I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith
Release date: February 16th, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
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?
The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith completely captivated me from the start. It is told from the perspectives of three women: Julia, the daughter of Roman Emperor Augustus, Livia, his wife and Selene, the daughter of the now deceased Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. I have read several young adult books based on the life of Selene and her inclusion in the book is ultimately what drew me to it.
All three women go through so much heartbreak, sacrifice and danger. It’s not safe or easy being close to the Emperor of Rome. They cannot really make any of their own decisions and are basically pawns in the constant battle for power and influence. Livia was bound to Augustus in an arranged marriage and Julia is expected to marry according to her father’s choices and produce an heir. Selene was constantly fighting for survival as it wasn’t easy being the daughter of a vanquished enemy.
While Selene wasn’t the focus on the novel, Julia’s story of rebellion and longing drew me in. I totally emphasized with her situation and need to be free from her father’s will. I cannot imagine what I would have done in a similar situation, but I found myself cheering her on when she followed her heart and feeling utterly devastated when she was suppressed. I greatly admire the author’s ability to craft such a vivid character. In the books I have read in the past, Julia is usually not as relatable and it has given me a different perspective.
This wasn’t an action driven novel and isn’t short by any means, but I never lost interest. I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction or have an interest in ancient Rome. This is the author’s second novel (her first being I Am Livia), and while they have a similar topic, The Daughters of Palatine Hill can be enjoyed as a standalone. I am now looking forward to reading the first novel about Livia’s early life.