MASTER AND GOD, by Lindsey Davis

Rome, 80AD. The Flavian dynasty is still in power, the popular Emperor Titus away on one of Imperial Rome's endless campaigns. In the vigili's office, where the safety of the city is their prime task, it's a drowsy afternoon. And then the fire starts. Three days later, much of ancient central Rome has been destroyed, and a young, fire-exhausted vigile meets future Emperor Domitian. And this is just the first few pages of this massive, entertaining, completely compelling book. Read more...
Historian Lindsey Davis is well known for her Marcus Didius Falco mystery series, all of which I've enjoyed over the years. This huge tale, however, is a delightful departure from Falco's wry tales, although Davis's voice - knowing, gently caustic, filled with humor - hasn't changed. What was most engaging for me was the romance between the vigile, Gaius, and Flavia Lucilla, a freedwoman who manages to make her own way (as a hairdresser, sometimes to the Imperial family) in patriarchal Rome. If she ever gets tired of historical novels, David would make a smashing romance writer. But I hope she keeps up with ancient Rome. This stand-alone is a 5+.