Daughters of Rome

Written by Kate Quinn
Review by Ann Pedtke

In 69 A.D., one of the most tumultuous years in the history of Rome, four women of the Cornelii family struggle to survive the shifting tides. Cornelia, the eldest, wishes to uphold the family honor and see her husband take his rightful place as Emperor. Lollia longs to escape war and politics and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but must reconcile herself to being a pawn in a series of political marriages. Diana has a passion for horses and chariot racing, but risks shaming the family by involving herself in a man’s sport. And Marcella, caught in an apathetic marriage and subject to the whims of a controlling sister-in-law, devotes herself to history, recording events even as she yearns for the chance to take a more active role.

As the infamous Year of the Four Emperors takes its toll onRome, the four Cornelii cousins strive to stay together and find solace in each other. As traditional boundaries crumble, the women find love in unexpected places – and learn that they may have greater roles to play than they imagined.

Following her debut novel Mistress of Rome, Kate Quinn offers another vision of Roman history more engaging than the first. Daughters of Rome has an appealing symmetry – the succession of four emperors, the alternating narratives of the four cousins – and strikes an authentic balance between poetic justice and harsh reality. While the book is advertised as a prequel to Mistress of Rome, the connections between the two novels are very subtle, and only fully emerge near the end of the narrative. This second book stands on its own two feet, and offers a compelling experience of one of the most turbulent years of the Roman Empire.