Rome 108 AD: A teeming city of splendor and
squalor, where the rich enjoy everything money can buy—luxury, power, and depravity—while the poor scrabble to survive, their only distractions games and the races bruta in the Circus Maximus. A chance encounter at the festival of Lupercalia throws together two diverse young men. Streetwise Tullius Rufio and patrician Quintus Alba could not be more different, and they get off to a stormy start. An uncle’s greedy scheming propels Quintus into emperor Trajan’s intimate entourage of fun-loving young courtiers, while Rufio is busy with his antique-dealer mother’s varied enterprises and a promiscuous sex life in Rome’s murkier neighborhoods.
Elaborate plans for a state visit by a degenerate potentate from the east force the boys into uneasy partnership. Then a mystery killer strikes at the very heart of the imperial court and threatens to fatally disrupt events. Charioteers, senators and courtiers clash in this sexy saga of Ancient Rome, which turns from a circus of desire to youthful love.
320 pages paperback and eBook
Published January 2020
"Kean’s prose provides an exquisite expertise that informs a knowledge of daily roman life that defies description. The details of street food vendors, the layouts of and conduct within whorehouses, the interaction of slaves and freemen and the aristocracy, the minutiae that precedes the chariot races, all add scholarly authenticity to the lives of fictional character who interact with historical figures. While all this detail validates the environment, it never once detracts from the story of a budding romance between Rufio and Quintus. It is a joy to read a novel so steeped in history that does not shy away from offering a genuine and unapologetically gay love story." Goodreads review
And this brings me to the book's illustrations. Frey never fails to delight with image after image offering a visual glimpse into the lives of the heroes and the seemingly endless shenanigans they get into, and clothing they get out of. The only possible thing to say in the negative is that there are not more illustrations, but then I'm reminded that it is the quality of the art here that really matters and not the quantity. And Frey delivers his usual breath-taking quality to each and every gorgeous image. It is a joy to read a novel so steeped in history that does not shy away from offering a genuine and unapologetically gay love story. The only regret is that I have to wait for the next story featuring these Boys of Imperial Rome: Satyr of Capri; which will undoubtedly be another five-star epic, like this one, from Zack.
Rick – Goodreads
© 2020 Zack / Oliver Frey