Publication Date: October 1, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 437 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
History paints her as the first female serial killer… Locusta is the daughter of a winemaker in the Roman province of Gaul. She enjoys the indulged childhood of the elite, her concerns only about the day’s amusements. She rides gentle ponies, attends parties, reads Ovid, and learns the herbal arts from her servant. But the day after meeting her betrothed, Locusta discovers the consequences of possessing such dangerous knowledge. Ordered to leave her pastoral life, Locusta is thrust into a world of intrigue, scandal, and murder—where treason lurks behind every corner and defying an emperor means death. Locusta’s life changes forever when a young Emperor Nero requires her herbal expertise. And commands her to be his personal poisoner. Caught in an imperial web, Locusta must embrace her profession or die. Or is there another way out? History paints her as the first female serial killer. Or is she yet another maligned woman in history?
“Look how spacious and grand this room is,” said Pricilla when I entered my chambers. “Have you ever seen its like?” She draped a blanket over our coffer of herbs. The room was nothing like Father’s meager guest rooms. The bed was huge, the headboard carved like a lion’s head, the feet shaped into griffin’s claws. It was swathed in silk, even the canopy. A cushioned settee by a wide door offered a fine prospect of the gardens. There were two chests, two tables, and two chairs. All finely crafted. The walls were washed with a pale shade of blue. One depicted a meadow scene. Only the narrow cot meant for Pricilla was less than elegant. “Why are you hiding the herbs?” I patted the covered coffer. “I don’t want anyone to know.” “Our herbs present no dan—” I covered my mouth. She was right. Maybe we shouldn’t have brought them to Rome. But then we wouldn’t have been able to help all those people along the way. In a city where poisoning one’s competition was the most expedient way to gain advantage, a guest with a chest of herbs might arouse suspicion. Pricilla unclasped the broach that secured my stola. “I requested a large bowl of water.” She gestured to the great tub in the corner. “Five servants dragged this in.” “They bring the bath to me. How thoughtful.” “I’ve never seen a household with so many servants. Annona is attended by three.” Pricilla untied the breast-binding leather strap. “Three? I’m not surprised. It must take at least that many to bedeck her with jewels every morning.” “A handmaid told me the evening meal will be served early today because the dominus leaves on urgent business.” I climbed into the basin, which was warm and fragrant with rose petals. “Perfect.” Pricilla picked up my arm, brushed a soft cloth down its length. “You must be careful of every glance and each word.” “Are you trying to frighten me?” “Not frighten, enlighten.” Pricilla glanced over her shoulder. “The servants are hungry for juicy tidbits of gossip. Friendships are precarious. A friend this week may have been a former enemy the month before. Or become a future rival. The Roman elite murder their children, sisters, brothers, wives—anyone standing in their way.” “I know.” I cupped my hands, let the rose-scented water run through my fingers, “Don’t put your trust in appearances.” “I know.” I lifted my leg from the water, wondered why Pricilla thought a vintner’s daughter from Gaul would interest a pack of Roman wolves.
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