The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora

The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora

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by Stephanie Thornton
     
 

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Where Theodora went, trouble followed….
 
In sixth-century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds and rose from common theater tart to empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. The woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was aSee more details below

Overview

Where Theodora went, trouble followed….
 
In sixth-century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds and rose from common theater tart to empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. The woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told….
 
After her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation and a life on the streets. Determined to survive, Theodora makes a living any way she can—first on her back with every man who will have her, then on the stage in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a backdoor entry into the halls of power, she seizes the chance to win a wealthy protector—only to face heartbreak and betrayal.
 
Ever resilient, Theodora rises above such trials and, by a twist of fate, meets her most passionate admirer yet: the emperor’s nephew. She thrives as his confidant and courtesan, but many challenges lie ahead. For one day this man will hand her a crown. And all the empire will wonder—is she bold enough, shrewd enough, and strong enough to keep it?
 
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

"Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life...A sprawling and irresistible story."—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster's Daughter
 

Library Journal
In this historical fiction debut set in 520 CE, Thornton offers both a fascinating interpretation of a powerful woman’s life and an enlightening portrayal of the great city known at various times as Byzantium, Constantinople, and Istanbul. Basing her tale in sound historical research, Thornton vividly re-creates the streets of Constantinople after Emperor Constantine established the city as the home of the Christian empire. The story follows the life of Theodora, a young beauty with a bright wit, charm, and a tendency to speak her mind who rises from destitution to become, first, a prostitute, then a celebrated actress, and, finally, the Roman empress. Theodora confronts sexual predators, scheming politicians, and dangerous family secrets and overcomes daunting circumstances, among them giving birth in a slime-filled alley at the age of 15. Her religious belief and emotional strength see her through the trying times in her marriage to Justinian and their rule of the Byzantine Empire. While the novel does not shy away from pain, it is most importantly a story of the strength of women. Theodora crosses paths with numerous strong women; they help her when she is destitute and challenge her at the height of her power.

Verdict While Empress Theodora’s story unfolds in what is today modern Turkey, one could borrow from the cowboy vernacular and say that Thornton’s well-conceived and engrossing tale exalts a historical figure of “true grit.” Fans of Stella Duffy’s The Purple Shroud and Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore may want to check out Thornton’s take.—Edith Lawraine Smith, San Francisco
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101607664
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/02/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
68,540
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

"Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life...A sprawling and irresistible story."—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster's Daughter
 

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