Monday, October 17, 2011

The Roman Princess Diaries by Stephanie Dray

BEFORE we enter the imaginarium of dr viiiii this week we must make a couple stops.

This C A R N I V A L E tent holds a bit of history...

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by Stephanie Dray
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The Roman Princess Diaries
Being the Daughter of Augustus
by Stephanie Dray

The star of my new novel, SONG OF THE NILE, is Cleopatra Selene. However, another young woman plays a very prominent role, and that is Julia, the daughter of Rome’s first emperor. Though their parents were mortal enemies, in my novel, the two teenaged girls form a strong bond of friendship.

On the surface, they don’t seem to have much in common. Where Selene is serious and careful, Julia is witty and reckless. Where Selene is thought of as a royal captive, the daughter of an Egyptian whore, Julia is known as the revered daughter of the emperor, a veritable Roman princess whose children will one day rule Rome. And yet, the two have more in common than most people know.

Selene’s mother is dead and Julia’s mother might as well be, since her father banished her mother from her life. Both girls live at the mercy of the emperor who sees them both as useful pawns in his dynastic schemes--trophies to reward the loyalty of his generals and cronies. While both girls are whip-smart and have an aptitude for politics, Augustus values only their wombs. He controls their sexuality, dictates their love lives, and tries to smother their spirits.

So how much of this is true to history? Almost all of it.

The historical Julia was taken away from her mother at birth and raised by Augustus and his wife Livia. It’s said that she lived a dreary childhood of spinning wool and weaving cloth, but once she reached her teen years, she was married off to her first cousin Marcellus, the heir apparent. Whilst Marcellus was alive, the handsome teens seemed like a romantic pairing, so when Marcellus died young of some mysterious ailment, leaving Julia a young widow, she won the people’s sympathy.

Pretty, witty, educated and fashionable, the emperor’s daughter was popular with the people. Perhaps some of them pitied her when she was next married off to her father’s general, Agrippa, a man who was much older and had already been married twice before. Though Julia was one of the most educated women in the Roman empire, her mission was to provide sons who could be adopted by the emperor to take over after he died.

In terms of breeding, Julia seems to have taken the duty seriously and performed with grace. She gave birth to three sons and two daughters, thus ensuring that the Julio-Claudian dynasty would survive. Though she gave her body to the husband her father chose for her, it seems clear that she considered her heart to be her own to give as she pleased. It’s said that she kept a lover and when someone asked how her children all looked so much like Agrippa, she intimated that she waited to be pregnant before engaging in adultery, saying, “I never take on new passengers unless the cargo is already full.”

Julia’s story has a dramatic ending--one that I won’t reveal here lest I give spoilers that might ruin the enjoyment of my readers. Let it suffice to say, she’s one of the most interesting “bad girls” of the ancient world, and that’s probably why I love her!


Guest post by Stephanie Dray, author of Song of the Nile
© 2011. All rights reserved.

Stephanie graduated from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.

Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

Visit Stephanie:
Book Excerpt

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by Stephanie Dray
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READ more about the story here...

--~ Book Giveaway courtesy of author ~--

Song of the Nile
by Stephanie Dray

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Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…
Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.

Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.

But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?

Berkley Trade October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044
# ISBN-13: 9780425243046

GET a copy:
Constellation Books


* image source art of the Strangeling

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