A nicely ambiguous title for a debut novel by Kate Quinn, which deals with two young women – mistress and maid – and what becomes of them. Fourteen-year-old Lepida Pollio is a beguiling beauty whose father wants her to marry well. Fifteen-year-old Thea (not her real name) is her maid. Thea has already seen more than a person should in one lifetime. Nevertheless she sets herself to please her new mistress.
She is not successful. This well-plotted novel takes us on quite a journey as over the next 15 years both women come to wield power and be thrown into the gutter. Set in Rome during the years of the Emperor Domitian, this impressively-researched novel will give you a picture of Rome that goes beyond the rhetoric of grandeur into its nasty, seedy underbelly. I loved this novel for its well-rounded characters, its un-obvious plot-lines and its gritty reality. Five stars.