Master and God - Lindsey Davis Master and God chronicles the reign of Domitian (AD 81-96)* through the lives of Gaius Vinius Clodianus, who rises through the ranks to become cornicularius (chief-of-staff) of the Praetorian Guard and who, in Davis' telling, provides the killing thrust when the emperor is assassinated, and Flavia Lucilla, an Imperial freedwoman and Gaius' lover.

As with her other non-Falco novel, The Course of Honor, the interest for this reader is not so much in the historical details (of which Davis is a master)** but the relationship of the main characters. Like Vespasian and Caenis in the former book, Gaius and Lucilla are forced to spend years apart with other people and sometimes under the most depressing misapprehensions of the other's motives. But in the process, they become "real" people I care about.

I've found that Davis' characters tend to be worldly wise and cynical romantics at heart, which is why they appeal to me and why I've come to enjoy her writing so much.

* Domitian, for me, is one of those tragic emperors - the ones who might have been good but had a fatal flaw that mooted any positives they achieved. In Domitian's case it was his paranoia and megalomania (the title of the novel refers to the emperor's preferred mode of address). By most accounts he kept the Roman government reasonably honest and appointed competent officials but his descent into madness finally alienated even his closest supporters and he had to be eliminated for everyone's safety.

** Davis remarks in her "Author's Note" that Suetonius is the only author to provide the cornicularius' name and from there she constructed Gaius Vinius.