The Book Worm: Review: The Course of Honor, by Lindsey Davis

Monday, August 3, 2015

Review: The Course of Honor, by Lindsey Davis

lindsey davis, the course of honor, book review


The love story of the Emperor Vespasian, who brought peace to Rome after years of strife, and his mistress, the freed slave woman Caenis, this book recreates Ancient Rome’s most turbulent period – the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero and Vespasian’s rise to power.

As their forbidden romance blossoms, Caenis is embroiled in political intrigue, while Vespasian embarks on a glorious career. Years pass, then Vespasian risks all in the climactic struggle for power – bringing hope for Rome, but a threat to the relationship that has endured for so long.

Genre: historical romance

Publishing date: March 2011 (for the Kindle version; the paper back version I own is over ten years old)

Offensive content: nothing much to report other than the usual political intrigue, treason and power plays. Rome in the first century was most certainly a rough place to live in.

This is one of my favorite books of all time. 

While Lindsey Davis is mostly know for her Falco series (crime novels set in Ancient Rome), she has also published two of the greatest historical romances I've ever read. The Course of Honor is one of them (the other one is Master and God, of which I will most certainly publish a review one of these days). 

The Course of Honor tells the love story between Vespasian and Antonia Caenis.  

Vespasian is one of my favorite roman emperors, a self made man that got to be first in Rome by the worthiness of his actions and sheer force of will and that brought peace to the empire after a series of political disasters (Caligula, Nero and the like). If you're not entirely familiar with roman history, Vespasian was the emperor who ordered the construction of the Colosseum, built over the ruins of Nero's Golden House in a effort to erase the memory of the crazy emperor who had set Rome on fire years before.

Antonia Caenis is a slave in the Claudian household when she meets and falls in love with a very young Vespasian. In the book, she comes across as a woman of character, despite her low social status. She's smart, and later, as freed woman, manages to build a comfortable, honest life for herself.

The course if honor, or cursus honorum in latim, was the ladder of public offices a roman with political aspirations had to hold in the course of his life, in a pre-determined order and each at a certain age. It is the reason why the relationship between Vespasian and Caenis was never made official. If it had, he would probably never have been made emperor. And while this may seem cheeky to us, seen in the context of Ancient Rome, Antonia and Vespasian's sacrifice makes all the sense. It's a sort of real life Romeo and Juliet without all the unnecessary deaths and, in my opinion, shows what true love is meant to be. 

There is a happy ending to this story, as after the death of Vespasian's wife he and Caenis lived together until Antonia's death, though they never officially married. But beware that you'll be shedding a few tears along the way. 

And the most awesome of it all? It has happened in reality so it's better than any fiction you may ever read, and Lindsey Davis' unequal talent brings characters to life in the most beautiful way possible. 

If I could, I would give it 6 stars, but since I did not create that category, I'll have to settle with 5. Still, I totally recommend this book, especially if you love history and historical romance. 

Happy reading!


  1. The review got my interest up in reading this book. I like historical romance. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. I'm not really a romance novel reader, but you made sound so interesting. You write very pictorially, and make the subject of the book really come to life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. This is not the traditional romance novel, but I get your point. And I'm glad you enjoy the way I write. English is not my first language, so I'm always afraid of not being able to clearly convey my ideas. So, you've made my day! Thank you!

    2. I can't believe English isn't your first language! You write so beautifully! This is not the kind of book I'd usually pick up, but your review has me totally intrigued. Well done!

      Thanks so much for linking up at Booknificent Thursday!

  3. This sounds like a good read! Thanks so much for sharing your favorite book review at Together on Tuesdays :)


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