The story begins with the meeting of young Flavia Lucilla, reporting a burglary, and vigile Gaius Vinius. Their first meeting is cut short when Rome is threatened by fire while the Emperor Titus is on his second visit to Pompeii, following the infamous 79AD eruption. Days into fire-fighting and Gaius meets the emperor’s heir, Domitian. This fateful encounter sets the scene for the following story, with Gaius appointed to the Praetorian Guard, and Lucilla’s growing fame as a hairdresser to the court.
Underlying the changing relationship between the two, is the growing madness and paranoia of Rome’s Master and God, the Emperor Domitian. A situation that leaves Rome edgy and afraid.
Davis is adept at weaving modern-day sensibilities and dialogue into a richly detailed historical setting. You feel as though you can taste and smell the food, and feel the cobbles under your feet. Not only is this a well-paced, brilliantly researched, yet accessible, historical novel, it is also a story of relationships, and moral struggles.
If you like this, try:
- Davis' Falco novels, beginning with The silver pigs.
- Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn.
- Pompeii by TL Higley.
- Rome: the emperor's spy by MC Scott.
- Hero of Rome by Douglas Jackson.
- Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough.