Publication date- April 2011
Synopsis: A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything-especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, both women must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor…and one Empress.
Review: An astrologist reads into the future of each of the four Cornelii girls; sisters Marcella and Cornelia and their cousins Diana and Lollia. He envisions one of the young women to become the empress of Rome and to have blood on her hands, he also foresaw 11 marriages in total.
Set in Rome A.D 69, approximately 20 years prior to Kate Quinn’s first novel, Mistress of Rome, it delves into the year that four emperors ruled. Each of the sisters are well developed and I could relate to each of them in different ways.
Lollia is a flighty young woman on the surface, but rather intelligent underneath despite being married three times by the age of 19. Her grandfather marries her off to make alliances with various men associated with the current emperor, but as each emperor falls a new alliance must form. At times I felt sorry for her as she views herself as being ‘leased’ for marriage and acknowledges that the men marry her for her substantial dowry. Lollia has a sense of protectiveness for her family and accepts each marriage rather graciously for the sake of her family. It doesn’t stop her from frolicking with the slaves and making the most of her situation. Lollia has a mixed heritage of both slave and royalty and I found it interesting that she seemed to straddle these two worlds, but find most comfort in the lower class and even fell in love with a slave. Lollia grows as a character and loses her arrogance as she matures with the chaos of the city.
Diana is a character that is always sitting on the outskirts, she is a young woman who captures the interest of many suitors because of her beauty, but ironically she is not interested in marriage, her only interest is horses and horse racing. A strong young woman with a brash mouth and seems to get away with her eccentrics as she sparks the interest of one of the emperors.
Cornelia is one of those lucky young women who happened to fall madly in love with the man her father arranged for her to marry. She is destined to become the empress of Rome, but when her husband is brutally murdered her life falls apart. I sympathised with Cornelia’s mourning and grief and felt saddened by her isolation during this time as her family and social network were keen to have her married again. Cornelia grows as a character and her priority becomes love and happiness rather than success and status. She falls in love with an outcasted soldier and I became quite invested in the success of this secret relationship and hoped that Cornelia would dismiss the demands of her class and follow her heart.
Marcella is the younger, reserved sister who is always writing and happily lives in a world of words and stories while her husband travels. She dreams of running her own household but her husband has other things in mind. Initially, Marcella is happy to write about history and observe history in the making but as her desire for power and control surge she becomes less passive in the role of history and more active in the upheaval in Rome. Marcella becomes the catalyst for the rise and fall of four emperors in a twelve month period and it turns out that the power she seeks isn’t exactly what she hoped it would be.
It’s not all happy endings for each of the women, but as the prequel, Daughters of Rome certainly sets the scene for Mistress of Rome. Another wonderfully written historical story with suspense, complex characters and an intriguing setting- ancient Rome.
I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the series to be released this month, Empress of Rome (Empress of the Seven Hills)
Read my review for Mistress of Rome.
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