Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn ~ Review, Guest Post and Giveaway.

Banner Lady Eternal

An epic historical novel and our Sally likes nothing better than getting her teeth stuck in the past with an historical and was swept back to the time of Hadrian and Antonius.

Kate Quinn is also with us today where we find out about The Greatest Love Story Never Told and there is a paperback giveaway of the book too! Follow me and check it out –>……..

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Guest Post

The Greatest Love Story Never Told

It's a real life fairy-tale, a love story to rival all the greats:  Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet.  It sounds like something conjured up by the Brothers Grimm, but it's true – genuine historical fact.

Once upon a time, a brilliant but lonely man became Emperor of the known world.  His life was filled with travel, work, friends, but never love – until he met a stunning young beauty from Greece.  The beauty was poor and low-born, but the Emperor didn't care.  They fell madly in love and became inseparable, traveling the Empire side by side.  Their happiness seemed perfect – until one day, the young beauty was found floating in the Nile beside their pleasure boat, drowned.  Accident?  Murder?  Suicide?  No one knew, but the Emperor was devastated.  He deified his dead lover, immortalizing that beautiful face in hundreds of marble statues . . . and he never loved again.

HA

Sounds terribly romantic and poignant; just the sort of thing to be memorialized by the sappier sort of Victorian artist and hundreds of bad poets throughout the ages. But the Emperor of this particular love story was Hadrian, one of the greatest rulers who ever held sway over the Roman Empire . . . and his low-born beauty was a man.  Hence the near-blackout on their romance, which except for the gender of its principles would have become a pop culture legend for the ages.

My fourth novel Lady of the Eternal City was just released, and it covers Emperor Hadrian, a complicated intellectual charmer whose twenty-one years of rule covered one of the most dynamic and prosperous periods of Rome's history.  Hadrian is one of the so-called Five Good Emperors and he achieved a great deal, but not nearly so much was written about him by scholars of ancient history than about other Emperors of Rome. His blatant passion for a Greek youth named Antinous made many scholars of the past uncomfortable – the Victorians made a lot of hopeful noises that maybe Antinous was really Hadrian's long lost son.  Many found it easier just not to talk about an Emperor who went so off the rails when his boyfriend died that he nearly killed himself.

Homosexuality in ancient Rome was a far more casual thing than it became in later centuries.  Bisexuality was the norm rather than the exception among many Roman men; as long as they maintained the dominant role in the relationship, they were free to take male lovers (usually teenage boys, in the Greek tradition). Hadrian's passion for a young man would not have raised a single eyebrow in his own day.  What raised a lot of eyebrows was the depth of feeling he showed for what should have been a passing fling with an inferior.

We don't know much about Antinous, except that he was Greek, relatively low-born, and stunningly handsome.  He was a good deal younger than Hadrian, but that was hardly unusual, and Hadrian according to his statues was still a vigorous, good-looking, and athletic man.  Antinous must have had some brains besides the beauty, since Hadrian was himself a scholar and an intellectual snob who scorned stupid people.  Antinous seems to have shared Hadrian's passion for hunting; the Emperor once risked his own life to bring down a lion about to pounce on his lover.  The real reason why Antinous drowned in the Nile remains a mystery, but the Emperor's grief after the fact is undeniable: he went on to make sure no one would ever forget the youth who must have been laughingly dismissed during his life as an Emperor's boy-toy. Antinous was immortalized in so many statues that he is one of the best-known faces of the ancient world, depicted as Osiris and Dionysus and any number of other gods. Multiple cities were named in his honor and he was made into a god, his worshippers briefly giving Christianity a run for its money.

Did Antinous love the Emperor as deeply as Hadrian loved him?  We don't know.  Maybe he was just a handsome young man coerced into a love affair because he couldn't tell the Emperor of the known world "No." But if he'd been a girl instead of a boy, few would ask the question.  The fairy-tale details – Emperor falling in love with young beauty, tragic early death, lifelong devotion – would have swept the story along until it had all the rosy gleam of a romantic legend.  The names of the two lovers would be linked in mass pop culture just like the names of Romeo and Juliet, Bella and Edward, Brad and Angelina.  There would have been countless bad romantic odes written to their memories; numberless Victorian paintings filled with tasteful nudity and marble columns and pre-Raphaelite symbolism. A terrible movie would have been made in the fifties starring Victor Mature and Jean Simmons, and another movie would be in the works for 2016 with  bigger budget and better CGI, starring Gerard Butler and Scarlett Johansson.  But simply because this real-life love affair with all the romantic trimmings happened to star two men, it stayed relatively unknown outside the ancient history buffs and the LGBT community.

But as societal attitudes towards homosexuality change, scholarly work on Hadrian no longer shies away from examining his sex life.  Anthony Everitt's splendid Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome devotes whole chapters to the Emperor's beloved.  Anyone who studies the sculpture of the ancient world knows Antinous's face very well indeed, as busts and portraits and fragments of statues continue to be unearthed. And when I wrote my own book around Hadrian's reign, I wrote Antinous as a central character; the best and brightest light in the life of a dark and complicated Emperor.

I think Hadrian would have liked that.

Kate Quinn

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Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

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Title: Lady of the Eternal City

Author: Kate Quinn

Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Group)

Release: 3rd March 2015

Genre: M/F – M/M (historical)

Rating:

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Synopsis

The Empress of Rome Book 4

Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .

Sally’s Review

I found this quite an odd reading experience – not a bad one, just a bit different from my usual reading choices. This is because it’s a continuation of a series of four and a bit M/F romances set around the courts of various Roman emperors from Nero to Hadrian. Some characters carry over from one book to the next, some meet a grisly end. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series but I know the period fairly well so just dived in and hoped for the best.

One of the joys of the book was that it is not a simple romance narrative. This is heavy historical following masses of characters, many of whom are given their own point of view a chapter at a time. Foremost amongst them is the Empress Vibia Sabina, neglected and distrusted by newly come to the purple Hadrian and negotiating the obstacles put in her path by the previous empress Plotina and sundry, plus other ill wishers. Cultured, intelligent and well-connected, Sabina does her best to restrain Hadrian’s inclination to barbarity. Hadrian has been the villain of a previous book and harbours an ugly secret – he is a devious and manipulative sadist who enjoys making people hurt other people even more than he enjoys hurting people himself. He’s a vile character so I was pretty interested to see how the author would pull off her intention of making his and Antinous love story the core of the book. Antinous has his own points of view chapters and the author integrates him into her previous story by making him the adopted son of the Praetorian Vercingetorix – Vix – professional soldier, ex-gladiator and ex-lover of Sabina.

Vix’s chapters, unlike all the rest, are written in first person and were jolly good fun since he spent a lot of his time off with the legions doing soldier stuff. The other noteable character is Annia, secret love-child of Vix and Sabina. She is being raised by Sabina’s sister Faustina and her husband, Titus Aurelius, who at the beginning of the book is under sentence of death for having once been considered for the role of emperor and being a generally nice guy. He is one of Vix’s oldest and most cherished friends so, naturally, Hadrian demands that Vix be the one to remove his head. Vix and Hadrian LOATHE each other, and are prepared to do anything, pretty much, to inconvenience each other. This hatred drives a lot of the plot throughout the book.

I know that’s a lot of information, but it’s a huge book, covering a LOT of ground – from the north of Britannia, to Greece, Egypt, north Africa, Judea and Rome – and with an eighteen year time scale. As a historical novel I think it works very well, as a historical M/M romance, not so much. Hadrian doesn’t actually set eyes on Antinous until 24% into the book – an inauspicious meeting where the boy’s wellbeing is used as a bargaining chip to control Vix – their relationship doesn’t begin until 27% into the book and at 62% – well we all know how their relationship ends. So the actual relationship covers just over a third of the book, just five years out of the eighteen years of the action, though the fall-out from it is another rich source of plot.

The author makes the most of those eighteen years, chronicling the tours of the most energetic of emperors around the empire. Part triumphal procession, part religious pilgrimage, part sightseeing tour, part surveying for improvements, part threat of force, Hadrian’s travels cover every facet of Roman life and there are many lively descriptions of the adventures his followers have on the way. Vix is married to a woman of Judea and she and his family join him as convenient so one gets to see details of his family life. One also sees, mostly through Vix’s eyes, the scrawny teenaged Antinous trying his luck on board ship with the bored wife of a clerk AND the clerk and Vix’s anxiety that it will become known that Antinous enjoys taking ‘the passive role’ in male/male encounters. Later, well grown, beautiful and a genuinely sweet and good-natured lad, we see Antinous eating his heart out because of the veiled antagonism of Vix’s wife, also he doesn’t feel he matches up to Vix’s machismo and Vix has never allowed him to call him Father. This tension between Vix and Antinous is another plot motivator.

Hadrian and Antinous, like Alexander and Hephaistion and Oscar and Bosie, are one of the iconic gay couples of history. There have been dozens of depictions of their relationship and it’s always interesting to see another one. Here we have an attractive and very competent young man who senses that he may provide emotional stability for an older man – possibly his much desired father figure – who has a genuinely dark side to his nature. The ‘changed by the love of a good woman/man’ trope is common in literature but it works very well here in the context of an erastes/eromenos relationship where each strive to be worthy of the other’s love. On their journey Antinous comes to be known and loved by all the other point of view characters and, via his deification and the ubiquity of his statues, is a constant presence throughout the rest of the book, which takes on aspects of a murder mystery.

I enjoyed this book. I found the depictions of the danger of Roman life, the awfulness of slavery, the blood and anguish of war, particularly the Bar Kohkbar rebellion in Judea, well drawn and I liked many of the characters. As I said before it’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, an M/M romance, the focus remains far more sharply on Vix and Sabina and on the touching slow burn romance between Annia and her best friend. Yet, although I’m not likely to go back to read the three previous books or the 48 page short that fills a gap between books 3 and 4, I would recommend it - as a mainstream historical novel it was a blast!

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Meet Kate Quinn

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Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

 

Connect with the Author

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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Series Reading Order and Purchase Links

1) The Mistress of Rome

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Synopsis

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's mistress.

AMAZON | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE

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2) Daughters of Rome

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Synopsis

A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything-especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, both women must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor...and one Empress.

AMAZON | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE

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3) Empress of the Seven Hills

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Synopsis

Powerful, prosperous, and expanding ever farther into the untamed world, the Roman Empire has reached its zenith under the rule of the beloved Emperor Trajan. But neither Trajan nor his reign can last forever...

Brash and headstrong, Vix is a celebrated ex-gladiator returned to Rome to make his fortune. The sinuous, elusive Sabina is a senator's daughter who craves adventure. Sometimes lovers, sometimes enemies, Vix and Sabina are united by their devotion to Trajan. But others are already maneuvering in the shadows. Trajan's ambitious Empress has her own plans for Sabina. And the aristocratic Hadrian-the Empress's ruthless protégé and Vix's mortal enemy-has ambitions he confesses to no one, ambitions rooted in a secret prophecy.

When Trajan falls, the hardened soldier, the enigmatic empress, the adventurous girl, and the scheming politician will all be caught in a deadly whirlwind of desire and death that may seal their fates, and that of the entire Roman Empire...

AMAZON | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE

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3.5) The Three Fates

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Synopsis

Beloved Emperor Trajan is dead. His brutal successor Hadrian draws ever nearer to Rome. And three desperate souls try to forge new paths in a world turned upside down . . .

THE EMPEROR’S NEMESIS. Battered warrior Vix has always been Hadrian’s bitter enemy, and he vows that will never change, even when he is made Praetorian Guard and Imperial watchdog. But with his family’s lives on the line, Vix faces a bitter choice: kill a friend, or serve a foe?

THE EMPEROR’S RIVAL. Mild, scholarly Titus might once have been favored as Imperial heir, but he never wanted the throne. All he desires is peace in the arms of his new bride—but the jealous Hadrian has other ideas. A horror of bloodshed and violence interrupts Titus’s wedding night, and the man of peace finds a choice at sword-point: honor and death, or betrayal and a cell?

THE EMPEROR’S WIFE. Elegant, elusive Sabina is desperate to escape the bleak future that awaits her as Hadrian’s Empress, and even more desperate to conceal the secret growing in her own body. But when she begs a famous seer for a glimpse into her future, she receives an astonishing vision of the Eternal City under Hadrian’s rule, and the new Empress must choose: her own freedom, or the glory of Rome?

Three former friends find new futures in blood, omen, and prophecy. Three prequel vignettes to Kate Quinn’s long-awaited "Lady of the Eternal City."

AMAZON | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE

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4) Lady of the Eternal City

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Synopsis

Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .

AMAZON | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE

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Giveaway

Kate will be giving away one paperback copy of Lady of The Eternal City to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below for your chance to win.

Good Luck X

a Rafflecopter giveaway

12 comments:

  1. love historical stories and these sound great

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  2. Hadrian and Antinous' love story was amazing, specially because of Antinous premature death and the intensity of Hadrian's pain... But if I have to choose a couple from the past I would go for Alexander and Hephaistion...

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    1. Look up Stephanie Thornton's forthcoming "The Conqueror's Wife" - it has Hephaestion as one of four narrators, and his relationship with Alexander is a big and fascinating thread through the book!

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  3. I'm not well-versed in their story, but it sounds fascinating!

    --Trix

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  4. I'm not familiar with their story but I do love Greek and Roman Antiquity, so I'd love a chance to win your book and know more about it !

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  5. Thank you for hosting me on the blog, and for a lovely review!

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  6. I've heard nothing but amazing things about this book. Sometime I really want to get started on this series. :)

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  7. I've been a student of history since I had a high school teacher who didn't make us memorize dates, but taught us history through the eyes of the people who lived it. My freshman year in college, a professor had us write "What If?" papers. What if this historical event had played out differently? What would that change about the way we live today? It really opened my eyes. Also, having gone to a Catholic high school that required a theology course each year, I was taught to view the Bible in the context of the cultures and times in which it was written. So I learned fairly early how mistranslations and deliberate alterations in text can completely change the meaning of certain passages. A nice list of common misunderstandings regarding homosexuality and the Bible can be found here: http://ourspiritnow.org/2009/04/more-testing-misues/

    But regarding this particular couple, I love the fact that attitudes really were more tolerant in the ancient world. There wasn't even a word for homosexuality in Latin. This series hadn't come to my attention before this post, but you can bet I'll be putting it on my TBR (after the May deadline for the Love is an Open Road event, which is currently kicking my butt).

    THANK YOU to Kate Quinn for writing about this couple, and to Sinfully... for hosting this guest post and giveaway!!

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    1. Roman "rules" for homosexuality really were quite fascinating - you're absolutely right that they didn't have the concept that a person was "gay" or "lesbian" in the way we do now! They just had words and classifications for different sexual acts. There were some ways in which homophobia still made its way into the culture; a Roman male was only supposed in the "submissive" role of a male-male relationship in his teens, after which he was very much looked down on unless he switched to the dominant role with all his partners (and that's something my version of Antinous has to deal with). But overall, bi-sexuality and homosexuality were much more allowable in ancient times - it does make you wonder just what happened that we lost that!

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    2. Hopefully, we're moving toward a time when labels just don't interest people the way they do now. I have two teenagers right now, and they're going through some tough times reconciling how they feel inside with what's deemed acceptable by our community. We live in central Texas, where the local high schools have abolished the Gay-Straight Alliance groups that were in place when my eldest daughter went through school. I hate that we're backsliding, and that my kids don't feel safe just being themselves. As for your closing comment, sadly, I'm afraid I do know what happened to make us lose that ancient freedom. But I don't want to begin what could turn in to an ugly debate here - I enjoy this blog far too much. And I really am looking forward to reading this series. Thanks again to Sinfully... for bringing these books to my attention!

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    3. Sincere good hopes and wishes for your teenagers as they navigate a tough time. It's absolutely horrible when kids don't feel safe to be themselves. It sounds very much like you're doing all you can in a very tough situation, and they can be glad they have you. :)

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  8. I am not familiar with the story, but have put this book on my TBR list.

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