McCullough (The Thorn Birds; The October Horse) continues her Masters of Rome series with a chronicle of one of history's most infamous love affairs. After the death of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Caesar's ambitious and brash cousin, and Octavian, Caesar's adopted son and designated heir, agree to jointly administer the far-flung empire: Antony in the East and Octavian in the West. It's not a happy arrangement, though, and their rivalry to rule Rome is the overarching theme of this sprawling, captivating saga. After a disastrous campaign to subdue the Parthians, Antony turns to Cleopatra, the enigmatic and fabulously wealthy queen of Egypt, to replenish his war chest. Determined to make Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar, ruler of Rome, Cleopatra seduces Antony and soon has him "as soft as a mushy pudding." Meanwhile, with the aid of his wife and Marcus Agrippa, Octavian secures his position in Rome and Italia. Prodded by Cleopatra, Antony gathers his forces in Greece for an invasion of Italia. The tragic denouement is, in McCullough's capable hands, no less compelling for being so well known. As with the previous volumes in this series, the author's scholarship and larger-than-life characters bring a tempestuous Rome to life. (Dec.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
McCullough's seventh book in her best-selling "Masters of Rome" series begins immediately following the assassination of Julius Caesar (as recounted in The October Horse). Without Caesar's decisive though controversial leadership, Rome is mired in civil unrest, food shortages, and divided loyalties. Three men vie for control of the empire: Octavian, Caesar's heir; Antony, the people's favorite; and Lepidus, high priest and patron of a majority of the senators. When Cleopatra, pharaoh of Egypt, begins lobbying for her son by Julius Caesar, the political waters are further muddied. Readers expecting a tragic story between Antony and Cleopatra of two star-crossed lovers ... la Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor will be disappointed. Antony is a loud, crude, wine-soaked boor, and Cleopatra's ruthless pursuit of Antony is based almost solely on a desire for political gain. But by concentrating less on the romantic mythos and more on the history and political climate of the times, McCullough's depiction is far more realistic and fascinating. A complex, gritty novel for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/07.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.