I adore ancient history. Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece.
(Which is why I snuck some ancient Egyptian and Greek history into my Berkley Heat books, Mortal Temptations and Mortal Seductions.)
Yesterday, I finished one of Lindsey Davis’s wonderful Ancient Rome mysteries: One Virgin Too Many. If you loved HBO’s Rome (and even if you didn’t), Davis’s series is a must-read.
Her hero, Marcus Didius Falco, leads you through the Rome of the early 70s AD, during the reign of Vespasian and his son Titus Caesar. While the HBO series Rome dealt with the harshness of life and the rise of the empire, Falco lives in (more or less) peaceful times, after the wildness of Nero was vanquished and the sensible, steady Vespasian took his place.
Falco’s dry wit always has me laughing out loud; I love his parents, his overbearing Italian mother and his roguish father Geminius.
His girlfriend/wife Helena is his perfect foil: well-born, intelligent, beautiful, capable (and she gives him a hand solving the mysteries--a meek little wife she isn't).
The story is rounded out by Helena's family, Falco's army buddy Petronius, Falco's many sisters and their children, the duplicitous spy Anacrites, and other colorful characters.
The mysteries run from simple whodunits, Agatha Christie style, to plots abroad to undermine the emperor's power.
Though laced with humor, the stories aren’t romps or zany slapstick comedy. They’re thoughtful stories, portraying Rome vividly, as a real place. You laugh, but at times you also cry.
If mysteries aren’t your thing, how about an Ancient Roman romance? Lindsey Davis penned the romance between the emperor Vespasian and the slave woman he loved, Caenis, in the book The Course of Honor.
Their story starts during the reign of Tiberius and endures through Caligula, Claudius, Nero, the chaos of the year of the four emperors and ends with Vespasian’s rise to power. It’s more historical fiction than romance, in my view, but the romance is sweet and strong.
I first stumbled upon the Falco mysteries because a friend of mine recommended Course of Honor. The store I went to didn’t have it, but did have The Silver Pigs, the first Falco mystery. I read it and was hooked!
I’m admittedly way behind on the series—I think I have eight more to go to catch up to the new one coming up this spring: Alexandria. I’ve been eager to see Falco go to Egypt, so I will read up to it as soon as I can.
For the series order, check out http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/d/lindsey-davis/
For more about my Heat series (Mortal Temptations and the upcoming Mortal Seductions): See http://www.allysonjames.com
Happy reveling in ancient history!