Monday, August 31, 2015
The Sacred Flame: A Novel by Nanette Littlestone
Publisher: Words of Passion
Author Website: http://www.wordsofpassion.com
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
In Ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins were seen as the harbingers of safety for all of the city. They maintained the Sacred Fire which could be seen by any Roman should he or she look its way, attended several important rituals during the year, and above all, provided Rome with the feeling that all was well. Livia, a Vestal Virgin, worked closely with the High Priestess for nearly thirty years, but was soon thrust into the leadership role as the High Priestess collapsed.
Even as she doubted her ability to lead the Vestals, Livia must confront her own growing desire to leave the world she'd known behind for one with her dearest friend, Keaseo. All seemed according to plan until the flame of desire for another took her attention away from her plans. Now Livia's entire world was thrust into turmoil as she fought to maintain control. Can she give up what she wants the most in order to keep Rome safe from Hannibal's clutches? Or will Rome fall with her?
I was presented the opportunity to read and give an honest review by the author through email. I really liked the cover when I opened the package. The thumbnail used in promotions didn't do the actually cover justice. It was another reason I was intrigued enough to read a story that wasn't my usual genre. Add to that my fascination with history and ancient cultures, I couldn't wait to start reading it. The author opened the book with a casual party setting where I found the characters were at ease with their places in the world. By end of the first chapter, that world was turned upside down in more ways than one.
Livia became the focus, not only of the book, but within the scope of Rome as the High Priestess of the Vestal Virgins. These women played an important role in making the citizens of the city and empire feel safe as they tended to an everlasting fire. It was up to them to also take part in various festivities and rituals during the year to ensure order within the city was maintained. The many castes of people were also explored in the book as well. From wealthy politicians to the lower classes which only carried one name, the author created a character from all walks of life that showed how divided that world was at the time and how people from so long ago weren't so different from us today. They squabbled over petty things, got jealous, and tried so hard to obtain the one thing they desired most. It was easy to put myself into those places throughout the story, especially through Livia.
While much of the book centered around Livia and her struggles, the author also included a bit of Roman history as well as their names for items or places. I loved learning the Roman names for things like the carriages or the different Roman baths that were available. The author slipped these in without making the reader aware that they learned something new. With a great pace set in the beginning of the novel, the characters became embroiled in the consequences of their actions or decisions quickly. Those consequences weren't always nice to endure, but I felt that some were necessary in order for the story to be told in a way that would have been true at the time. Humanity in all its forms, both good and bad, were put on display within the pages.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. To be honest, I didn't expect the ending at all. While I do think the ending served a greater purpose, I was definitely surprised at how everything played out. The story had so many layers, bits of action, and moments of romance that it was difficult to put it down. The ending did leave me with questions about the secondary characters, so I'm secretly hoping to hear that more will be coming down the line. If you enjoy historical romances or love exploring other cultures brought to life by a writer's hand, then definitely pick up a copy of this book!
The Sacred Flame: A Novel by Nanette Littlestone will be available for purchase on October 22, 2015. You can find more information about the novel by visiting the author's website ( http://www.wordsofpassion.com/the-sacred-flame.html ) where you can read an excerpt of the novel.