Floofy historical fiction: the perennial beach read. As its title suggests, the novel follows Livia Drusilla, third and most controversial wife of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Some portrayals of Livia paint her as scheming, ambitious, and literally venomous (feeding Augustus a poisoned fig). Smith offers a more sympathetic portrait of a sharp young girl with a knack for politics. As Livia grows older, she balances her ambitious mind with a passionate, empathetic nature. She works her way up Rome’s political hierarchy, sheds one husband, marries Augustus, bears kids, institutes social policy programs, and gives lots of advice. She also drops lots of bon mots about how women are the true power behind thrones, and how women’s worlds would be so much better.
This Livia is a lot of talk. The things she talks about are not necessarily my favorite – I’d rather hear political analysis than discussion of how good she is at it. She also focuses on her love of Golden Boy Augustus. The history is fairly surface-level, though what is presented seems accurate and piqued my interest about the period.
In short, this is a sweet, readable historical romance about a reasonably smart woman, who works on preserving her intellect while pursuing true love and all that jazz. Your mileage may vary.
The 214 in 2014 series chronicles every book I read in 2014. Each review contains exactly 214 words, because 2014 words is too long and 2014 characters is too dang short. And yes, this review is backlogged from 2014.
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