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Historical Fiction
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end.
Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance's most notorious family, three outsiders must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power.
The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.
The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect.
The Year of Four Emperors - and four very different women struggling to survive
A brilliant and paranoid Emperor, a wary and passionate slave girl – who will survive?

Ave Historia: An irreverent look at historical fiction today: books trends, historical tidbits, and random tangents

I Hated Your Book

August 29, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, i hated your book

Okay, folks, it's time for what I feel is going to be a yearly tradition: the “I hated your book” blog. Last year I wrote a blog post listing my top ten favorite negative comments that had come in for my first book Mistress of Rome, and I had a blast doing it. Judging from the 500 views and 20+ comments, a lot of you had a blast reading it. So here we go for Round 2: I've written a second book, out for nearly five months now, and plenty of people had mean things to say about it (or me).

Which is fine, really. Mistress of Rome got panned a few times, and so did Daughters of Rome, and that's okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all, and I knew going into this line of work that I wasn't going to please 100% of my readers. Everyone gets negative reviews – you can go on Amazon, and the Bible has negative reviews. Even God does not get a break on this one. The last thing I will ever do is be unprofessional and argue with a reader about their opinion, whether in person or on the web. And I have learned valuable things from some negative reviews – a Latin scholar, for example, who tactfully pointed out that my hero's made-up name was actually a common adverb in Latin. Believe me, that detail got carefully worked into my next book, and I'm grateful for the correction.

But I have gotten some negative reviews of Daughters of Rome that are so bizarre or so flat-out filled with loathing that I have been left scratching my head in wonder. Here are a few memorable gems from readers who have contacted me with negative feedback. I have rephrased some for anonymity but all are true in essence:


1. There is a depraved amount of sex in this book. From beginning to end, I was just appalled!!!
So appalled that you finished the book anyway?

2. Not enough sex in this book! I was so disappointed that there wasn't an orgy!
Probably not as disappointed as Reader #1.

3. I hated your last book. I don't know why I bought this one.
Well, don't look at me; I certainly don't know either.

4. It's too confusing to have four heroines named Cornelia.
Okay, valid. Historically it's true that Roman women in the same family got the same name . . . but judging from the number of readers who thought it was confusing in Daughters of Rome, the four-identical-names thing might not have been the best idea for a novel. At least my four girls are all immediately separated out with different nicknames, so it's not too confusing after the first chapter.

5. It's distressing to see an author's racist prejudices make their way into mainstream fiction. (Condensed from 11-page 6-point-font email)
Not really sure what ethnic group I pissed off in Daughters of Rome. First-century Gauls, maybe? Far as I know, they're all dead . . .

6. Palid bodiss ripper with dull heroin and unreelistic senario.
I believe that's “Palid Pallid bodiss ripper bodice-ripper with dull heroin heroine and unreelistic unrealistic senario scenario.” C-minus – I know you can do better. Please see me after class to discuss use of spell-checker.

7. Your first book was so much better than this one.
See next comment.

8. Your first book was so much worse than this one.
See previous comment.

9. This book is wrong and inaccurate – no Christians! Not a book a good modern-day Christian should ever read.
Oh dear, I think you'd better sit down. I know it's a shock, but – deep breath, now – not everyone in the ancient world was Christian. There, there, don't cry.

10. Yr buk sux. U suk 2.
Thank you for taking time off from your World of Warcraft schedule to get in touch with me. I think I hear your mother calling upstairs; she wants you to vacuum the basement.


As you can see, my approach with negative reviews is to keep my sense of humor. Plenty more bad reviews will come my way, so I might as well learn to laugh about it – nasty readers and all, this job is still far preferable to working in a cubicle with Excel spreadsheets and an “Office Space” coffee mug. For those readers who didn't like my book but wrote thoughtful, well-reasoned reviews why – thank-you; constructive well-written criticism is always useful. And for those many people who liked Daughters of Rome and wrote such nice reviews about it (on Amazon, on Goodreads, in their blogs, or just in a nice email to me), thank you for the praise. All of you really made my day – and I hope I can make yours when I read, enjoy, and review your books too.

Daughters of Rome: The Movie

August 24, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, movie

Here's a question I get quite a lot from readers: will your books ever be made into movies?

The answer, I'm sorry to say, is no. So far, at least, and probably for the forseeable future. Historical movies or TV shows cost an arm and a leg to make: the costumes, the sets, the CGI, the on-site locations. My latest book “Daughters of Rome” has several chariot racing scenes a la Ben Hur; I shudder to think what the bill would be for all those chariots, horses, and thousands of screaming costumed extras. Unless I turn into George R.R. Martin, I don't imagine HBO will be burning up my phone line anytime soon with offers to turn “Daughters of Rome” into a multi-season star-studded no-expenses-spared miniseries.

But a girl can dream. I had a lot of fun last year casting “Mistress of Rome” as an imaginary movie with the cast of actors I'd have picked if I'd had unlimited control and budget (which no author ever gets). Now that I'm between deadlines, I think I'll indulge myself and do the same for my second book. Coming soon to a theatre near you: “Daughters of Rome,” the Oscar-winning blockbuster directed by Ridley Scott!


THE WOMEN

Marcella: The trickiest part to cast, and also the meatiest. My heroine is a voluptuous frustrated schemer who writes histories, and eventually discovers that making history is even more fun than writing about it. For an actress who can play both charming and amoral, I'll go with Hayley Atwell. She did a lovely job in “Pillars of the Earth,” a pretty brunette with an unexpectedly flinty side.




Cornelia: Marcella's gentle older sister who goes from ambitious snob to grieving widow to passionate woman. There's no shortage of actresses who could play her. Natalie Portman? Rose Byrne? Shannyn Sossamon? I settled on Sophia Myles, a gentler sort of beauty with an unexpected quirk of humor.




Lollia: Cousin Lollia is the richest heiress in Rome, a red-haired party girl with a penchant for good gossip and good sex. After seeing “Easy A,” Emma Stone was a no-brainer. She has Lollia's husky voice and adorable giggle, and an underlying sweetness to give Lollia dignity as she matures into something more than just a party girl.




Diana: strangely, the only actress I can think of to play a seventeen-year-old blond beauty mad for horses and chariot racing is Summer Glau. The former Terminator from "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" is definitely neither seventeen or blond, but she has the beauty – and even more important, she has the quirky absent-minded charm necessary to make Diana's one-track obsessiveness and utter lack of tact charming instead of irritating.




THE MEN

Piso: Cornelia's husband is Imperial heir for just five days before a mob hacks him to pieces. Sean Maher would make the most out of this brief part; as Simon in “Firefly” he had the same straitlaced-but-sweet charm.




Drusus: the stalwart bodyguard who saves Cornelia's life was cast the moment I saw Rome Season 2, and laid eyes on Allen Leech. His Agrippa could be a clone of Drusus – stocky, brave, loyal, and passionate.




Domitian: Marcella's nineteen-year-old suitor gets another actor from HBO's Rome – Max Pirkis, whose hair-raising depiction of the young Augustus makes him a natural choice for the eerie intelligence and nascent creepiness of this young emperor-to-be.




Fabius: Lollia gets married three times in the course of the book (her husbands keep dying on her in political shuffles) but her third husband is the most important – an abusive kingmaking creep with a vicious streak. Let's go with Rufus Sewell, who (as we know from "A Knight's Tale") looks good in a breastplate and doesn't have to scream to scare the crap out of anybody.




Thrax: the handsome golden body slave who consoles Lollia between bad marriages. We need at least one tribute to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” so let's go with handsome golden gladiator Jai Courtney.




Llyn: the attractive and taciturn ex-rebel from Britain who scorns Romans and teaches Diana how to drive a chariot. This one was a no-brainer: David Wenham with the same haircut he had in “Lord of the Rings.”




THE EMPERORS

Galba: in a book about the Year of Four Emperors, you can bet Emperor #1 won't last too long. Michael Hogan will chew the scenery for his fifteen minutes of screen time before the mob gets him, playing grumpy old cheapskate Emperor Galba.




Otho: Galba's successor couldn't have been more different; a metrosexual playboy with a witty tongue. Who better than Rupert Everett, the guy who stars in pretty much every Oscar Wilde movie ever made?




Vitellius: Another polar opposite for Emperor #3 – a fat sports fan who lived for chariot racing and obscenely huge banquets. Brad Leland played a loudmouth football fanatic in “Friday Night Lights,” and could do it perfectly here. And he's got the chops to bring out Vitellius's pathos and dignity as well as the bombast.



No need to cast the fourth emperor in the series, since he doesn't make a cameo in the book. But previous ruler Nero does in a creepy flashback, and in my mind he's Philip Seymour Hoffman. He'll nail Nero's fussy artistic pretensions and innate craziness in just five minutes of screentime.




SMALL PARTS

Irritating Jessalyn Gilsig from “Glee” for the irritating sister-in-law who gets on everybody's nerves . . . wrinkled John Noble to play one of Lollia's more crochety and elderly husbands . . . and one final cameo, the star charioteer who drives for Diana's arch-rival racing team. Since I'm a Yankee-hating Red Sox fan, and Diana adores the Reds team and hates the Blues team, let's have the obnoxious-but-talented Blues charioteer be played by the obnoxious-but-talented Derek Jeter.

So, that's my fantasy cast for my mythical movie of “Daughters of Rome.” Of course, even if it did end up being made into a movie, I would not have any say in the casting or even the script. J.K. Rowling was able to put her foot down when some producer wanted to re-set Harry Potter in the United States, and George R.R. Martin was invited to help write the screenplay for HBO's “Game of Thrones” – but most of us writers have no power over what happens to our novels once they're sold for film. So if “Daughters of Rome” gets made into a soft-core porn direct-to-video flick about four sisters in nipple caps who practice incest, bondage, and threesomes, don't blame me.

In the meantime, if you've read “Daughters of Rome” and have your own casting ideas, I'm all ears.

Do We All Have the Time Machine Fantasy?

June 16, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, all things historical fiction

Tomorrow I'm off for a weekend at the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego, where I'm looking forward to discussions on topics like "Keeping A Series Fresh" and "Historical Fiction and the Fantastic." Great fun; the the hard part is going to be keeping my jaw off the floor when I walk past big names like Diana Gabaldon and Margaret George. Please, please, don't let me drool too much. :D I'm attending the HNS conference strictly as a starstruck guest, but I did get pulled into the big book signing, so if you happen to be attending the conference, look for me between 5-6pm on Saturday June 18th.

First, however, I am guest blogging over at Taylor's blog "All Things Historical Fiction." Today's topic is - if you had a time machine, what would be your top five historical eras to visit? Number Four on my list:

"Gilded Age New York. I'd like to be one of those American heiresses I was always sighing over in Edith Wharton novels, heading off to Europe in an ocean liner with ninety new dresses by Worth, intent on bagging myself an English lord. If I can marry a duke like Nan St. George did in The Buccaneers, I may just take a look around my Cornish castle and my coronetted stationery marked “Katharine, Duchess of Tintagel,” and decide not to come home."

For the rest, read here!


Birth Control, Roman Food, and the Red Sox

June 6, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, mistress of rome, empress of the seven hills

Guest blogging again today! And this time I've got a Q&A with Stephanie Thornton over on her blog, where the motto is "Well behaved women rarely make history." Today's questions cover ancient-era birth control, the Red Sox, and some really disgusting Roman food. A snippet:

"Rabid fans, beer in the stands, `We’re #1!' chants and those guys who show up at the stadium in team-color face paint – ancient Rome is probably to blame for the modern sports team. Only in Roman sports, people died a lot more frequently. A tradition I could completely support as long as it only applies to the New York Yankees . . ."

To read the rest, click here!

5 Life Lessons from Historical Romance

May 24, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, romcon

I'm doing the guest blogger thing again today, and this time it's on RomCon - "Where Romance Rules." Today's topic of discussion: 5 lessons to be learned from historical romance novels, and how my heroines in "Daughters of Rome" use these rules to negotiate life:

Life Lesson #2: To facilitate your love life, acquire at least one unsympathetic relative. You’ll need someone who can be counted on to throw up roadblocks in your romantic road to bliss. Unsympathetic fathers are a classic; grasping uncles also good; meddling aunts or cousins who are after your inheritance can also work in a pinch.

For more, click here!

Blog Tour: Marriage and Divorce, Roman Style

April 22, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, enchanted by josephine

For the last day of my blog tour, I'm over at "Enchanted By Josephine" with a post on Roman style marriage and divorce - rather different than we do it nowadays . . .

"Roman wedding vows were simple; a recitation that began `Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia.' Much better than these dreadful personalized vows that start with “You are the rock in my stormy sea” and only get worse. The priest follows up with a sacrifice for good luck, a sow or maybe a goose. I'm not really in favor of dead animals, but at least it wouldn't put me to sleep the way the inevitable reading from Corinthians does. And after the wedding banquet, the bride gets to light the fire in her new home for the first time – and toss the wedding torch to the unmarried girls in the crowd; the one who catches it will be the next bride. If you're the bride and you want to really nail that one slacker bridesmaid, I'm betting you could do a lot more damage throwing a torch at her than a bouquet."

For the rest, click here.

And a big thank you to everybody who followed me around on my blog tour - and to all the bloggers nice enough to have me!

Blog Tour: Over The Edge

April 20, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, over the edge book reviews

I'm at "Over the Edge Book Reviews" today, doing a Q&A with Christine who (thank God) has some wonderfully original questions. There's only so many answers to give to "Where did you get your ideas?" so it's lovely that Christine wanted to know things like "What's the most interesting thing you ever learned by Googling yourself?" and "What fictional hero would you want to hang out with?" My answer to that last one:

"C.S. Forester's Captain Horatio Hornblower. I first read the Hornblower series at about nine years old, and I had such a crush on the moody swashbuckling Horatio that I was completely ruined for boys my own age. Not one boy in my fourth grade class had sunk a Spanish warship, escaped a French firing squad in a rowboat, or battled four enemy two-deckers to a standstill – I was so disappointed."

For the rest of the Q&A, click here. And thanks for having me, Christine!

Blog Tour: Let's Go Brit

April 19, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, british weekly

Giving the guest blogger thing a rest today as I head over to British Weekly. I've got a Q&A there, covering everything from why "Daughters of Rome" is unlikely ever to become a movie, to what the hell my shorthand notes mean:

"My shorthand makes perfect sense to me, but anyone from the outside would assume I went completely nuts, like Russell Crowe finding imaginary codes in the newspaper in `A Beautiful Mind.' Fortunately my husband was very good about it all, merely inquiring mildly from time to time why there was a Post-It with ‘Google headless Romans York’ on our fridge.”

Click here to read more!

Blog Tour: Sex and the City (of Rome)

April 18, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, sex and the city, historical fiction connection

I admit it - I love "Sex and the City." I treated myself to a marathon after turning in Daughters of Rome, and I started to see certain similarities between the TV show about four girls from New York, and my book about four girls from Rome. So when "Historical Fiction Connection" invited me over today to guest blog, I decided to make a category by category comparison . . .

The Romantic Escapades

"Carrie and the girls managed, over many seasons and two movies, to rack up four marriages, one divorce, three children, and countless lovers. I'm sorry, but my heroine and her posse have them beat with eleven marriages, six divorces, eight children, and countless lovers. Those racy Romans . . ."

To read more, click here!



Blog Tour: Don't Mess With the Empress

April 17, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, historical boys, c.w. gortner

Now this is a weekend treat: I got to wake up to a rave review for Daughters of Rome from none other than C.W. Gortner, whose marvelous Confessions of Catherine de'Medici was one of my favorite reads of the year. Chris was also nice enough to have me as a guest on his blog "Historical Boys," and we agreed on a topic that fascinates us both: women in power. A sample . . .

"No matter what kind of power she wielded behind the scenes, Augustus's empress Livia was smart enough to present herself publicly as a simple Roman matron; Augustus was constantly bragging that his wife wasn't too proud to weave his tunics with her own hands, Empress or no. (I always picture Livia getting up from her desk full of official dispatches when she heard guests coming, weaving exactly two bands of cloth until they went away again, and then going right back to work while the servants finish the weaving.)"

For more - and for Chris's fabulous review - click here!

Blog Tour: Did they have "Vogue" in ancient Rome?

April 15, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, the maiden's court

A brand new blog for me today: I'm over at "The Maiden's Court" where Heather asked me all about Roman fashion. I say, let's bring it back:

"The Roman ideal of female beauty is something I wouldn't mind seeing brought back on modern magazine covers. Thin, tan, and toned? You'd be told to eat some more stuffed dormice, stay out of the sun, and for Jupiter's sake get rid of those leg muscles before people mistake you for a slave girl. Soft, tan-free, and voluptuous was the ideal Roman look – and speaking as a girl who's always looked more Joan from 'Mad Men' than Blair from 'Gossip Girl,' the Roman way is a look I can get behind."

For more, click here. And thanks to Heather for having me.

A Two For One Special

April 13, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, historically obsessed, tanzanite's castle full of books

A two-for-one special today as I pop up on two different blogs: Daphne's "Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books" and Lizzy's "Historically Obsessed." For Daphne I've got a post on the four men who starred in the Year of Four Emperors - a cranky old man, a metrosexual party boy, a rabid sports fan, and an EveryDad; read here for more details. And for Lizzy I've got a post - ok, maybe a rant - on the perils of writing historical fiction while on a diet: "Obsessed with Roman food? Scratch that. While writing my historical fiction novel Daughters of Rome, I was obsessed with any food, because I wasn't getting any. I was on a diet while writing the second half of the book, and it was a form of torture I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy." Read here to continue!



Blog Tour Continued

April 12, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, muse in the fog

Hmm, I'm not sure if this is Day 6 of my blog tour, since it's the sixth day I'm a guest for another blogger, or Day 9 since it's been three days since the last blog post. Whatever. You can see why I'm a writer and not a mathmatician.

Anyway, Svea over on "Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog" has been nice enough to give me her blog space today. My guest topic: if I have four heroines in "Daughters of Rome," then which one is the most like me. Answer: all of them. A sample . . .

"Marcella is my second heroine, and she's a lot like me: an antisocial booklover who would rather be writing up in her study than partying any day of the week. Marcella was not a stretch for me to write. And we share something else besides a passion for scribbling – an hourglass figure, which is a great inconvenience to a smart girl. It's hard to be taken seriously as a brain when you're over a C-cup. “Contrary to popular opinion, breasts do not preclude a brain,” Marcella tartly informs a man in "Daughters of Rome" who is surprised to find she has actual ideas. I remember telling a boy in high school the same thing."

For more, click Click here. And thanks to Svea for having me.

Blog Tour: Day 5

April 8, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, luxury reading

Day 5 of my blog tour, and the last one until after the weekend. Today I'm over at "Luxury Reading," with a guest post on that ever-popular question "Where does your inspiration come from?" Plus their standard question - what is your ultimate luxury? My answer -

"My ultimate luxury is the glass of Yellowtail chardonnay I pour for myself after a full day of writing, as I turn on the Red Sox game and sink into a dilapidated chaise so obscenely comfortable I’ve nicknamed it the Sybaritic Chair. A glass of wine after 6,000 words worth of new chapter, as I watch Big Papi swagger up to the plate with the game on the line . . . ahhh."

Click here to read more! They're also posting a giveaway, so be sure to enter for a free copy of Daughters of Rome.

Blog Tour: Day 4

April 7, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, Booking Mama

Day 4 of my blog tour - it's been great to talk to so many readers online. Today I'm over at "Booking Mama," with a guest post on a few of the things I wish I'd known when my first book came out. Tip #3:

"For the love of God, hide all negative reviews from friends and family. My mother nearly gave herself a stroke last year when she read Mistress of Rome's first one-star review; she was still fuming about it days after I'd forgotten the whole thing. As for my husband . . . well, I had one Amazon reviewer who complained that “some friend of the author's wrote snide comments all over my review; how unprofessional; I will never read this author's work again if this is how I am treated!” Listen, don't blame me – you're lucky you got away with a few snarky comments, because my husband was so mad he wanted to punch you in the nose."

Click here to read more! Julie at "Booking Mama" has also been kind enough to post a giveaway, as well as lovely review of Daughters of Rome here. Thanks Julie!

Blog Tour: Day 3

April 6, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome

Day 3 of my blog tour - so far I'm managing to keep everybody and their blogs straight. Today I'm over on Darlene's blog "Peeking Between the Pages" - one of my favorites! Darlene is hosting a giveaway for a free copy of "Daughters of Rome," so be sure to sign up, and has been kind enough to let me be her guest blogger for today. My topic: what happens when a modern 21st century girl takes a time machine back to 1st century Rome? A sneak peek . . .

"Miss 21st Century is pleased to look around her and realize that Roman women clearly don't hit the gym to stay beautiful. The desired look here is less Elena from `The Vampire Diaries' and more Joan from `Mad Men:' voluptuous, white-skinned, and muscle-free. And the men are even better: clean-shaven and short-haired is in for Roman men, so no moody goatee boys or wannabe musician-types who think a soul patch is the height of fashion."

Click here to read more!

Publication Day

April 5, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, passages to the past

My second book Daughters of Rome is finally out! Since this is my second trip around the block, I know a few more things now than I did last year, when I spent Mistress of Rome's pub date anxiously refreshing my Amazon page to catch that first review. This year I know enough to keep myself away from the computer (ok, almost), have another book on hand to read for distraction(thank you, Michael Grant, for publishing the fourth book in the "Gone" series today), and most important of all - drink lots of champagne.

It's also Day 2 of my blog tour, and the lovely Amy has been kind enough to have me over to her blog "Passages To The Past" for a guest interview. A sneak preview:

"The Year of Four Emperors - it’s an instantly fascinating combination of words to any bored history student looking desperately for passion and bloodshed between all the dry lists of dates and treaties."

Click here to read more! Amy is also hosting a giveaway, so be sure to enter to win a free copy of Daughters of Rome.

Blog Tour: Day 1

April 4, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, marjolein book blog


Publication day for my new book "Daughters of Rome" isn't until tomorrow, but my blog tour has already begun! I'm very excited to be visiting some new blogs as well as returning to some favorites, either as a guest blogger or for an author interview. I'll be updating daily here, so check in if you want to follow me around the blogosphere.

I'm starting off my blog tour with the lovely Marjolein Book Blog. Marjolein has a great review of "Daughters of Rome," and invited me to be a guest blogger as well. My topic: Young Adult Historical Fiction. A teaser . . .

"One of the first things that drew me to historical fiction was my envious realization that kids and teenagers in other eras actually got to do stuff. I might be stuck in middle school, bored senseless by my algebra homework, the biggest crisis of my day being how to cover up a zit. But in a historical fiction novel, I was old enough for anything!"

To read more, click over to Marjolein's book blog here!





First Critical Review for Daughters of Rome!

March 15, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, publishers weekly

I'm postponing my usual Teaser Tuesday this week, so I can post the very first critical review of Daughters of Rome. It came in last week from Publishers Weekly, and I'm thrilled!


"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."