THE DAUGHTERS OF PALATINE HILL by Phyllis T. Smith, narrated by Cristina Panfilio, Joyce Bean & Amy McFadden

THE DAUGHTERS OF PALATINE HILL is the sequel to I AM LIVIA. Whereas the first novel dealt with the life of Livia Drusilla and her relationship with the Emperor Augustus, DAUGHTERS deals with Augustus’ daughter Julia as well as Livia’s adopted daughter Selene, the product of the affair between Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

Selene’s parents are both dead, but their memory remains, which is why this poised 14-year-old has to be extremely careful how she behaves as she goes about forging a relationship with the intimidating (and dangerous) Livia Drusilla.

By contrast, Julia, daughter of the Emperor Augustus and step-daughter of Livia Drusilla is comfortable in her life of privilege and ease. After her first husband dies, she is married off to army general Agrippa, who is considerably older than she is. Of course, Julia had no say in this marriage, and with the passing of time and her husband’s many absences abroad she acquired at least one lover.

After Agrippa’s death, Julia was married off to another husband, also not of her liking, Tiberius, who also happened to be Livia Drusilla’s eldest son. With this marriage, things became more fraught. Livia Drusilla had a mother’s natural ambition for her son, and her step-daughter (and now daughter-in-laws) behavior was a problem.

I won’t tell you here what happens to Julia, but I will say that this is a gripping novel with three strong women at its center. Five stars.

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