Lindsey Davis brings us the history of Emperor Domitian’s Roman rule (AD 81–96) through the lives of two ordinary Roman citizens. Domitian was the son of Vespasian and brother of Titus (both Emperors before him) and was always considered the wayward son.
The main characters of the book are Gaius Vinius Clodianus (Vinius), a member of the Praetorian Guard (whose role is to protect the emperor) and Lucilla, the daughter of a Freedwoman and hairdresser to high ranking citizens including the Emperor’s family.
Vinius and Lucilla meet early in the story and are instantly attracted to each other but it is not till about half way through the book that they admit that they are in love.
Both Lucilla and Vinius, through their work, have more of an insight into the real Domitian than the average Roman would have. Lucilla hears much of the court gossip from her clients and Vinius, through guarding the Emperor, gets to see the good and the bad.
So, Lucilla and Vinius are very aware of Domitian’s slide into insanity as he becomes more paranoid and more vicious and seeks to micro-manage the Roman Empire. Eventually no-one feels safe from this tyrannical despot.
Eventually Domitian’s behaviour forces an unlikely group to plan the assassination that he is so afraid of.
I love reading about history when it is surrounded by interesting characters and in this case presented as a love story. It was excellent to see Lindsey Davis back in her familiar ancient Rome and I preferred this book to ‘Rebels and Traitors’ which dealt with England at the time of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell (probably there is more room for invention with less written history available). I spent much of the book waiting for Marcus Didius Falco to put in an appearance and having to remind myself that this wasn’t part of the Falco series.
This is a brilliant, fun book and if you loved Falco, you’ll love this book!
Book Published 2012