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.