"Quinn's follow-up to last year's Mistress of Rome focuses on four Roman women: Cornelia, the "perfect Roman wife," is poised to become the next empress; her sister, Marcella, is a historian with a budding appetite for manipulating powerful men; cousin Lollia finds herself constantly bartered off to different influential men, though only her slave truly knows her heart; and cousin Diana lives for the excitement of the chariot races. Quinn sets her novel in the "Year of the Four Emperors," A.D. 69, a tumultuous time of shifting loyalties. What unfolds is a soap opera of biblical proportions: when Otho deposes Emperor Galba, Cornelia's husband loses his head—literally; Marcella steps in to pull Galba's strings, but future emperor Domitian keeps an adoring, if untrusting, eye on her. All four women must make major sacrifices and risk losing everything—including their lives. Quinn's prequel lacks the darkness of her debut, but not the intensity. She juggles protagonists with ease and nicely traces the evolution of Marcella—her most compelling character—from innocuous historian to evil manipulator. Readers will become thoroughly immersed in this chaotic period of Roman history."