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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

Happy Release Day: Lady of the Eternal City

March 3, 2015

Tags: lady of the eternal city, empress of the seven hills

For the seventh time in my life, I get to write the words "My book came out today." What a feeling!

"Lady of the Eternal City" was the book from hell in many ways - it was my first true sequel, and it had my first child narrator, my first redemption arc, and my first male-male romance, not to mention twenty years of back-story, 10+ different countries as settings, and the most complicated and contradictory historical figure (Emperor Hadrian) who I've ever had the frustration of researching. LEC was a problem child which I more than once contemplated throwing on the fire and dousing with gasoline, but now my problem child is out in the world - and I'm very proud of it.

I hope you enjoy it, too.


Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Indiebound


A Gift For My Readers

February 24, 2015

Tags: lady of the eternal city, empress of the seven hills, the three fates

I have been hugely touched by the good wishes, the prayers, and the wonderful support coming in from readers after my house fire of two weeks ago. It's been a rollercoaster two weeks, but the Overseas Gladiator and I are fighting our way back to normality: burns healing, belongings recovered, progress made slowly but surely on our half-ruined house. I have the best readers, friends, and fans in the world, and I wish I could give you something back.

Fortunately, I can. Sometimes the fates line up like that.

It's just a hair under two weeks till Lady of the Eternal City is released, and around this time, I'll usually release the coming book's first chapter as a sneak preview. This time I've gone one better: not only are you getting a teaser excerpt from LEC's first chapter, you're getting three bonus stories not included in the book.

LEC has been the book from hell for many reasons—some books are just problem babies while others are angels—and one of my early plot snarls came from the fact that I started the story too early in the timeline. I wanted to pick up right where “Empress of the Seven Hills” left off—with Vix wrestling with the impossible choice of killing his best friend; with Titus wondering if an executioner was coming for him; with Sabina in an ever-developing condition. But I ended up scrapping my original start and opening a year after the events of “Empress of the Seven Hills,” as Hadrian makes his long-awaited entry into Rome as Emperor. It was the right choice, but there were scenes on the cutting-room floor that I always regretted losing. And they made three self-contained little stories all on their own, so I realized I could bundle them together here: three prequel stories taking place in that missing year between “Empress of the Seven Hills” and “Lady of the Eternal City.”

“Blood”
Battered warrior Vix has always been Hadrian’s bitter enemy, and he vows that will never change, even when he is made Praetorian Guard and Imperial watchdog. But with his family’s lives on the line, Vix faces a bitter choice: kill a friend, or serve a foe?

“Omen”
Mild, scholarly Titus might once have been favored as Imperial heir, but he never wanted the throne. All he desires is peace in the arms of his new bride—but the jealous Hadrian has other ideas. A horror of bloodshed and violence interrupts Titus’s wedding night, and the man of peace finds a choice at sword-point: honor and death, or betrayal and a cell?

“Prophecy”
Elegant, elusive Sabina is desperate to escape the bleak future that awaits her as Hadrian’s Empress, and even more desperate to conceal the secret growing in her own body. But when she begs a famous seer for a glimpse into her future, she receives an astonishing vision of the Eternal City under Hadrian’s rule, and the new Empress must choose: her own freedom, or the glory of Rome?

Three former friends find new futures in blood, omen, and prophecy. Three prequel vignettes to "Lady of the Eternal City,” in an exclusive e-release titled “The Three Fates.”



“The Three Fates” is available for FREE download on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Scribd, and Page Foundry. It is available on Amazon Kindle at 0.99, which was the lowest possible price option. “The Three Fates” is NOT available in print, since this is an e-release only—and there is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of “Lady of the Eternal City” tucked in the back.

I hope you enjoy it—and again, thank you. Thank you all.

Lady of the Eternal City: Cover and Major Plot Details!

July 8, 2014

Tags: lady of the eternal city, empress of the seven hills

I've got the ok from my publisher, so here it is: the cover and the plot description for Empress of the Seven Hills sequel Lady of the Eternal City, set for release March 2015!

National bestselling author Kate Quinn returns with the long-awaited fourth volume in the "Empress of Rome" series, an unforgettable new tale of the politics, power, and passion that defined ancient Rome.

Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .


*******************************************************************************

Praise for the Empress of Rome novels

“Gripping.”—Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series

“Quinn handles imperial Rome with panache.”—Kirkus Reviews

"A masterful storyteller.”—Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I: The Novel

Featured This Month In Milspouse Magazine . . .

August 15, 2012

Tags: milspouse, empress of the seven hills

I wrote my latest book "Empress of the Seven Hills" while my husband was deployed to the Persian Gulf. I ended up writing him into the book, in a way - my hero bears more than a passing resemblance to the man I married, though I didn't realize this until it was pointed out to me. And at first I denied it.

Husband: (raising an eyebrow) “So it’s a complete coincidence that both your husband and your fictional hero are tall, freckled, left-handed, short-tempered, adrenaline-junkie military men who snore like a chain-saw, can't sit still without one foot jittering, and have a habit of pissing off superiors?”

Busted.

Thank goodness my husband is back home now, as unscathed as my fictional hero - and I wrote about both of them in the last issue of Milspouse Magazine, under the monthly feature "My Military Romance." Pick up an issue on any base, or just click here! And thanks again to Milspouse Magazine, and military husbands and wives everywhere.

"Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom; Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate!"

July 11, 2012

Tags: kate quinn, q&a, empress of the seven hills

So said Shakespeare in "Taming of the Shrew," when Petruchio woos his Kate. There are a lot of us Kates around (Henry VIII married three of 'em, not to mention Prince William!), and now we have our own website: Kate-Book.com, a website for Kates, by Kates, and about Kates! Credo: "We Kates are collectively very proud of our name. It’s one quick, clean syllable that at the same time denotes strength, creativity, class, beauty, and feet that smell like roses." Here, here!

This month Kate-Book.com is launching a book club feature. I'm the first author being interviewed, so check it out!

Q&A with the Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner!

June 20, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, pittsburgh examiner

Ten fun questions in a Q&A with Kayla Posney, the Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner. Kayla's got some fun questions like "What 5 historical figures do you invite to dinner?" (Depends if I want a good party or a bloodbath!)

To find out who made my historical guest list, click here! And thanks again to Kayla for interviewing me!

5 Reasons We Read Historical Fiction

May 2, 2012

Tags: empress of the seven hills, writerspace

Over at Writerspace, I'm giving my best five guesses at the reasons we read historical fiction. Reason #2:

"The clothes! Forget trying to squeeze into the skinny jeans and stiletto heels of 2012; let's go back to an era where you could swish around in a gorgeous gown and be considered the ideal beauty at size 16."

Want to hear the rest?

Hop on over to Writerspace and find out!

Blog Tour Week 4: Coffee With A Canine (or in my case, a Caesar)

April 27, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, q&a, coffee with a canine

Something sweet and silly for the weekend: the fun blog Coffee with a Canine, where I got invited to talk about my dog. Something I can never resist!

Click here to find out how a mixed-breed rescue pup has become an Outer Mongolian Temple Dog named after a Roman dictator.

Blog Tour Week 4: Writers Read (no, seriously, they do)

April 25, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, writers read, sophie perinot, robert harris, jeffrey eugenides, somerset maugham, michael grant

What do writers read? That's Marshal's question over on "Writers Read," and it's a good 'un. As a historical fiction writer, it's probably no surprise that I read a lot of HF. But I try to dip into other genres too, in the spirit of expanding my horizons, and that's why my current reading list doesn't just have HF on it, but classics, thrillers, and YA dystopias . . .


Click here to find out!


Blog Tour Week 4: Q&A

April 23, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, q&a, heather webb

I met Heather Web at last year's Historical Novel Society Conference - she was such a delightful dinner companion that I couldn't resist her invitation for a Q&A on her blog! And she's got interesting questions too - forget "Where do you get your ideas?" Heather asked me what my favorite vices are that get me through the bad times. My answer?

Click here to find out!




Sex, Lies, and History: A Literary Threesome

April 18, 2012

Tags: book signing, blog tour, stephanie dray, sophie perinot, empress of the seven hills

Coming this Saturday: panel discussion and book signing for three historical fiction authors: Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, and myself. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. Stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a great time!

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday, April 21st
Time: 1-3 p.m.
Location: Barnes & Noble, Spectrum Center, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190



Hope I see you there!

Blog Tour Week 3: A Chat with C.W. Gortner

April 17, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, historical boys, c.w. gortner

I'm over at C.W. Gortner's blog "Historical Boys" today for another Q&A - only by now, I'm a bit tired of talking about myself! Christopher is a friend of mine, and rather than do the standard interview, he and I ended up in a conversation about everything under the sun: our respective books (his "Queen's Vow" about Isabella of Castile comes out in June), our dream casting if HBO ever offers either of us a mini-series, and what's good, what's bad, and what's controversial about writing historical fiction.

Click here to read our convo!

Blog Tour Week 3: Across the Pond

April 16, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, the secret writer

I'm hopping over the water today for my first UK-based blog - a Q&A with Calum at "The Secret Writer." Calum had some great questions, like asking what made me decide to write historical fiction in the first place - but I can't promise my answers are always serious.

"Female characters in historical books get to wear much better clothes than modern heroines. I'd much rather be describing a silk stola or a Renaissance kirtle than some appalling tunic-and-jeggings combination."


Come on over to England to read the rest! And Calum, thanks again for having me.


Tag! You're It!

April 13, 2012

Tags: author tag, empress of the seven hills, sophie perinot

I've been tagged by my friend and fellow author Sophie Perinot ("The Sister Queens") for something she calls Author Tag. I'm always keen for weekend fun, so let's see if I can figure this out:

1. Go to the 77th page of my latest book.

2. Count down 7 lines.

3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow, and post them as a teaser.

4. Tag 7 other authors.


Okay, page 77 of "Empress of the Seven Hills" . . . counting down . . . aha. A scene where a Roman senator and his wife (some of you who read "Mistress of Rome" might remember Marcus and Calpurnia!) are preparing to have Emperor Trajan to the house for dinner, and are watched with considerable amusement by bodyguard Vix:

***

"I don't see what all this fuss is," Senator Norbanus said mildly, looking up from his scrolls at his madly rushing wife. "Emperor Trajan is a soldier; he's easy to entertain - put a slab of meat on his plate and enough beer in his mug, and he's happy."

"But Empress Plotina notices everything," Lady Calpurnia groaned, "and I won't have her wrinkling her long nose at my housekeeping." Very heavy under her swollen belly now, Calpurnia went lumbering about the house trailing lists and menus and worried slaves - even the daughter of the house was pressed into service, and I saw Sabina down in the kitchens with her hair tied up in a rag and a smudge of flour on her chin, wrestling gamely with a lump of bread dough. "Show me," she said, watching the cook's expert hands pummeling and punching. "How interesting."

I hid a grin because she'd said the same thing to me last week, in exactly the same tone of voice, when I showed her something under the blankets (never mind what).

***

Now, let's see who else I can tag on Facebook . . . Happy Friday 13th; you're it!

Blog Tour Week 2: My First Interview! Want to find out what my next book is about?

April 12, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, judith starkston, Q&A

Judith Starkston wrote my first and fabulous blogger review for "Empress of the Seven Hills," and I was delighted when she also invited me over to her blog for a Q&A! She has some great questions, like whether it was harder to find lasting romance in ancient Rome than in the modern day. Plus, there's a sneak preview on what I'm writing about in my next book!

Hint: not ancient Rome.

To find out, click on over to Judith's blog! Judith, thanks so much for having me.






Blog Tour Week 2: Roman Architecture, or "A Big Marble Excuse Note To Take Over Your Country"

April 11, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, muse in the fog

Svea is hosting me over at Muse in the Fog today as her guest blogger - thanks, Svea! Topic of the day is Roman architecture and its political uses:

"Politicians sometimes curried votes by paying a bathhouse's entrance fees for a day: “Come get a free massage and beauty treatment at the Baths of Trajan, and don't forget to vote for Mitt Romney!” Frankly I think this is an idea that needs to be revived; I have no intention of voting for Mitt Romney, but I'd be happy to let him pay for my pedicures."

Plunge into The Fog to read the rest and enter the giveaway for a free copy of "Empress of the Seven Hills!"

Blog Tour Week 2: Maybe I Should Just Give Up And Write YA

April 10, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, historical fiction connection

I'm guest blogging at the Historical Fiction Connection today, and my topic is the eternal dilemma all HF authors face, the one that occasionally has me pondering a career switch to YA dystopia where I wouldn't have to face the following problems:

1.How to make my character likeable even when they have some historically-accurate-but-distasteful opinions from their time period such as “Hey, I think slavery's just fine, want to go out and shop for a masseuse?”
2.How to ramp up the story's suspense for a historical figure when the reader already knows, thanks to Wikipedia, the history books, or the latest Showtime TV sensation, exactly what happened to them.


Head over to the Historical Fiction Connection to read the rest and enter the giveaway.

Blog Tour Week 2: Women In Ancient Rome Had It Better Than You Think

April 9, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, the maiden's court

Happy Easter everybody! Grab a chocolate bunny and come to court with me - that's not traffic court, but The Maiden's Court, another of my favorite book blogs, run by the delightful Heather who I was lucky enough to meet at last year's Historical Novel Society Conference. I'm Heather's guest blogger today - the topic? Perception vs. Reality about what it meant to be a woman in ancient Rome:

"A Roman woman's marriage vows gave her considerable flexibility. If a 19th century woman wanted to escape a bad marriage to a cheating husband, she was out of luck unless she could prove her husband had not only cheated on her but compounded his offense by beating her, abandoning her, or going insane. All a 1st century Roman wife had to do to get rid of the jerk she married was move out of his house."

Come on over to the Maiden's Court to read the rest and enter the giveaway. And thanks for having me to court, Heather!

Blog Tour Day 4: A Day In The Life Of A Writer, And Boy Does Hollywood Get It Wrong

April 6, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, peeking between the pages

TGIF, everybody, and for weekend reading, here's my last guest post of the week. I'm over at Darlene's wonderful blog Peeking Between the Pages today, talking about what a typical day in the life of a writer looks like, and why it's not as glamorous as Hollywood thinks:

"If there’s any TV show I get a kick out of, it’s `Castle' starring Nathan Fillion. He plays a bestselling crime novelist, and frankly, Hollywood’s idea of a writer’s daily schedule cracks me up every time. Nathan Fillion spends all his time running around solving crimes, attending red-carpet premieres of the movies made from his books, and playing poker with James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, and all his other New York Times bestseller buddies. Very rarely is he ever seen writing – just staring pensively at his laptop screen right before the murderer bursts in with a gun."

Come on over to Peeking Between the Pages to read the rest - and yes, there's a giveaway.

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Darlene!

Blog Tour Day 3: HFAA (Historical Fiction Addicts, Anonymous)

April 5, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, tanzanite's castle

Day 3 of my blog tour - it's been great to talk to so many readers online. Today I'm over at "Tanzanite's Castle," with a guest post on the books and movies that first got me hooked on that drug known as historical fiction. Number 4 - the movie "Last of the Mohicans."

"Something about the combination of sweeping scenery, haunting music, violent battles between European soldiers and Indian tribes, and passionate love story between an Indian warrior and a courageous English miss just stabbed me through the gut. Still does."

Fellow HF addicts, come on over to Daphne's castle (thanks for having me, Daphne!) to read the rest and share your gateway drug - you might win a free copy of "Empress of the Seven Hills" in the giveaway!


Blog Tour Day 2: Sexuality in Rome, and How It Would Give Mitt Romney A Heart Attack

April 4, 2012

Tags: blog tour, passages to the past, empress of the seven hills

Day 2 of my blog tour, and today I head over to Passages of the Past - one of my favorite book blogs, and Amy has been kind enough to let me be her guest blogger. My topic: sexuality in ancient Rome, and why the GOP would fall over in a dead faint. A sneak peek . . .

"With all the heated debate going on right now about gay marriage, there's been a great deal of revisionist history. Pundits and politicians cry out for a return to the ways of the past, when men only slept with women and marriage was sacred and inviolable. This might have held true for some eras of the past, but certainly not all . . . I can tell you now that if Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney were suddenly transported back to A.D. 102, as undivorced heterosexual men they would find themselves in the distinct minority. "

Click here to read more! Amy is also hosting a giveaway; two copies of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK) to be given out!

Publication Day!

April 3, 2012

Tags: blog tour, luxury reading, empress of the seven hills

My third book Empress of the Seven Hills is finally out! You'd think this whole process would get easier, but nope: I'm still gnawing my nails and pacing. Fortunately I have learned a few things since Mistress of Rome was first published and I nearly drove myself crazy sitting around waiting for that first review to pop up. I now know enough to keep myself away from my Amazon sales ranking (ok, almost), have another book on hand to read for distraction (thank you, Elizabeth Loupas, for publishing "The Flower Reader" today), and most important of all - drink lots of champagne with a husband and some dear friends who are under firm instruction to keep me away from my computer should my willpower falter.

It's also the kickoff of my blog tour, and the lovely Vera has been kind enough to have me over to her blog "Luxury Reading" for a guest post. A sneak preview:

“Funny,” my husband commented when he read through my first draft. “Your hero Vix is a lot like me.”

Me: “No, he’s not!”

Husband: (raising an eyebrow) “So it’s a complete coincidence that both your husband and your fictional hero are left-handed and quick with a sword, have freckles and a short temper, snore like a chain-saw, can’t sit still without one foot jittering, get easily irritated with idiots, turn to putty when one particular muscle under the left shoulder blade is massaged, are in the military, and have a habit of pissing off superior officers?”


Click here to read more! Vera is also hosting a giveaway, so be sure to enter to win a free copy of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK).

Book Signing and Blog Tour!

March 28, 2012

Tags: book signing, blog tour, stephanie dray, sophie perinot, empress of the seven hills

Under a week till publication day for “Empress of the Seven Hills.” Who's nervous? Well, me. This might be my third go-round, but somehow this never gets any less nerve-racking.

Fortunately, I've got company for my first in-person event this time. Mark your calendars – a historical fiction triple threat is set to hit the Washington DC metro area on April 21st!

Book Signing and Discussion

The marvelous Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot will be joining me for an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. If you're a fan of Stephanie's whip-smart series on Cleopatra's daughter Selene (“Lily of the Nile” and “Song of the Nile”) or Sophie's cracking debut novel on the medieval version of the Middleton sisters (“The Sister Queens”), stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a wild time!

Barnes & Noble
1851 Fountain Drive
Reston, Virginia
April 21st, 1-3pm


As soon as pub day hits I'll also be hopping aboard a two-week whirlwind of a blog tour, guest blogging on everything from sexual mores in ancient Rome to the various books and movies that first turned me into a historical fiction junkie. If you'd like to follow me around the web for a few laughs and a chance at a free book (giveaways galore!) then see below.

April 3rd – Luxury Reading blog
http://luxuryreading.com/
Topic of the day: What really happens when you end up putting your husband in a book by accident?

April 4th – Passages to the Past
http://www.passagestothepast.com/
Topic of the day: Why Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would have a heart attack if they ended up in ancient Rome.

April 5th – Tanzanite's Castle
http://shelfandstuff.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: The books that got me hooked on historical fiction; what are yours?

April 6th – Peeking Between the Pages
http://www.peekingbetweenthepages.com/
Topic of the day: A typical day in a writer's life, and it's NOTHING like “Castle”

April 9th – The Maiden's Court
http://themaidenscourt.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: How women in ancient Rome managed to get what they wanted despite all the laws against it.

April 10th – Historical Fiction Connection
http://www.hf-connection.com/
Topic of the day: How to make historical characters a) interesting, when your readers can jump on Wikipedia to find out what happens to them, and b) sympathetic, when they have a documented historical taste for bear-baiting and slavery.

April 11th – Muse in the Fog
http://muse-in-the-fog.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: still undecided. Hey, I'm a bit behind on my blog posts!

April 12th – Judith Starkston Book Blog
http://www.judithstarkston.com/
Q&A: Sample question: which of my characters would I choose to be, if I had a chance?”

April 13th – Historical Boys
http://historicalboys.blogspot.com/
Q&A: C.W. Gortner and I chat about everything from dream movie adaptations to the eternal dilemma of historical fiction novelists.

April 16th – The Secret Writer Blog
http://www.thesecretwriterblog.blogspot.com/
Q&A: Find out why I have a fridge door full of Post-It notes with jottings like “Headless Romans in York?”

April 21st – Enchanted by Josephine
http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com/
Q&A: Who knows what she'll ask, but Lucy always has great questions!


A huge thank you to all the book bloggers, reviewers, and readers who have invited me onto their blogs! I can't wait to get started. Who's nervous?

Well, still me.

Sneak Peek: Empress of the Seven Hills, Chapter One

March 3, 2012

Tags: empress of rome, empress of the seven hills, mistress of rome

Imagine a dark movie theater, and a deep cheesy voice intoning “In a world where heroes were few . . .”

Yep, it's Preview of Coming Attractions time: one month till publication date of my third book “Empress of the Seven Hills” (or in the UK, “Empress of Rome”). As promised, I'm posting Chapter One as a sneak peek. This is the sequel to “Mistress of Rome,” and in the first chapter you'll see plenty of old friends from my first book: Marcus and Calpurnia, even a glimpse of Arius and Thea. But most of all, this is the story of the two resourceful children in “Mistress of Rome,” brash Vix and thoughtful Sabina, now all grown up and looking for trouble.

Enjoy!


Chapter 1


VIX

When I was thirteen, an astrologer told me I’d lead a legion someday, a legion that would call me Vercingetorix the Red. Astrologers are usually horseshit, but that funny little man was right about everything: I got the nickname, and I even got the legion, though it took longer than it should have. But why didn’t that astrologer tell me any of the important things? Why didn’t he tell me that Emperors can be loved, but Empresses are only to be feared? Why didn’t he tell me I’d have to kill the best friend I ever had—on the orders of the worst man I ever knew? And why the hell didn’t he tell me about the girl in the blue veil I met the same day I got all these predictions?

That bitch. Not that I guessed: we were just children, me a skinny slave boy, her a pretty girl in a blue veil, all bruised up (never mind why). The first girl I ever kissed, and she had a sweet mouth. I suppose that made me soft when I met her again later, after we’d both grown up. If that astrologer was so good, couldn’t he have warned me about her? “Girl in blue, beware.” What would that have cost him? She cost me plenty over the years, I can tell you.

But that’s getting ahead of things. I’m Vercingetorix: “Vix” to my friends, “the Red” to my men, and “that pleb bastard” to my enemies. I’ve served four Emperors: killed one, loved one, befriended one, and maybe should have killed the other. I’m Vercingetorix, and I have a story to tell.

SPRING a.d. 102

I won’t bore you with my beginnings. They weren’t so illustrious anyway—my mother was a slave, and my father was a gladiator, and you can’t get much lower than that. If you follow the games in the Colosseum, then I can guarantee you’ve heard of my father, but I won’t tell you his name. The world thinks he’s dead, and that’s the way he likes it. He ended up on a mountaintop in the northern-most part of Britannia, torturing a patch of ground he calls a garden, and he’s happy. My mother’s happy too, singing at her work and producing babies to fill up the villa she got for doing an empress a favor (don’t ask what), but when I hit eighteen after nearly five years in Britannia, I got bored. It was better than what we’d come from, but I’d gotten used to excitement, and a mountaintop house filled with babies isn’t much excitement. Plus there was a girl in one of the neighboring houses who was starting to give me the eye, and we might have had some fun behind the barn once or twice but I didn’t want to marry her, and I didn’t think much of my chances if my father decided I should marry her. I was big at eighteen, but my father was bigger, and weapons might come easy to me but I didn’t stand a chance against him. So I lit out for Rome, the center of everything, and my father was dubious but he gave me an amulet to keep me safe and a purse to keep me fed. My mother cried, but that might have been the baby she was starting.

Not much use describing the journey. It was wet, it was long, I lost my purse to a bastard of an Armenian sailor who cheated at dice, and I lost my dinner countless times over the bow. I hated boats. Still do. But I got to Rome. My parents hate Rome with all their hearts, and maybe they should after what they lived through. But I took one step off that reeking shit-hole of a boat and took in a deep breath, and I knew I was home.

Everyone describes Rome. Everyone fails. It’s not like anything else on earth. I hitched my pack higher on my shoulder, turned a circle, and gawped. I’d been raised in Brundisium, back in the days when my mother was still a slave, and had come to the great city itself only later. I hadn’t been able to do much exploring back then, and I’d never gotten to know the city well. Nothing to keep me from drinking it all in now: the stink, the noise, the crush; the whores in their dark robes and the sailors in their brass earrings; the vendors waving wares under my nose and the urchins trying their best to get grimy fingers into my purse. It was life, raw and noisy life as fresh as blood flowing right out of the vein.

The dock swayed under my feet. I lurched my way up the wharf, keeping one hand on the knife at my belt. Plenty of people in Rome willing to stick a knife in you first and figure out second if you had anything worth stealing. “My kind of city,” I said aloud, and got a dirty look from a housewife with a basket on her arm. I kissed my fingers at her and she hurried along. I watched her hips in the rough dress—hips like barrels, but I’d been a month on that shit-hole boat without a woman in sight, and I wasn’t picky. Even more than food I wanted a girl, but I didn’t have enough coin in my purse even for a cheap one.

Girls would have to wait. “Where’s the Capitoline Hill from here?” I asked a passing sailor in rusty Latin, and was promptly told to go screw myself. But a vendor hawking brass pans was more helpful, and I slung my pack over my shoulder and set off whistling.

Strange how much of the city I remembered. I hadn’t seen it since I was thirteen, but I felt like I’d left only yesterday. The crowds thinned once I got past the Forum Romanum with its spicy smells of meat and bread, and I let my hand loosen on the knife hilt and my feet wander. I spent some time staring at the marbled expanse of palace that covered half the Palatine Hill, remembering a black-eyed madman and his games, until an irritable Praetorian guard in red and gold told me to move along. “All palace guards look as pretty as you?” I shot back. “Or have I been on a boat too long?”

“Move along,” he growled, and helped me down the street with his spear haft. Praetorians: no sense of humor.

I spent a little longer staring up at the vast marble roundness of the Colosseum. Not the first time I’d seen it by any means—but I’d forgotten the sheer looming menace of it. No place on earth looms like that one, with its arches and plinths and statues in niches that stare out with blind arrogant eyes. That stretch of sand inside held all my father’s nightmares, and a few of mine. I’d never told him that, but he knew. Anyone who’d ever fought for their life in that place knew.

It’s many years later now, and I’m well into middle age. I’ve been in more fights than I can count, but none of them come back to me in my sleep like the ones that happened in the Colosseum. I’d killed my first man on those sands, back when I was just a child. A big Gaul who hadn’t really wanted to kill me, and maybe it made him slow enough so I could kill him first. Not much of an initiation into manhood.

I stared up at the arena a while longer, fingering the little amulet my father had given me and wondering how men could build such fantastical places just for the purpose of mass killing—and then I shrugged and wandered on toward the Capitoline Hill. A quieter place, the streets smoothly paved, the women in silk rather than wool, the slaves wearing the badge of one illustrious family or another as they hurried about their errands. I passed the massive Capitoline Library, where a half-dozen senators in togas hurried in and out with distracted frowns, and I slowed my steps. My mother had said the house was somewhere around here . . .

“Yes?” A slave in a neat tunic looked me up and down dubiously. “Can I help you?”

“Is this the house of Senator Marcus Norbanus?”

“No beggars here—”

“I’m not a bloody beggar. Is this Senator Norbanus’s house or not?”

“Yes, but—”

“Good. I’m here to see him.” The slave was big but I was bigger, and I shouldered past into a narrow hall where a dozen marble busts stared down at me in censorious disapproval. “Quit your squawking,” I told the slave, who had flapped after me. “The senator knows who I am.”

Ten minutes of arguing got me shown to a small atrium to wait. “It may be a while,” the slave sniffed. “The senator is very busy.” One last dubious look, as if the slave were wondering whether it was safe to leave me alone with the valuables, and he finally backed out.

I tipped my head back and surveyed the place. Sunlight poured through the open roof, the floor had a mosaic pattern of rippling vines, and a quiet blue-tiled pool was sunk in the middle of the room. A carved nymph looked over her shoulder at me from the corner, and I’d been long enough without a girl that even her marble breasts looked tempting. I slung my pack on a marble bench and dropped to one knee, plunging my hands into the pool and splashing my face. I looked up to find a pretty little girl gazing at me, clutching a carved wooden horse and sucking her thumb.

“Hello, sprat.” She looked four or five, the same age as my own little sister. “Who are you?”

She gazed at me solemnly through a fringe of blond hair.

“Don’t suppose you belong to Senator Norbanus?”

She inspected her little thumb for a moment, then went back to sucking on it.

“Could you get me in to see your father?”

Sucking, sucking.

“Could you at least tell me where the lavatorium is? I could use a piss.”

“There’s one down the hall,” a voice said behind me.

I turned and saw another girl, this one about my own age. Thin, brown hair, blue dress. “I’m waiting for Senator Norbanus,” I said.

“There’s time.” She picked up the little girl, parting her gently from the thumb, and moved down the hall with that blind confidence all aristocrats seemed to have, not needing to look back to know that I would follow. I followed her to the lavatorium.

“There’s water if you want to wash,” she said, and I took the hint. Romans took a lot more baths than anyone in Britannia. I used a basinful of water and washed the shipboard grime off my face and neck.

“Better?” The patrician girl smiled as I came back into the hall.

“Much, Lady.” I tried my best bow, rusty since I hadn’t used it in a while. Not many baths in Britannia, but not many people to bow to either. “Thank you.”

She studied me a moment longer, then smiled suddenly. She had small teeth, a little crooked but nicely so. “Ah,” she said.

“What, ah?”

A sturdy blond woman in yellow silk came swooping down the hall, bearing a baby on her hip. “Sabina, have you seen—oh, there she is.” Swinging the little girl up onto her other hip. “Faustina, you’re supposed to be with your nurse! Who’s this?” The woman gave me a distracted glance, juggling the two round-eyed children.

“This is Vercingetorix,” the girl in blue said tranquilly, and didn’t that give me a jolt. “He’s waiting to see Father.”

“Well, don’t keep him long,” the woman advised me. “My husband works very hard. Faustina, Linus, it’s time for your bath—” She moved off in a bright spot of yellow, the children crowing over her shoulder.

“How did you know my name?” I demanded as the girl in blue moved back into the atrium.

She glanced back over her shoulder. “You don’t remember me?”

“Um . . .”

“Never mind.” She brushed that away. “Why are you waiting to see my father?”

“I’m just back to Rome from Britannia. My mother said he’d likely help me—look, how did you know—”

“You were right to come here. Father helps everybody.” She summoned the steward and spoke a few quiet words. “I’ll jump you to the front of the line.”

And just like that, I was in.



Senator Marcus Norbanus was the kind who puts you on your best behavior. My father had the same effect on people, but mostly because you knew he’d knock the head off your shoulders if you got on his bad side. Senator Norbanus didn’t look like the knocking type—he was nearly seventy, and he had gray hair and a crooked shoulder and ink stains on his fingers. But he had me sitting up straight and minding my language inside the first minute.

“Vercingetorix,” he mused. “I’ve often wondered how you and your family were faring.”

“Very well, Senator.”

“I’m glad to hear it. You’ve returned to Rome for good?”

“It’s the center of everything.”

“It is that.” He rotated a stylus between his fingers. His study was cheerfully cluttered, pens and parchment and slates on every surface. He had more scrolls than I’d ever seen in one place in my life. “What were you planning to do here in Rome?”

“Thought about the legions.” All I’d wanted once was to be a gladiator, but I got over that fast enough once I had a taste of it. Gladiating aside, there wasn’t much else for a boy with a talent for weapons except the legions. Besides, even a slave-born boy could rise in the Roman army . . .

“I wonder if you’re aware of the commitment one makes in joining the legions.” Senator Norbanus laid his stylus aside. “How old are you?”

“Twenty,” I said.

He looked at me.

“Nineteen,” I amended.

He looked at me some more.

“Nineteen! In a couple of months, anyway.”

“Eighteen, then. I assume you plan on advancement through the ranks?”

I snorted. “Didn’t plan on being a common soldier for life!”

“Plan on being a common soldier for the next twelve years, because you cannot even be made a centurion until you reach thirty.”

“Thirty—?”

“Even then, it’s no guarantee. You will need patronage to make centurion, and I may not still be here in twelve years.” The senator ran a rueful hand through his gray hair.

“Well”—I tried to regroup—“I might not stay in the legions till I’m thirty. There’s other jobs.”

He looked at me, exasperated. “The term of service for a legionary is twenty-five years, Vercingetorix. Sign up now, and you will be forty-three by the time you are allowed to think of other jobs.”

“Twenty-five years?”

“Didn’t you bother to learn anything about the legions before considering them as a career?”

I shrugged.

“The young,” Senator Norbanus muttered. “I don’t suppose you know the pay rate either? Three hundred denarii a year, if you’re curious. Minus your weapons, armor, and rations, of course.”

“Hell’s gates,” I muttered. “You Romans are cheap.”

“I don’t suppose you know about the laws concerning legionaries and marriage, either. Soldiers cannot marry, at least until they make centurion. Even then, they cannot take their wives with them on march. Legion posts, I might add, can last many years far away from Rome.”

“Don’t want a wife,” I said, but my enthusiasm for the legions was definitely waning.

“Think on it,” said Senator Norbanus, his exasperation with me fading a trifle. “I don’t mean to discourage you from army life, but at least know what you’re getting into. There are other options.”

I was already thinking about them. “Like what?”

“Bodyguarding, perhaps? Good guards are always in demand, and I seem to remember you had a way with a sword even as a child.”

“Maybe.” Not much glory in bodyguarding . . .

“Do you have a place to live, Vercingetorix?”

“Just got off the boat.”

“A client of mine owns a small inn in the Subura. He’ll be willing to let rent slide for a week or two, until you find some work. I’ll write you a letter.”

The stylus scratched busily for a moment, and I contemplated the future with gloom. Twenty-five years. Who would sign up for that?

“Here.” The senator sealed the letter. “Stop for a meal in the kitchens before you go. And if you have further thoughts on your future, do come back. I owe your parents a debt, and it will easily encompass any help I can give to you.”

“Thank you, Senator.”

“And speaking of your parents—” His eyes met mine, suddenly cool. “I trust you are not stupid enough to mention their names to anyone? Or Emperor Domitian’s. They are all dead, or at least officially so, and it’s best they stay that way.”

“Yes, sir.” Damn him, I had been planning to do a little modest trading on my father’s name. There were still some followers of the games who might remember him, maybe give me a job in his name—but the senator looked stern, and I did my best to look innocent.

“Fortuna’s luck to you, then.” He held out the scroll. I took it, bowed, and thumped out, wondering what in hell I was supposed to do if I didn’t join the legions. The only skill I had was fighting.



SABINA

“Did you get what you wanted?” Sabina asked, looking up from her scroll when the tall boy came slouching back into the atrium. He was scowling blackly, running a rough hand through his shaggy hair.

“Not really.” He scuffed to a stop by the pool, toeing one foot along the blue-tiled edge. “Thought your father might get me into the legions, but now I’m not so sure I want that.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t see why I should sell my soul just for a job.”

“Oh, Rome always wants your soul. Didn’t you know that?” Sabina marked her place in the scroll with one finger. “But most people seem to think it’s a fair bargain.”

I don’t.”

“You could always be a gladiator,” she suggested.

He jumped, and looked at her again.

“You really don’t remember me, do you?” She’d known him at once, even after four or five years. He looked the same: russet hair and brown arms, big feet and big shoulders and a lot of loosely bolted limbs between them that hadn’t quite caught up. The same, just larger.

He was looking at her warily now. “Should I remember you?”

“Maybe not,” she said. “It was a memorable day, all told.”

“So who are you, Lady?”

She stood up, discarding her scroll, and stepped close against him, putting one hand on the back of his sunburned neck and standing on tiptoe. Inches away, she tilted her head and smiled. “Remember now?”

She could see the click in his eyes. “Sabina,” he said slowly. “Lady Sabina—right?”

“Right.”

“Didn’t know you without the bruises. Otherwise you haven’t changed much.” He looked her over. “First girl I ever kissed.”

“The Young Barbarian? I’m flattered.” Sabina felt his arms begin to sneak up around her waist, and stepped back. “All the little girls loved the Young Barbarian. The year you had your bouts in the Colosseum, your name was on schoolhouse doors inside hearts all over Rome. I told my friends I’d met you, and none of them believed me.”

“You tell them I kissed you?” He took another step toward her, a grin starting around the corners of his mouth.

“I think I was the one who kissed you, actually.” Sabina retrieved her scroll and sat down on the marble bench again. “What’s next for you, if not the legions?”

“Not a gladiator’s life, that’s for damned certain.” He leaned up against the pillar, folding his arms across his chest and cocking his head down at her. “I suppose you’re married now?”

“Gods, no.” On her seventeenth birthday last year, her father had given her a pearl necklace and promised her reasonably free rein in the choice of her husband. Sabina valued the promise more highly than the pearls.

“I thought that baby might be yours.”

“No, that’s little Linus. He and Faustina are Calpurnia’s—she’s my stepmother.”

Sabina went back to her book then, wanting to savor the last verses where Ulysses dealt with his wife’s suitors, wishing Homer might have written just a little more about Penelope in her husband’s absence. But the large sandaled feet in front of her didn’t move, and Sabina glanced back up at the russet-haired visitor who looked so out of place in the quiet vine-veiled atrium. Vix’s lurking grin flowered into something cheerful and lewd, and she laughed. “Fortuna be with you, Vercingetorix.”

“I make my own luck,” he bragged.

“Do you? That’s a nice trick, if one can manage it.” She wandered away, finding her place in the scroll again and reading as she walked. She didn’t have to glance over her shoulder to know that Vix was looking after her.


VIX

The inn Senator Norbanus had directed me to wasn’t bad. The innkeeper wasn’t happy to give me a week’s free rent, but he grunted at the senator’s seal. “Maybe you could help around the place,” he added. “I could use a big strong lad like you. Customers, it gets late, they like having someone with a knife see them home safe.”

“That pays well?”

“Not bad. Pays even better if they turn down the guard and you can hold ’em up in an alley.”

I quirked an eyebrow. “I want half.”

“Ten percent.”

“Ten the first week, and thirty once I’m paying my own room.”

“Done.”

The room had lice, but at least it had a bed that didn’t rock back and forth like a river. As I flopped down I saw a serving maid creak down the stairs outside. Spotty skin, but breasts like melons, and she gave me a sidelong glance as she trudged by with a basket of blankets. Maybe the day wasn’t such a loss after all.

I didn’t think about Sabina. Why should I? Just a patrician girl I probably wouldn’t see again after she’d walked away from me in that atrium with her light brown hair swaying against her narrow back. Girls like her were off-limits, and anyway, she had small breasts. Figs, say, rather than apples. I liked apples. Or melons . . . I eyed the dank hall where the serving maid had gone.

If I’d known the trouble that small-breasted off-limits patrician girl would make for me, I might have choked her to death in the middle of that atrium rather than watch her walk away.

*****

“[An] epic, sexy romp—the long-awaited sequel to Mistress of Rome ....Readers will delight in the depictions of historical figures like Hadrian and Trajan, as well as the engrossing and dramatic relationships that drive this entertaining story.”
-- Publishers Weekly (*Starred Review*)

“The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect.... Quinn handles Imperial Rome with panache.”
-- Kirkus Reviews

Teaser: Empress of the Seven Hills!

January 24, 2012

Tags: empress of the seven hills, teaser

I am so head down in a new book that my blog has been sadly neglected. I was planning on a post about the top ten books I'm looking forward to in 2012, or maybe a post filled with helpful advice for the spouses of writers (on the other hand, my husband could probably write this one, starting with "When they are writing a new book, it is totally normal for `How are you?' to be answered with `Do you think anyone will notice if I move the Battle of Actium up a year?'")

So no blog post today, but I am offering a teaser line from my upcoming book "Empress of the Seven Hills" (titled "Empress of Rome" in the UK). This one comes from Chapter 1, and is spoken by the hero Vix, who some of you might remember as an obnoxious little boy in "Mistress of Rome."

"If I’d known the trouble that small-breasted off-limits patrician girl would make for me, I might have choked her to death in the middle of that atrium rather than watch her walk away."

Needless to say, he has a complicated relationship ahead of him.

Two Blurbs For Empress of the Seven Hills!

December 14, 2011

Tags: blurbs, empress of the seven hills, michelle moran, christopher gortner

I feel like Christmas came early: not one but two wonderful blurbs for “Empress of the Seven Hills,” and from authors I adore: Michelle Moran and C.W. Gortner.


Michelle moves on from pharoahs to emperors: her upcoming book about Napoleon's various women

Disclaimer: yes, I am friends with both Michelle and Christopher. But this wasn't a backscratching arrangement among buddies. My copy of “Cleopatra's Daughter” was already well-thumbed and highly appreciated long before I met its author and discovered she was a smart and funny lady with a raucous laugh and an infinite supply of both good jokes and stunning print shifts. “Confessions of Catherine de' Medici” had already kept me up past my bedtime long before I discovered that Christopher was a first-rate dinner companion with a stream of sotto voce one-liners that would keep Oscar Wilde in stitches. It's such a relief when you meet the authors of books you love, and like the authors as much as you do their work.

I was astounded to find that both Michelle and Christopher liked my work as well – and were kind enough to read an advance copy of my next book, “Empress of the Seven Hills.” Michelle is tearing through a first draft of her new book about Napoleon's second wife, and Christopher is head down in research on the Borgias, but they both took time out of their busy schedules to write me cover blurbs. And what blurbs!

"Power and betrayal were never so addictive than in this gorgeously wrought tale of star-crossed lovers caught in the turbulent currents of Imperial Rome. Kate Quinn deftly contrasts the awesome splendor of torch-lit banquets with the thunder of the battlefield. EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS is a riveting plunge into an ancient world that is both utterly foreign and strikingly familiar - where you can feel the silken caress of an empress and the cold steel of a blade at your back."

- C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI and THE LAST QUEEN

And:

"In her latest book, EMPRESS OF THE SEVEN HILLS, Kate Quinn outdoes herself with a story so compelling that the only complaint readers will have is that it ends. From the moment Vix and Sabina appear on the page, readers are taken on an epic adventure through Emperor Trajan's Rome. No other author brings the ancient world alive like Quinn - if there's one book you read this year, let it be this one!"

- Michelle Moran, bestselling author of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER and MADAME TUSSAUD

Wow – that's all I've got to say. They make me want to run out and buy a copy of the book, and I already know how it ends. Michelle, Christopher – thank you both! Drinks on me the next time I see you.

Official UK cover for Empress of the Seven Hills!

November 8, 2011

Tags: empress of the seven hills, empress of rome

Well, this is a nice surprise: halfway through researching my next book and trying not to rip all the hair out of my head, I receive the official, finalized UK cover for my third book! And may I say, it is GORGEOUS.

Please note that the UK publication of "Empress of the Seven Hills" has a different title: "Empress of Rome." Same book, two titles - so please don't buy "Empress of the Seven Hills" and "Empress of Rome" thinking they are two different books! It was a marketing decision made in-house by my publishers - if it had been left up to me, this book would probably still be called "Rome Book 3" because I am terrible at titles.

Call it "Empress of the Seven Hills" or "Empress of Rome," my third book is a sequel to "Mistress of Rome." My US cover features Vix and Sabina, who you may remember as children from "Mistress of Rome," now all grown up and having adventures of their own. My UK cover here just features Sabina. I love both, and hope you will too.

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!

Official Cover for Mistress of Rome Sequel!

May 26, 2011

Tags: empress of the seven hills

I have the more-or-less-finalized cover for my third book, the sequel to Mistress of Rome which has been titled Empress of the Seven Hills. I couldn't be more thrilled with how it looks!

Empress of the Seven Hills begins about five years after the events of Mistress of Rome finish off, picking up with the adventures of Thea's brash son Vix and Lepida's adventurous daughter Sabina. Both will get caught up in the wars and politics of beloved soldier-emperor Trajan, along with one or two new players who might be enemies or might be allies.


Here's the official blurb:

Powerful, prosperous, and expanding ever farther into the untamed world, the Roman Empire has reached its zenith under the rule of the beloved Emperor Trajan. But neither Trajan nor his reign can last forever…

Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator’s daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Trajan’s ambitious Empress has her own plans for Sabina. And the aristocratic Hadrian—the Empress’s ruthless protégé and Vix’s mortal enemy—has ambitions he confesses to no one, ambitions rooted in a secret prophecy.

When Trajan falls, the hardened soldier, the enigmatic empress, the adventurous girl, and the scheming politician will all be caught in a deadly whirlwind of desire and death that may seal their fates, and that of the entire Roman Empire.


See you in April 2012. If I finish the book on time . . .

And back to work I go.