Spiteful and cruel heiress Lepida Pollia always gets what she wants. When Lepida sets her sights on Arius the Barbarian, a new and successful gladiator, she knows he won't resist her. Who could with her gorgeous blue eyes, perfect black hair and all that money? But Lepida is thwarted in her conquest of Aruis by her musically inclined slave Thea. At first, their love tryst is secret.When Lepida discovers their love, the savage beauty sells Thea to a brothel. Thea is heartbroken and pregnant and Aruis surrenders to his dark killing demon. Lepida marries Senator Marcus Norbanus and settles into married life. Or so her scholarly husband believes. Marcus spirits his wife and his daughter Sabina away to the coastal town of Brundisium when he believes that Lepida is too interested in Roman Society. Lepida is heart broken and swears revenge on her boring old husband. After Marcus returns to Rome for the Senate, Lepida seduces Marcus' son, Paulinus. Upon Marcus' return to his family in Brundisium, he discovers his wife and son in the throes of passion. This discovery the family's relationships change forever. Marcus and Paulinus' relationship takes on a frigid tone, while Marcus despises and abhors Lepida. He even considers divorcing her. Also hating Lepida is Sabina. To help Paulinus forget his lustful wife, Marcus sends him to the military. He becomes a war hero and becomes Emperor Domintian's right hand man. When he returns to Rome, Lepida is attracted even more to Paulinus' power and returns to his bed. When the Emperor visits Brundisium, he discovers an attractive singer named Athena. Athena has a son, Vix, named for her former gladiator lovers' hero. When Domitian takes Athena for his mistress, she hides her past. But soon, Lepida knows the singer's true identity. Athena lives with the abusive Domititan, who has taken her as his slave. Lepida wants to become the next Mistress of Rome and will schemes to become the next Empress by using Paulinus. But not before Domitian breaks his enemy. Domititan hates the arrogant attitude of Arius the Gladiator and is determined to see him fall. When Arius falls to an arena fire, Domitian decides to destroy his lover. Athena becomes cold and lifeless, enduring beatings and endless mind games at the hands of the Emperor. The Emperor lives to see the fear strike Athena's heart. They are living at his estate when their paths cross with Stephanus, Lady Flavia's gardener. Stephanus is immediately recognized by Athena and finds out he is caring for her son. After tiring of destroying Athena, he gets rid of her, but holds her son hostage. Domititan takes Lady Lepida as his mistress, but soon tires of her vapid ways. Marcus also tires of Lepida, divorcing her and leaving her all alone in Rome. But Lepida always gets what she wants. When she discovers a plot to assassinate the Emperor, she knows that her information will buy her the one thing she desires most of all, the Empress' Crown.
Mistress of Rome is part of a trilogy of books about Ancient Rome. Thought it was written first, it follows its prequel, Daughter of Rome. The sequel, Empress of the Seven Hills, will be out in April of 2012.
I read this book in oh, about 24 hours. I love how Kate Quinn immerses the book in Roman Life, from the jewels to the varnished nails. All the good details are there, but they don't bog you down. Her plot is to die for!!! And I loved her characters. Domititan had the Roman Emperor thing going. He was god living on earth. Thea and Arius had such a hard life that was characteristic of Roman slaves. Lepida was a such a scandalous Roman woman, and I wanted to scratch her vicious little eyes out!!!
I loved this book, LOVED!!!
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And Thanks to Carole Rae for insisting I read this one!