Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome

by Kate Quinn

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation, smart reviews for modern readers on Sirius XM Book Radio. The book is Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn.

What ‘s considered fun? To me, right now — and maybe you, I don ‘t know your life — fun for me is gathering with my friends for dinner and Project Runway, or a day at the beach. In the darkest of the Dark Ages, fun might be a whole day of not getting the plague. In ancient Rome, fun often involved blood — a lot of it, and not your own. Fun changes, doesn’t it? But some things don’t change, like survivors guilt, love, the desire for self determination, the desire for revenge. I wonder if fun is further away from the bone?

For the characters in Kate Quinn’s Mistress of Rome, fun changes depending on where in the social strata you fall. For Lepida, spoiled princess of the first water, it happens in the Coliseum as the bodies fall just for her. For her slave Thea, fun is just a childhood memory. All she hopes for is a little peace and quiet. And for the Emperor Domitian — a real person — well, who knows what a complete psychopath is going to go for from day to day? Could be chucking slaves of a cliff, could be throwing a dinner party where the wine is apparently spiced up with Ecstasy — or its ancient equivalent.

In her excellent first novel, Quinn shifts the scenes from the top of the ladder to the very bottom, from backstage at the Games to the Emperor’s dining room. While some aspects of these people’s lives are quite foreign — if your maid breaks a dish these days you aren’t allowed to feed her to the eels, for instance — there is much that feels contemporary. Thea has a doomed romance with a famous athlete. The Emperor sees plots and treason everywhere. And that wench Lepida — if this happened now she’d be photographed stumbling out of a club with her skirt hiked up around her waist.

Best news of all, Quinn says she’s writing both a prequel and a sequel to Mistress of Rome. I don’t know if writing the second book first is a recognized marketing technique but I’m delighted that I get to go back to Rome with this very talented storyteller.

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