Title: The Daughters of Palatine Hill: A Novel
Author: Phyllis T. Smith
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Copyright: February 16, 2016
Format: E-Book, 412 Pages, $8.22 [Amazon Paperback], $1.99 [Kindle], $0.00 [KindleUnlimited], $1.99 [Audible], $8.67 [Barnes & Noble Paperback], $24.13 [Barnes & Noble Hardcover], $14.99 [Barnes & Noble Audiobook], $9.99 [Google Play], $9.95 [iBooks Audiobook]
Two years after Emperor Augustus’s bloody defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he triumphantly returns to Rome. To his only child, Julia, he brings an unlikely companion—Selene, the daughter of the conquered Egyptian queen and her lover.
Under the watchful eye of Augustus’s wife, Livia, Selene struggles to accept her new home among her parents’ enemies. Bound together by kinship and spilled blood, these three women—Livia, Selene, and Julia—navigate the dangerous world of Rome’s ruling elite, their every move a political strategy, their most intimate decisions in the emperor’s hands.
Always suppressing their own desires for the good of Rome, each must fulfill her role. For astute Livia, this means unwavering fidelity to her all-powerful husband; for sensual Julia, surrender to an arranged marriage and denial of her craving for love and the pleasures of the flesh; for orphaned Selene, choosing between loyalty to her family’s killers and her wish for revenge.
Can they survive Rome’s deadly intrigues, or will they be swept away by the perilous currents of the world’s most powerful empire?
Augustus Caesar (once known as Tavius), Rome’s first emperor, is surrounded by three powerful women: Livia, Tavius’s wife and true love; Julia, Tavius’s only child; and Cleopatra Selene (called Selene), Tavius’s ward. Having just defeated the combined powers of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and Mark Antony, the Roman turncoat, Tavius brings Cleopatra’s children to Rome to take part in his triumph. At the mercy of the Roman emperor, Selene is given into the care of Octavia, the wife who Mark Antony once cast aside in favor of the Egyptian queen. Although she is living amongst those she considers enemies, she is treated like a Roman woman (similar to how a Roman daughter of Mark Antony’s would have been) but is regarded with coldness by Octavia.
Above all things, Livia is the picture of a proper Roman wife, obedient to her husband’s whims, abundant in virtue, and clandestinely a woman of indomitable character. Livia is charged with overseeing Tavius’s daughter and only child (her step-daughter), the over-indulged Julia. As the story opens up, Julia is to be married to Marcellus, the son of Octavia, a match that she accepts dutifully as an ideal and virtuous Roman daughter. Together, the trio is the perfect Roman family – something for all Romans to emulate. Yet beneath the façade, not everything is as it seems.
Phyllis T. Smith’s The Daughters of Palatine Hill that is a refreshing take on three fascinating historical characters. From the outset of the story, Ms. Smith depicted each scene, each encounter, and landscape masterfully, causing me to feel as if I was in the ancient world myself. Like in any story, there are certain characters that I adored more than others. The character I felt the most connection with was Selene, the wronged daughter of Cleopatra who thirsted for vengeance but she made some very intelligent choices. Her romance with Juba was indeed very charming and delightful to witness. Livia is by all means a no-nonsense character and it was rather interesting to experience her interactions with Selene. While rocky at first, their friendship grew and almost became something akin to a mother-daughter relationship.
Of all the characters, I found Julia to be insufferable. She was entirely self-centered, self-serving, and she had little compassion for her family members. The pacing of the story was excellent and there were always events that kept me engaged from start to finish. Phyllis T. Smith is a gem of a writer and I will be reading her other book I am Livia. The author’s love of the Rome and the ancient world is so deeply suffused in her writing that it was a pleasure to read. I give this review five Crowns for an engrossing read!