Title: Mistress of Rome
Author: Kate Quinn
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: Mistress of Rome
How I Read It: Paperback on loan from a friend
Synopsis: First century Rome: A world of depravity, blood, and secrets. The ruthless and enigmatic Emperor Domitian watches over all, fearing assassination from every direction…but not from the woman who fascinates him most.
Passionate, musical, and guarded, Thea is a slave girl from Judaea. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea becomes her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life – but their affair ends quickly when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.
As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the capricious and charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a streetwise child, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.
My Review: I had mixed feelings about this book: on one hand, I did like the story; on the other, there were a lot of characters that were so hateful that I had a hard time getting into part of it. Even our heroes are a bit difficult to like, when it comes down to it.
To me, the most hateful character is Lepida – there is just nothing good about that girl from start to finish. She’s petty, jealous, abusive, and torments everyone around her for no reason other than she feels like it. And because she is so incredibly awful, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for her when anything bad happens to her.
The Emperor is not much better, but at least he runs his empire well. Between him and Lepida, poor Thea barely ever gets a moments peace. I also had a very difficult time with the fact that so many of our characters are slaves – I haven’t read anything with slaves in it for so long that I had somewhat forgotten how sensitive I am to that topic. It makes the treatment of Thea and Arius so much harder to read, knowing there’s nothing they can do about it.
That all being said, I am curious about the other books in this series, which so far consists of one prequel and a soon to be published sequel. With Lepida likely not being in the other books, I think it’ll be much easier for me to read and enjoy.
I did read the book pretty quickly, once I got through the first few chapters. They were a bit difficult for me, not sure why, so if you have the same problem I would encourage you to keep reading. It’s an enjoyable book by the end, so it’s worth your time.
Read this book if: You enjoy Roman historical fiction. It’s a fascinating time period!
My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!