spain.

He writes historical fiction served up in a thick broth of humor and adventure.

The inspiration for his first novel “No Roads Lead to Rome” came while hiking in the hills above Barcelona, Spain when he stumbled over an ancient wagon rut and realized things hadn’t changed all that much in 2000 years. The story came to him in a blinding flash that took the next 5 years to extract.

The action takes place in A.D. 123, a time not unlike the present, and chronicles the decline and fall of damn near everything.

“No Roads” was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. The book has been very popular on political humor and historical fiction lists.

The saga continues in “Aqueduct to Nowhere,” the standalone sequel to “No Roads Lead to Rome.”

While working on “No Roads,” he published a series of articles about travel and expat life, the first volume of which is now available as “The Expat’s Pajamas: Barcelona” on Kindle.

Aqueduct to Nowhere – Review

Two of my favorite genres collide in this entertaining  look see at a Saturnalia Festival in Tarraco, Roman historical fiction and humor.    Quirky characters and hilarious situations abound as the main character, Severus, tries to solve the many issues that crop up.  One corrupt governor has died and his successor is on the lam.  Severus is thrust into the position of head of Tarraco security and is faced with, among other things, finding the missing governor so he can be on hand for The Trial of the Century, solving the murder of the preceding governor, dealing with a band of Amazonian-like pirates led by the wife of the missing governor(and who is also the prosecutor of her husband), a Jewish zealot of a brother who turns everything into a diatribe against Rome, an angry crowd of fire displaced plebeians and a new set of rapacious government officials.  Oh and let us not forget the set of Praetorian assassins,a fortune telling would be girlfriend, and a pair of rumor mongering news anchors.  This story pokes fun at everything as it threads it’s way through every strata of society.  I think my favorite scene takes place on a doomed ship caught in a storm; on this ship you have four differing views on what god to pray to for help.  The sailor is a Christian, the brother is a Judean whose goal is to restore the Temple in Jerusalem, the Praetorian is a follower of Mithras and Severus talks to Neptune.  I won’t say anymore so as to not spoil anything or to influence anyone’s belief system.

Suffice to say that now that I have read Aqueduct I will be reading the prequel No Roads Lead to Rome.  5  stars given; Io Saturnalia.