ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction

Book Review: The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith


Once I discovered that The Daughters of Palatine Hill was about Cleopatra & Mark Antony’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene, I hit the request button immediately.    After the defeat of the Egyptian Queen, her daughter was taken to Rome & adopted into the family that was responsible for her family’s demise.  This part of history has all the makings of a good historical fiction, but does Smith deliver?


TheDaughtersofPalatineHIllAuthor:  Phyllis T. Smith

Genre: Historical Fiction

Version: eBook

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Source: NetGalley


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Book Description

Two years after Emperor Augustus’s bloody defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he triumphantly returns to Rome. To his only child, Julia, he brings an unlikely companion—Selene, the daughter of the conquered Egyptian queen and her lover.
Under the watchful eye of Augustus’s wife, Livia, Selene struggles to accept her new home among her parents’ enemies. Bound together by kinship and spilled blood, these three women—Livia, Selene, and Julia—navigate the dangerous world of Rome’s ruling elite, their every move a political strategy, their most intimate decisions in the emperor’s hands.
Always suppressing their own desires for the good of Rome, each must fulfill her role. For astute Livia, this means unwavering fidelity to her all-powerful husband; for sensual Julia, surrender to an arranged marriage and denial of her craving for love and the pleasures of the flesh; for orphaned Selene, choosing between loyalty to her family’s killers and her wish for revenge.
Can they survive Rome’s deadly intrigues, or will they be swept away by the perilous currents of the world’s most powerful empire?



The Daughters of Palatine Hill is the fictionalized account of Emperor Augustus (Julius Ceaser’s successor), his descendants, & the descendants of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

*Side note: Because it was normal for a person to be married and divorced multiple times, this made the family tree a tad complicated.  Also people tended to keep it in the family if you catch my drift…. Trying to figure out all the family ties made my head hurt.  This is history folks, you can’t make this stuff up.

Despite the fact that this is a work of fiction, the people and events are based in history.  I knew almost nothing about these historical figures going into this book, and really enjoyed this fictional account of their lives. From what I’ve researched, Smith does a great job staying accurate to the historical events while taking fictional liberties.  This is why I love historical fiction, it sparks an interest in an era I don’t know much about before.  This spark always leads me on my own journey for knowledge into history.

The Daughter’s of Palatine Hill is told in 3 alternating perspectives: Lavia (Augustus’s Wife), Julia (Augustus’s daughter from a previous marriage), and Selene (daughter of Mark Antony & Cleopatra).  I found each POV & story equally interesting.  I often find that I am more drawn to one POV over the other(s) in multi-perspective books, so I’m impressed that Smith was able to hold my attention with each separate character story.  Each character felt distinct & well fleshed out.   I would say that the focus of this story is more on Julia & Selene.  I particularly enjoyed Julia’s portrayal for the fact that she was a very complex character.  She definitely had her flaws, but Smith did an excellent job shedding light to the fact that Julia was definitely a product of her environment.

I found the treatment of women during these times to be horrifying.  These women had little say in the outcomes of their lives.  Women during this era were pawns for political reasons & social climbing through forced marriage, and in many cases forced divorce and forced re-marriage.  I was appalled at how little control these women had.  Let’s just say that I would never have survived during this time period.

The Daughters of Palatine Hill can 100% be read as a standalone novel.  In fact, I did not ever realize that the author had written a previous novel, I Am Livia, which is about Livia Drusilla’s early life and her courtship with Octavian.  You do not have to read I Am Livia in order to enjoy or this book.  That being said, I will definitely be picking up the first book to learn more about Livia and her earlier days.  I must know how Octavian swept Livia off her feet while she was both married and pregnant by another man… or at least Smith’s version of events.

The biggest weakness in The Daughter’s of Palatine Hill was the setting.  When I read historical fiction, I need the author to put me in that time period.  Unfortunately, there was almost no descriptions of the setting or context to the era.  Despite the fact that the setting & historical context was lacking throughout the novel, it was still a good read since the focus was on the characters.

The Daughters of Palatine Hill is full of political intrigue, family drama, secrets, and scandal.  I definitely recommend giving this one a go if you are interested in this era or these particular events in history.




5-Star Rating System

*Big thanks to Lake Union Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


You may also enjoy…

» Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran


About the Author

PhyllisTSmithI was born in Brooklyn, NY and still live about a mile from where I grew up. I received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree from New York University, and pursued a practical career, teaching computer applications to workers who needed new skills to succeed on the job.

I enjoyed helping my students realize their dreams. But I always yearned to write historical fiction and in my spare time immersed myself in the literature, art, and history of the ancient world. Eventually, I wrote a novel called I Am Livia about the unjustly maligned wife of Rome’s first emperor. My second novel The Daughters of Palatine Hill focuses on Livia’s stepdaughter Julia, and Cleopatra’s daughter Selene. I look forward to writing more novels set in ancient Rome.



Have you read The Daughter’s of Palatine Hill?  If so, what did you think?

18 thoughts on “Book Review: The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith”

  1. This sounds like it came together surprisingly well inspite of the lack of setting development. I love when authors pull off alternating perspectives. I really enjoy them but they are so tricky! And I know what you mean about history and family trees 😂 this is also a pain sometimes in epic fantasy. Authors will attempt to stay true to past patterns in medieval families, etc and it can become super confusing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I often notice when setting is lacking, but I mean the big stuff. I have a friend who noticed the really small stuff, like mentions of zippers or the wearing the wrong petticoat for the era, etc. She’s so smart 😐

    Liked by 2 people

      1. No. Weirdly, she can’t seem to get a job. She super smart, though. If you go to Goodreads and look up Fifty Shades of Gray, she has the most popular review on there. It’s HILARIOUS.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hm. I don’t think the top review you see and the top review I see are the same. The top review I see is by Navessa and has 0 gifs in it. Regardless, I’m now binge reading all these Fifty Shades 1-star reviews. Because they fill my dark, dark heart with joy.


    1. LOL I am not THAT detail oriented to notice the super small stuff. This book was just lacking ANY details of the era whatsoever. It felt like it could have been taking place today. HOWEVER the author nailed the political intrigue and drama… I still very much enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I *love* historical fiction, but I have to find a good one to really suck me in and make me a happy reader. It sounds like this book did that for you! I’ll have to add this to my TBR. Though, the lack of setting is a bit disappointing. I wonder if the first book, I Am Livia, provides more setting and the author just assumed that work had been done? Hm.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This almost makes me want to read both books in quick succession to learn if the world building and context is more established in book one. This is a typical series trap– all the world building happens up front and slows things down. Perhaps you saved yourself some trouble! XD


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