Jenny Q's Reviews > Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
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's review
May 06, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: tour-of-italy, my-favorite-reads, best-of-2011, historical-fiction-faves
Read from April 22 to 27, 2011

4.5 Stars. Wow, what a story! I was under its spell from the very first page, and I could not put it down, mainly because I was instantly drawn to the lead characters, Arius and Thea. They are both slaves, subject to the whims of the Roman aristocracy. They are both fighting to survive: Arius in the arena, and Thea in the service of her truly awful mistress, Lepida. I loved them both, but my heart really went out to Thea. This was my first experience with a character who cuts herself, and I was surprised to find it in a historical novel. I thought this aspect of Thea was very well written, and made a lot of sense given her history. Thea is so calm and collected, making the best of every rotten twist life throws at her, and cutting herself is the only way Thea knows how to release her anger, guilt, and disappointment. Until she meets Arius...

Arius is a wonderful character, too. Noble, honorable, and brave, but filled with seething hatred for himself and the Romans who come to watch him fight, and Emperor Domitian in particular. He's fighting dark demons, too, until he meets Thea, and discovers a new reason for living. Their love story is so simple and sweet, yet it spans a dozen years of misfortune, separation, and tragedy. As Arius continues to fight, he reluctantly becomes the darling of the arena, feeding the greedy Romans' hunger for bloodsport by day, and drinking himself into oblivion by night, all the while mocking them, disrespecting them, and making an enemy of the Emperor. Meanwhile Thea, though still a slave, finds her star rising, too, as a songbird in demand among the aristocracy. Capturing the attention of Domitian would seem like a dream come true, but it turns out to be the ultimate nightmare, and Thea finds herself fighting to survive once again. Will she make it out alive? Will she ever meet Arius again? And if she does, what will happen when he discovers the love of his life is the mistress of his greatest enemy? Well I'm not telling--you'll have to read the book to find out!

Overall, I thought this book was awesome! I've already told you how much I loved Thea and Arius, but there's also a great cast of supporting characters, and combined with a background of excellent historical detail, the city of Rome and the vices of its citizens really come to life, and become characters in themselves. My complaints are few, and the main one being that I never figured out why Lepida was so downright nasty and spiteful. I couldn't find any real motivation for her behavior, and she came across as being very one-dimensional--the convenient big, bad villain. But boy, oh boy, I hated her and couldn't wait to see her get what was coming to her!

This story is not for the faint of heart, but neither was first-century Rome, and based on other books I've read, I don't think anything Ms. Quinn has included is far-fetched or unbelievable. This book has a killer ending--those final scenes were nail-biting, gut-wrenching thrillers, and I was kept guessing until the very last page. In her author's note Ms. Quinn reveals that she will be writing a follow-up book concentrating on two of the supporting characters, and I will be the first person in line to buy it! This one has earned its spot on my keeper shelf.
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04/26/2011 page 275

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Bruno Great review! I LOVED this book too Jenny - on my keeper shelf as well! Have you read Quinn's newest, Daughters of Rome? I really liked that one too, just not as much as Mistress of Rome.

Glad you enjoyed it!

Jenny Q I have not read Daughters of Rome yet, but I am really looking forward to the book about Sabina and Vix coming out next year!

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