Beyond Mr. Darcy: Romantic Historical Fiction discussion

Mistress of Rome (The Empress of Rome, #1)
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Group Reads > September 2013: Mistress of Rome

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message 1: by Christie (last edited Jul 25, 2013 12:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
An exciting debut: a vivid, richly imagined saga of ancient Rome from a masterful new voice in historical fiction

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become 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-that is quickly ended 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 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 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.

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
I changed this book to Mistress of Rome by the same author. I forgot that Empress of the Seven Hills is the 3rd and the series and does not make a lot of sense without reading this one which is the first in the series. If you want to read the others in the series and go ahead and discuss them here that is fine. They are all very good books.

message 3: by Christie (last edited Aug 28, 2013 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Questions to Ponder while Reading (do not feel that you have to answer all or any of them):

1. From the moment we meet Arius we are also introduced to his inner demon. At his core the Barbarian is a noble and kind-hearted soul, while the voice that haunts him is a ruthless killer. How do you think this maniacal monologue ever began within him? How can his son avoid inheriting this same curse?

2. Sold into slavery and torn away from her one true love, Thea also carries with her the guilt and shame associated with the murder of her family. How does the habit of spilling her own blood help her cope with her troubled past? Which other characters participate in similar self-destructive tendencies and why?

3. One on-going theme in this book is forbidden relationships. Nessus has a long-standing romantic relationship with Ganymede, an imperial slave. If both of these men are seen as servants in the eyes of Domitian, and it is not uncommon for Roman men to prefer male lovers, why do you think they choose to keep their feelings for one another a secret? What other characters have relationships, either romantic or platonic, that must remain undisclosed?

4. Lepida’s cruelty towards Thea is incomparable. Does Thea ever show her the same level of cruelty? Does either character ever display any sort of mercy towards the other? Discuss the relationship between slave and master and the varying degrees of cruelty in slave/master pairings in this story.

5. The Empress, Lady Julia, and Thea all fear and hate Domitian. While we know his reasons for being so intrigued by Thea, what characteristics drew the Emperor to the other two women? How do women in this story empower themselves or each other when faced with incredible obstacles?

6.“Only one lord and god in Rome.” Power is a questionable and ever-shifting force in the narrative. Who do you feel is the most powerful person in Rome and why? A slave with tremendous inner strength? A barbarian with incomparable physical prowess? A ruler with the all-encompassing influence? A priestess with divine certainty? Another character?

7. Which character did you most relate to?

Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Started with some of the questions. I really like this author. Just read her first book in her new Borgia series and it was phenomenal (and not as bloody as this one).

1. I feel that Arius’ demon came from his being torn from his homeland and thrown into the mines as a child. He had to fight to survive and probably had a lot of anger after having all of that happen to him (who wouldn’t?). The best way he can protect Vix from inheriting it would be to give him love and keep him out of trouble (which is easier said than done—I definitely recommend Empress of the Seven Hills for more of Vix’s story).

2. I know a bit about the psychology behind cutting and it mainly results from someone feeling so numb to life that they feel the need to hurt themselves in an attempt to feel something. Though I do not feel that Thea is emotionally unresponsive, but I do feel that she keeps a lot of her pain bottled up and cutting is a way to release some of the pain. As far as other self-destructive tendencies: Lepida goes from lover to lover, Vix behaves badly, Arius is overly violent, and Julia stops eating. All in the name of dealing with pain.

3. I think Nessus and Ganymede kept their relationship a secret mainly due to Domitian. The emperor was definitely a person who did not take kindly when he was not the center of someone’s universe. Look what happened to Ganymede when Domitian thought he was sleeping with Thea. Nessus would know about the way the emperor was and would want to keep anyone he loved out of harm’s way. Thea had to do the same thing with her relationship with Arius and their son, Vix.

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