Kate Quinn once again weaves a beautiful and stunning tale of Ancient Rome. The family Cornelii has four beautiful girls, Cornelia Prima, the only one to escape a nickname; Cornelia Secunda, Cornelia's sister who is known as Marcella; Cornelia Tertia, a rich heiress who is cousin to the first two and is known as Lollia and Cornelia Quarta, the horse crazy cousin who is nicknamed Diana. The four girls are close and loving, but each girl is very different. Cornelia is married to Piso, who is soon to be named Emperor Galba's heir. Marcella watches history being made from the sidelines, documenting it all. Lollia's husbands change with the winds in Rome. Diana doesn't love any male that has less than four legs for chariot races. Set in the Year of the Four Emperors, the Cornelii girls struggle to stay true to their family, their loved ones and themselves; all while struggling to stay alive. At the end, there can only be one Emperor, and one woman by his side.
Ancient Rome is one of my favorite time periods. And I LOVED Kate Quinn's first book, Mistress of Rome. At first, I had problems keeping the four Cornelias distinct in my mind. But fear not, it doesn't take very long for each of the girls to develop a personality that is all her own. I probably would have to say that I loved Diana and Marcella the most, but they are very different from each other. Quinn also makes each Emperor ruler of his time period and gives them all distinct personalities. The plot is thickly woven and each of the girls plays her part magnificently, from Marcella's scheming to Diana's indifference.Quinn also adds stunning details from Roman bath house life ( I died over these details) to banquet details. No detail was too small and it paints such a vivid picture one can see the lacquered nails, smell the feast and hear the chariot wheels smash by. Quinn perfectly sets up the sequel, Mistress of Rome, in which life is dominated by Domitian.