The Sacred Flame by Nanette Littlestone (Historical Fiction)
This well-written love story takes place in ancient Rome during the days of Vestal Virgins. Livia has given thirty years in service to the goddess Vesta, living only with her fellow Vestals, and her commitment is almost up. Now she’s looking forward to marrying her childhood friend, Kaeso, with whom she sees herself having a chance at happiness, even though she doesn’t love him as anything more than a friend.
But the Fates intervene, and suddenly Livia’s life becomes complicated in ways that not only threaten her ability to leave the Vestals, but also put her life in danger. She incurs the wrath of a fellow Vestal, as well as that of a woman of social prominence, and defies Roman society when she falls in love with a married man. Throughout, we watch her struggle with duty, passion, commitment, fidelity, love, friendship, and the terrible weight of responsibility and expectations thrust upon her by others against her will.
We see the action through the eyes of several different characters, in addition to Livia herself, a technique that limits how deeply we can get to know her as a person. We’re often observing her from the outside, which builds tension as we become privy to the motives and plans of others, but also keeps her at a distance. Still it is a rich story with interesting characters in a fascinating time and place. The writing style fits the period, and it’s clear that the author has researched the subject well and writes with confidence. The ending took me completely by surprise, adding to the pleasure of reading this ambitious novel. Anyone who enjoys stories set in ancient Rome will be completely satisfied with The Sacred Flame.
Grandma gives The Sacred Flame five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.