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4.5 out of 5 stars122
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on 24 August 2010
this is the first time I have written a review, I have read many very good books but have never felt like needed to tell anyone but my nearest and dearest. My family were entertained by my facial expressions while I read. Kate Quinn has developed characters who you can love and hate and want to know their fate, making this book a real page turner.I was totally immersed in her Rome
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on 19 April 2012
If you're looking for a well-written piece of fiction...no, it isn't. If you want a bodice, well toga, ripping yarn, then it is.

Although, the rave reviews seem really over the top as it is quite a juvenile style of writing and ( oh, yet again, lacks a publisher's editor taking a firm hand on the length and the endless changes of point of view...oh, and any anyone can write in the first person)

All that said, I raced through it and was hooked. Every cliche in town is there - the good but ready to revenge rags to riches to riches and rags slave girl who is... also a Jew - the rich, spoilt nouveau riche mistress - and the good gay, too. Yup. About as modern day a novel as you'll get but enjoyable.

As for the history, well, it's quite sparse. The whole thing reads like a TV soap.

But don't knock it...I still read it with great pleasure.
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on 12 September 2010
Orphaned by Rome's savage legions, Thea, a slave girl from Judaea, has learned what it takes to survive. She knows only violence until a chance meeting with gladiator Arius offers a shred of tenderness. But their bond is severed when Thea is sold again, condemned to rot in squalor.

Years later, a singer known as Athena betrays no hint of her troubled past. Catching the eye of the Emperor himself, she is swept into a world of decadence and depravity. But althought Domitian fears betrayal from every side, he is unaware that the greatest threat lies next to him - a slave girl who has come to be called the Mistress of Rome...

It's hard to know how to review Mistress of Rome. On the one hand, I swept through it in one day, finding the prose to be simple yet effective and the historical details vivid. On the other hand, I felt that it came across much as a soap opera programme or chick lit novel would - light, easy-to-read, with larger than life characters and ultimately forgettable. Although I enjoyed the novel, I don't honestly see it staying with me for very long.

One factor that struck me while reading Mistress of Rome is how fantastical it seemed - when I thought on this, I believe it might be because of how long ago the time period being represented was. We know sweeping details of the Roman Empire - who ruled when, military campaigns, political machinations - but the real nitty gritty details and the secondary historical figures (those that didn't impact on history) have been lost, and hence the novelist needs to flesh out the missing elements.

The fantastical side to Mistress of Rome was not helped by Quinn including a character who could supposedly see the future.

However, my knowledge of ancient Rome and the period of Domitian is confined to historical fiction rather than solid research of my own, so I am definitely not an authority on whether Quinn's novel is historically accurate or not.

I did love the character of Thea/Athena - she was strong, righteous and very readable. Equally I detested the character of Lepida (Thea's mistress when we are first introduced to the slave, and her ongoing nemesis) - Quinn's writing here was extremely effective, since we are supposed to despise the decadent and spiteful woman. In fact, all of the characters leapt off of the page, and were a massive strength in Quinn's debut novel. She wrote them with great assurance, and, if some of them were a little too black and white at times, they were never less than entertaining.

I marvelled at the attitudes and actions of Emperor Domitian - he was marvellously complex: dignified and despicable by turn. If Quinn's tale truly revealed any part of the truth of his life, then he was a man to be feared by those close to him.

The representation of the gladiatorial games was rich with detail and very enjoyable to read. These were my favourite parts of the novel - well, that and the fabulous descriptions of Lepida's wardrobe!

Mistress of Rome is gossipy, with scandal, glamour and plenty of action. At its heart is a love story with depth and passion. As you can see, it is a mixed up novel that I genuinely enjoyed it and would recommend the novel to others - but only as a fun read, as opposed to something that will stay with you past the last page.
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on 5 August 2011
Words cannot do this book justice - it is thoroughly enjoyable and addictive!
I was blown away by Kate Quinn's debut novel, which tells the heart wrenching story of Thea, a Jewish slave, with a strong heart and a spirit that catches the eye of not only Arius, the famous and unbeatable gladiator, but also the Emperor himself!
Thea is the slave to Lady Lepida, a beautiful but harsh Roman noble who is used to getting what she wants. When she tires of Thea she sells her, disrupting the love affair Thea shares with the renowned gladiator Arius.
Throughout the rest of the book, events are triggered and actions performed that seals the fate of both Arius and Thea's romance, and the Emperor's downfall.
Combined with several more characters and subplots, the book becomes richly furnished with ancient Roman tradition and contributes a depth to the story that is the icing on the cake.
This is the perfect holiday read and definitely worthy of the five stars I have given it.
Wonderful!
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on 16 November 2012
This book isn't for the faint hearted, it contains graphic violence and some sex and some horrible situations as befitting a book about ancient Rome. There was one section that had me almost afraid to carry on reading (a personal fear of mine vividly portrayed) but I'm glad I read to the end. This book is about the triumph of good over evil no matter the odds. It's well written and seems well researched (although I'm not an expert in that particular time period) and the characters are realistic and well constructed. Some of them you'll like and some of them you'll hate but they're not boring. It's not going to make you a professor in ancient history but it's a good story told well and that is good enough for me.
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on 7 February 2014
Kate Quinn is amazing as a historical novelist on this period. I'm a historain by degree ( a long time ago) but this is so readable and her characters draw you in. You can't put it down though so be warned!
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on 17 July 2013
i really wanted to enjoy it a lot more than i actually did, it has an interesting premise in an emperors reign which i had not read much of before, unfortunately, i was rather put off by a few of the characters one dimensionality and this would be Lepida. She felt very shallow and i could not relate to her in the way that i felt for some of the other characters in the novel this made the story much more unbelievable. On the other hand, the author contains a lot of promise and i did enjoy the description in the novel and the way she handled dialogue- will definitely be checking out her other books.
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on 16 December 2010
This book is almost compulsively readable, using an exciting period of Roman "history" (careful with that word, here...) and the usual mix of characters (the slave, the gladiator, the soldier, the senator etc) who combined make an exciting, unpredictable plot of murder, adultery, plot and power play that keep you on the edge of your seat.

The problem with it is that most of these characters seem two-dimensional, or their motives are completely baffling. For example, when someone's whole character is made up of jealousy and shallow vengeance, it's very difficult to see why they're still going- and by the end of the book I was rolling my eyes at that character, rather than feeling angry at her as I think I should. A lot of the character interaction is pure coincidence or completely unbelievable- Rome feels like there are only twenty people in it, tops, because a main character can't turn a corner without meeting another of them!

On the other hand, Julia's character was spectacularly done- her whole story was compelling and heartbreaking, and I honestly wanted her to be more in the foreground rather than as a plot device/mystery.

Overall it's worth a read, but not amazing.
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on 25 February 2011
The most confusing issue that this book presents is believing that it is Kate Quinn's debut novel: the style of writing and general air of the book is that of a seasoned and experienced writer. The story draws you in from the very first page and throuhgout the book that characters are multi-dimensional and it is easy to be interested in them. Personally, I found that the character of Lepida was slightly less well fleshed out than the rest, but this did not hinder the narrative at all.
For those with only a surface knowledge of Roman culture, Quinn portrays the contradictions of their cruel yet civilised society beautifully, and includes other pieces of history into the narrative seamlessly. After reading, it is ridiculously easy to be so engrossed in the book that you think about it for the rest of the day... and I am entirely in love with the main characters with no misgivings whatsoever.
Overall, it's a great book: I've had it for a week and I am quite happily reading it for the third time today!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book. I have a passion for novels set in the ancient world. Alas, despite rave reviews from some well-known writers, MISTRESS OF ROME just didn't 'do it' for me.

After 200 pages, I really felt I'd had more than enough, and I only slogged through the other 300-odd because I didn't want to write a review of a book I hadn't read fully. But I honestly didn't enjoy it.

My first criticism will sound incredibly petty and nit-picking, but I'll mention it anyway, on the grounds that if it annoyed me, it might annoy you too.

The book is written as a series of 1st-person narratives. Nothing wrong with that. But when it's a female character speaking, the narrative is headed by her name in capitals. I found this distracting, and it continually knocked me out of the story. But what's even more bizarre is that when the 'speaker' is male, there are no such headings. This was seldom a problem - the context usually made it clear who was speaking within a sentence or two. But since this would also have been the case for the female protagonists, why were THEIR names used as headers every 2 or 3 pages? It became an annoying distraction from the story.

Another criticism: for me, part of the joy of a novel set in the ancient world is that in addition to reading a good story, I feel I've visited an alien culture. For example, I recently finished Stephen Saylor's ROMA SUB ROSA series, and after each one I felt doubly satisfied: Not only had I read a cracking yarn, but I also felt like I'd taken a short holiday in ancient Rome; I'd seen the sights; tasted the food; heard the gossip; soaked in the culture.
I just never felt this at all in MISTRESS OF ROME.

The characters didn't ring true for me either.

I don't want to give away any details of the story, but I felt the plot sometimes lost focus. I haven't checked if this is Kate Quinn's first book, but suspect it is - it felt a little like someone feeling their way at a first novel.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a hatchet job. At the end of the day, it may just be down to a matter of my personal taste (especially given the number of good reviews for this book). All I can say is this: Having read MY review, if you decide I'm too nit-picking, ignore me! But if you feel that any of my criticisms address the kind of thing YOU don't like either, then this might be a book to avoid.
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