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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula's Rome by Sherry Christie is a historical work that revolves around Marcus Carinna, a man recalled from the army by his father, back into the heart of the Roman Empire and the court of the Emperor, Caligula. Marcus's brother was dead by his own hand. Caligula's death was well within the realms of possibility and his previous brushes with assassination led to behavior that might best be described as irrational, or at worst, insane. Still, Marcus does his father's bidding, putting aside his anger over Caligula's feigned impotency and Tiberius's desire for his brother's demise. Marcus becomes established in Caligula's court and his duties are driven by Caligula's paranoia and threats to his life and leadership. Marcus is also bent on protecting a hostage priestess he brought back as a war trophy with whom he inconveniently falls in love.
I went into Roma Amor expecting another book that explored Caligula's violence and sexual deviancy and instead was consumed by Marcus's first-person narrative and bird's-eye-view of actual life in Rome and service to the Emperor. There is wonderful depth in the way Sherry Christie weaves family life and duty into the fabric of the paths one follows and how much Marcus can 'take one for the team' even though his older brother had already done so. His father was powerful and instrumental in the rise of Caligula and wanted to stay in his good graces. My favorite character is the Germanic priestess Aurima and the barbarous way of life she is perceived to have led, as well as Marcus's growing attachment to her. From a technical standpoint, the book is sublimely written, full of intrigue and conflict, and a love story to boot. It represents a spectacular jaunt into ancient history and is highly recommended.