I'm a huge fan of historical romance, so naturally the idea of a romance set during the middle ages intrigued me. I do want to make a note on Girolami's style however, since it was something of a surprise for me. The story is very descriptive and uses somewhat formalized language. At first, I found it hard to get into, but as I was reading, I came to like it because it added a sense of the dramatic to the novel and made for an entertaining read. The novel starts out with Polyxena discovering that her father, the Duke of Nemours, has arranged her marriage to Duke Arsenio. However, before Polyxena even reaches her new home, her husband (they were married by proxy) is murdered, leaving Polyxena in hostile territory with only Arsenio's men Phillip and Duccio to protect her now that she is the Duchess of Lorengar-Lorraine.
Polyxena is determined to do what she can to protect the people of the dukedom from Arsenio's evil cousin, who is currently ruling the dukedom and using Polyxena as a puppet head to exert his own power over the realm. The man is really contemptible--bloodthirsty, heartless, cowardly and self indulgent. I was quite delighted when Polyxena killed his evil hunting bird because it foreshadowed the duke's own demise. Plus, Polyxena kicked butt in that scene, which I apprecitated. I really admired how brave and strong Polyxena was, and I love it when women actually kick butt in novels. I wasn't expecting that from a historical romance, but I'm certainly not complaining. I liked that the novel has just enough action to keep you turning the pages to unravel the mystery that is also at the center of the story.
Who is the Unknown Templar? Why was Duke Arsenio's body so mysteriously shrouded at his funeral? These are questions that the reader can't help but muse on while reading, but that are not immediately unanswered. Personally, I got distracted from these mysteries because of Arsenio's cousin who continually tried to seduce Polyxena and was constantly terrorizing the people. I kept wondering how Polyxena would stay ahead of this madman. And then, Polyxena's romance with Duccio (which I thought rather unexpected and sweet) really threw me off of the mystery of who was behind the uprising of the people in the dukedom.
Since there is an element of mystery in the story, and also because I personally hate spoilers, I won't tease too much more about Polyxena's romance. I'll just say she gets her HEA. Although, it is a rather unexpected one as well....
Thank you to Adriana Girolami for providing mr with a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.
Kate Quinn's writing is always beautiful and her characterization is great. Characters in her novels are constnatly evolving, but it's subtle and grad...moreKate Quinn's writing is always beautiful and her characterization is great. Characters in her novels are constnatly evolving, but it's subtle and gradual, ever shifting until at the end where something momumental happens and you realize how far the characters have come since you first met them. Yet somehow, they are always fundamentally unchanged. Such growth and consistency in character development is true artistry and I applaud Quinn for it.
On to the characters I loved in Empress of the Seven Hills. Vix is the barbarian solider. We first met him in Mistress of Rome and I was dying for his story. I love it too, Vix is rough and tough but ambitious. Stubborn and a tad insensitive at times, he is solid and reliable and a good man at heart. He doesn't let down those in need, and he has a heart. I can't get enough of his story. I'm so glad it's going to continue.
Sabina: I'm not exactly sure I like her. I was expecting more from her. Intelligent, independent, she surprises me at times because she's not really loyal. She makes a stupid choice in marrying Hadrain and it's for a selfish reason. She talks about duty, but she shriks her duty to others to please herself, so she comes across as hypocritical. She says she loves Vix but I don't believe her and Vix surely doesn't. Yet she's not a bad person. She goes her own way and I admire that about her. I guess I just didn't like the way she did it sometimes.But Sabina's got nerve and a lot of it, and that makes her an interesting character. But I'm glad she didn't marry Titus though, he deserved better.
And on to Titus...I love these quiet intelligent male characters. Always underestimated, never quite in the lime light but in the end, the strongest, the one that catches you off guard and you realize you loved all along. Titus is like that.
Overall, this story is about unexpected destinties. We all expect life to be different than it turns out for us, and this is what all the characters in this novel are confronted with. Sabina expected to be able to have adventures, and while she does, in the end her freedom is pulled out from under her feet. Vix had his dream come true for about three seconds. He had his own legion, his Tenth, and it was yanked away from him before he could even begin his command, Hadrian takes it away and makes him a Preatorian guard, a job Vix certanily does not want. Titus thought to be a dull paper pusher but he'll end up Emperor after Hadrian. His destiny is greater than he thinks. I like that the novel reminds us that life takes us on unexpected journeys, and I can't wait to see where these characters are going in the journeys to come.
I really like Kate Quinn. Her books are easy to read, the prose flows like melting wax and the story is told so beautifully that you're just sucked in...moreI really like Kate Quinn. Her books are easy to read, the prose flows like melting wax and the story is told so beautifully that you're just sucked into it. Because for me, this read started slow. But then before I knew it, I was invested in these four Roman women and their lives. I felt sorry for them, but my admiration for their strength of character grew as the story of the Year of Four Emperors was told.
Cornelia at first, came across as the fussy, prudish ever do right of this foursome. I was a little dazed by her husband's death, and slightly indifferent to her grief, but that's only because I didn't know Cornelia then. Later, when she takes Drusus as her lover, and she starts to leave behind the conventionality of bring a patrician, Cornelia grew on me. A woman seeking her own happiness? Putting aside the dangerous politics of the times and her family's good standing to turn down suitors to honour herself and the memory of her husband? I got to respect that. Reinventing herself with Drusus? Beautiful. Love this strong woman. Because this is a story about strong women, I discovered.
Lollia, the flirty, empty headed trollop of the family comes next. That's all she is in the beginning, a woman too busy with her love affairs for her own child, buying a slave for her own sexual pleasures. And she becomes the character I admire most. She is, oddly enough, very kind, non judgemental. Lollia gives to the poor during the flooding of the river Tiber, comes to love her body slave, and just becomes that wise woman of the world all young women should talk to once in their life--at nineteen, mind you. she protects her child and slave from her barbarous husband, and she's just nice. I like her. Quiet strength is often the strongest.
Diana the huntress, I was so curious about her. Shunning suitors, loving horses, learning to drive a chariot. I thought she'd find some grand love but I laughed when I realized that love was her horses, and probably only them. I should have realized that she was too much her own person, too independent to end up any other way than making her own way in the world. And I smiled with triumph when she unravelled Marcella in the bath house. Utterly brilliant, and beautifully timed by Quinn. And highlighting that Diana is far more intelligent than anyone has ever really bothered to notice.
Marcella. The beautiful, but rather ignored intelligent woman of this foursome. Not destined to be Empress, not able to really be a historian, with nothing to occupy her time or her insightful mind, I felt sorry for her at first. She was just so unimportant to her family. To everyone almost. But then I watched her mind slowly snap with her own bitterness and plotting, and I'm not sorry for her own anymore. By the end, when she's still underestimating her sister and cousins, she comes across as slightly mad. Marcella becomes Empress of Rome, a fate she never wanted or sought after with all her plotting. It's a fitting end for this author of history. I don't like Marcella much, but I'm sad to think it was her lot in life as a woman, that drove her to such an end.
Why only four stars? I missed Thea and her gladiator. I know Vix's story is next, but that just shows you how much I loved Quinn's first book.
I think I'd give this book 6 stars if I could. It was that good. I have to praise Dray's writing. Polished, moving, and just plain lovely to read. She...moreI think I'd give this book 6 stars if I could. It was that good. I have to praise Dray's writing. Polished, moving, and just plain lovely to read. She draws you into this story instantly.
The characters are very vivid and real. I feel as though I know each of them intimately, and their burdens and at times I felt like I was watching the dialogue between them rather than reading it. Of all the characters I loved Selene, Helios and Octavian the most.
Octavian is twisted, but intelligently so. And yet he plays into Selene's game at the end, becoming her Caesar in a way he never intends. I have to admire Selene's courage and strength, not to mention intelligence, to out wit the greatest master at political intrigue like that. If she is that part of her mother, daring and intelligence, then Helios is her passion and fury. I love his defiance of the Romans, I love how he defends his parents good names and his sister's honour. And I love that those two parts of Cleopatra are combined in her children, Helios the sun, and Selene the moon. I thought that symbolism was fascinating. And lord, does she ever shine once Helios runs away. I'm only sad that we won't see anymore of Helios in this series.
I am quite annoyed with this novel. It's been on my to read list for a while, and I either forgot or just never noticed it was apart of a trilogy. I f...moreI am quite annoyed with this novel. It's been on my to read list for a while, and I either forgot or just never noticed it was apart of a trilogy. I find that annoying because it seems unnecessary to divide Austen's story into three novels. That's strike one against this novel for me.
Strike two would be that I have a feeling Aidan is going to include more political storytelling in the next two books, which seems to me to depart too much from P&P. Frankly, that's not what the novel is at all about thematically, and while I appreciate that this is Darcy's version, it's my opinion that the novel should remain true to the central themes explored by Austen. Hopefully I am mistaken in my inference of this development of the novel, but several scenes did lead me to this conclusion.
Strike three: Darcy is paying way too much attention to Elizabeth. I don't mind that they have more scenes together, but that he spends a great deal of time observing her and noticing when she is embarrassed. He's actually developing a good understanding of her character, which is going to make the rejected proposal scene ridiculous, because if he's able to make such accurate observations of her moods and to some degree, her character, how are we as readers going to buy into his proposing marriage to a woman he has already described to himself as being indifferent to him? Depending on how Aidan pens that, it's going to make Darcy an inconsistent character.
Strike four (goodness, they are piling up): I now have a far greater understanding of men's fashion during the Regency period than I do of women's. Darcy gets changed two or three times throughout the day, sometimes more! What is up with needing to detail each toilet? It just seems to detract from the story.
However, I must say the novel is written very well. The Regency era prose and language is smooth and reminiscent of Austen's own style. I'm just not sure that this trilogy will serve as a proper rendering of Darcy's side of the events. I might be too much of a purist. Two point five stars. (less)