Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, Master and God is Lindsey Davis's meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors. Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard--the Emperor's personal guard--and a man with a disastrous marriage history. Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor. The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner--a devastating fire in Rome--which then leads to a lifelong friendship.Together they watch Domitian's once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision. Master and God is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire--from the height of power to the depths of madness--told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.
Publishing date: June 2012
Offensive content: political intrigue, treason and power plays of Rome in the first century A.C. One sex scene, pretty much subdued. One murdered emperor (typical) and one physically scarred hero (not so typical).
I first mentioned this book here a couple of weeks ago when I posted the review of The Course of Honor. For me, this one is even better than the other.
In historical terms, Master and God is placed later than The Course of Honor, during the reign of Domitian, emperor Vespasian's youngest son. And while I'm pretty sure it is as historically accurate (I'm a fan of Roman history, can you tell?), both main characters are totally fictional this time. Which does not stop Lindsey Davis from creating an epic story of courage, perseverance, friendship and, ultimately, love.
This book does not read like a traditional romance novel. The actual romance between the two main characters, when it happens (late in the book), is almost secondary to the rest of the story (though yes, there is a happy ending, sort of). It most definitely is not one of those fall-in-love-in-one-week novels. Action is paced along several years and is so well weaved within the fabric of history itself that you almost believe these people truly existed.
In addition to all that, I also liked that Flavia Lucilla, like most Davis' heroines, is a strong, capable woman set on make an honest living by herself in an age when a single woman living alone was certainly not a common sight.
As with the Course of Honor, if I could, I would give it 6 stars, and this is another book I strongly recommend if you love history and historical romance.