The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

26160114._UY200_My 4.5 stars Review

This book was captivating, I read it into the wee hours of the morning ! In my opinion, it fits perfectly the definition of historical fiction : it is based on known historical facts, but it recreates a whole universe during the reign of emperor Caesar Augustus and gives life to its characters thanks to the author’s creativity and excellent storytelling.

The story is based on the intertwined points of view of Livia, emperor Augustus last wife and his one true love, Julia, his only daughter and Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, held captive in Rome after the death of her parents.

The author gives a nuanced picture of Livia and Julia, and shows the social condition and actual power of women close to the emperor in Ancient Rome. They had to find their place in a very dangerous world and were expected to serve the emperor’s dynastic interests. For Julia, this meant arranged marriages with the expectation of producing an heir for the empire. For Cleopatra Selene, this meant ensuring her survival by all means, never showing her true feelings towards the imperial family.

This book is an easy read, there are no unnecessary descriptions of violence or cruelty. The sexual content is reduced to a minimum, but there are indications of the decadent world Rome was becoming at this period.
I would not qualify this story as a romance, although some parts of it are very romantic. It can be read as a standalone, but I would advise to read also the author’s first book “I am Livia”.

I recommend this excellent page-turner to all lovers of historical fiction !

I received an ARC, courtesy of publisher Lake Union Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

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