Ancient Rome, 216 BC
For thirty years, Livia has served Rome as a priestess to the goddess Vesta, guarding the temple's sacred flame. All she wants is retirement, a happy marriage, and peace. Instead, the High Priestess falls ill, Livia assumes leadership, and all her dreams collapse.
While the temple flame burns, no harm will come to the city. But against her vows, Livia falls for Gaius, a married equestrian, who wants to shower her with love. Passion awakens a burning desire and Livia's role as High Priestess falters. And Gaius's wife will stop at nothing to keep her marriage intact.
As summer comes, Rome is threatened by the invasion of Hannibal and Livia must choose between duty or passion. A choice that might cost her everything.
Get swept away in this "story of forbidden passion that unfolds against an immersive historical setting." The BookLife Prize.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Sacred Flame is unlike anything I've read before, while breathing life to a moment in history I vaguely knew of. Rome is still in its early days as a Republic and not yet at the height of its power. The Vestel Virgins are charged with keeping the spirit of Rome safe. But new and often bumbling High Priestess, Livia, seems to make one mistake after another. She is close to retirement, after a lifetime of servitude, ready to settle down with the man she loves. Livia is soon wooed by a man from her past and torn between two types of love. This alone is enough conflict to typically keep a modern romance novel on its head. But Hannibal the Barbarian is on the march against the city, and the people are fueled by their fear. Fear plays a major role into the novel and its characters. Each one fears the loss of something, and in Livia's case, losing the chance to experience what she never has before. The stakes are raised and I was glued to Littlestone's carefully woven historical epic, one misunderstanding and wrong choice at a time. Very much in the same spirit as Francine River's brilliant Mark of the Lion trilogy, The Sacred Flame keeps you hoping against all hope. I found myself rooting for both hero and villain, as Littlestone reminds us these aren't evil or good people necessarily. Like us, the characters are revealed to be just people, albeit largely selfish people seeking their own happiness no matter the cost. The author proves her strength for painting rich setting, depth of emotion and the constant threat of tragedy that will reel you in and leave you breathless in the end. A must read for fans of historical romance and mythology and for anyone who just wanted to experience that all-encompassing epic love. This is a novel for the realists and the dreamers, a sweeping, engrossing romance for the ages.
Reviewed by Heather Osborne for Readers' Favorite The Sacred Flame by Nanette Littlestone is a historical fiction novel chronicling the story of Livia, a Vestal Virgin, in Rome during 216 B.C. Livia longs to leave the service of the temple, having given her entire life in the service of Vesta, and live out her life in peace and happiness with her fiancé, Kaeso. Things don't go as planned when the High Priestess falls ill and Livia is thrust into the role with much reluctance. Yet when Gaius, a man from her youth, returns to Rome, he captures her heart once again. However, all around her people seek to manipulate and accuse the couple. Livia must make a desperate choice between her service to Rome and the man she loves. An unexpected type of romance blooms in The Sacred Flame by Nanette Littlestone. I immediately felt for Livia’s choices as a Vestal Virgin, and her desire to be free of the confines of service. I felt great empathy for Gaius’ wife. Despite Justina’s flaws, she desperately sought to be loved and cherished by her husband. The villain of the piece is despicable, and I despised her power-grabbing ways and how she sought to destroy the happiness of two people. I also enjoyed the side plot between Sexus, the young messenger boy taken in by Livia, and Kaeso. Not my typical era of choice for historical romance/fiction, but nevertheless I enjoyed The Sacred Flame immensely, and I would definitely look out for other novels by Nanette Littlestone.