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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome by Suzanne Tyrpak

Genre: Historical Fiction

Setting: Ancient Rome, 63-64 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Nero.

In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins were selected at a very young age.  Some younger than ten.  They swore an oath to remain virgins for thirty years.  The punishment for violating this vow was death by entombment.  Vestal Virgins had more freedom than most Roman women.  Some retired young enough to make profitable marriages and live out their lives comfortably.

Tyrpak's main character Elissa is a Vestal Virgin.   She was selected when she was nine years old.  She is now nineteen.  As you can imagine, she is finding it difficult to remain faithful to her oath.  There is a young man who would gladly marry her, but Elissa remains true to her vows.

Emperor Nero sits on the throne.  He believes himself to be a god.  Tyrpak's Nero is all we expect him to be: cruel, evil, vindictive and lecherous.  Unfortunately, Elissa and her family have run afoul of Nero.  Elissa's brother is accused of plotting Nero's assassination.  While trying to save her brother, Elissa refuses to have sex with Nero.  This angers Nero and he plots further misery for Elissa and her family.  We eventually find out that Nero believes that Elissa can unravel a prophecy about him: Rome burns, and from a union unholy the sister will bring forth a son.

During the course of the story, Elissa meets a tent maker named Paul.  Paul is a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christos.  Elissa learns of the teachings of Christ, and begins to question her own Roman beliefs.  This is a problem for her since she is a Vestal Virgin.

As the plot unravels, we  get to experience the intrigue, violence, and lasciviousness of Nero's Rome.

I enjoyed reading this novel.  Tyrpak has a great easy-to-read writing style.  For me this novel was a  real page turner.  I couldn't wait to find out what Tyrpak's next plot twist was going to be.

This novel was more "chick-lit" than is usual for me, but I had fun reading it.  I will probably try out Tyrpak's other historical fiction titles.

Vestal Virgin

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