Review: The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Posted March 17, 2017 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 18 Comments

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Review: The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
The Confessions of Young Nero

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Series: #1 Nero
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on March 7, 2017
Pages: 522
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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How could I resist a story of Nero one of the most famous of Rome’s Caesars from his childhood to the heights of his days as emperor?  Well I couldn’t and I’ve always wanted to try some of Margaret George’s historical fiction.  This was a slow build story introducing a broad cast of colorful characters and set against a deftly painted background and a carefully constructed plot.  But patience during the early pages was worth it because I felt I was able to really know the Nero of this story and truly feel sympathy for the character.

The author argues in her notes that the Nero we are familiar with is the one told from the perspective of only three of the myriad historians and others painted him and his actions quite differently.  I would suppose this is true to I was willing to be persuaded to put a more positive spin on many of his actions, though that said, this Nero was no saintly innocent, but could get as dark and brutal as any in his family tree when he felt threatened or there was something he really wanted.

The Confessions of Young Nero begin when he is a very small child and carry through to his time as Roman emperor.  He has known what it is to be in danger of his life as a child and to see his mother ruthlessly clear the way for his rise.  As a teen, he is married to his cousin and also step-sister since his mother married her own uncle, Emperor Claudius.  Then he falls for a freed Greek woman and they share a special love all in secret.  As long as there are other family descendants and his manipulating mother is around, Nero cannot be safe so he does something about it.  Ruthlessly.  Nero is taken with the arts of music and drama and with Greek sports and chariot racing, but what he is not taken with is making war.  Much of his life, Roman is at peace, but Nero faced war in Britain with Queen Boudicca and helped gain peace in the east with Parthia.  During this time, he falls in love again and it is deeply with his friend’s wife who is willing to divorce Otho to have Nero.  Nero uses his power to divorce his wife and have his Poppinaea.

So, this was a long one and it begins with Nero’s family history and situation.  I was a little lost amongst all the names and past situations that were mentioned.  Then I settled when it moved forward with Nero’s own story.  Interestingly, this is told first person and mostly by Nero, but there are two other brief narrators, Locusta the Poisoner and Acte his first love.  Both of their outside perspectives were good for seeing him through other eyes.

When I read a historical fiction, I am quite aware that it is- well, fiction.  What I want to see is a story that is convincing that it could actually happen that way.  Or when it is about a person, that it could be true of them.  I felt this book did that.  Other famous people were part of this story and played their roles in Nero’s life and the Roman history at the time.

The main character, Nero, was portrayed as a man of his times and their ways were different from our modern ones.  He truly believed in the Roman and Greek gods, in curses, in signs and fortunes as did the people.  Though that said, Nero saw value in other races and in other classes.  It was interesting to see things as the people of that time saw them.

For most of this book, Nero is young, but he is also forced to grow up fast.  There are orgies and parties, but the author drops a veil over that side just like she stays vague about the brutal side.

Nero appears as a romantic figure and one who wishes to do good by his people.  He walks the path alone much of the time because of his heritage and his exalted rank, but he wants true love, friends and he wants to have earned the accolades he is given.  He was a great favorite of the common people.  I’m a bit of a romantic, too, because reality or not, I enjoyed seeing this side of Nero.  I’m actually on Team Acte and not to thrilled with the one he ended up picking for himself, but there’s more to the story so who knows maybe my gal will win in the end.

This is only part one of the story and it ends abruptly on an ominous note promising things are about to get a bit crazy and bad.  Because it’s history, I’m well aware what comes in the end.  I was glad to have gotten all this earlier history and to know Nero as a man and not just emperor.  I would recommend this one for those who enjoy historical fiction and particularly fiction centered around a famous historical figure.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #68 HF
Literary Pickers #64 palace
New Release #35

Margaret George is the author of the bestselling Autobiography of Henry VIIIMary, Queen of Scotland and the IslesThe Memoirs of Cleopatra; and Mary, Called Magdalene.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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4 years ago

it’s an interesting topic there and I confess that I haven’t read about it yet except when at school

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Melliane

Totally fascinating to read about Nero and the Romans. 🙂

Melanie Simmons
4 years ago

It is great when an author can take a true historical figure and write a fictional story about them. They would have to include enough historical fact, to make the story believable. Great review.

Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Yes, I love these types too. I couldn’t pass up the chance at Nero’s story. The Roman Emperors have always fascinated me.

Debbie Haupt
Debbie Haupt
4 years ago

Oh boy this one is definitely one I would love! Thanks Sophia Rose

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Debbie Haupt

I got pretty excited when I saw this one, too.

Mary Kirkland
4 years ago

Interesting story line. Glad you liked it, great review.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

It really was, Mary. I’ve never read one about the ancient Romans.

AngieElle @ Ba_BAMB
4 years ago

I feel like this book is haunting me. I’ve been interested in it since it was announced, but I knew I wouldn’t have the time to fit it in. And worse, you loved it! LOL Now I’m going to have to make the time.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Oh noooo, Angie! Sorry to rub it in your face. 🙂 Worth it when you get the chance.

Lily B
4 years ago

I think books like these take patience, they can be so slow moving but if you can take in the writing and appreciate the structure eventually it pays off. In this one it seems like it paid off for you in the end, glad you stuck it out. The storyline sounds fascinating.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago
Reply to  Lily B

You nailed it, Lily. It was a slow start, but worth sticking with it when things got going. 🙂

Geybie's Book Blog
4 years ago

I’m excited for this one. I haven’t read anything about Nero yet, but I’m planning to read some hystorical romance books, so I’ll consider this.
Awesome review, Sophia, as always. Thanks for sharing. 😀

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

I was excited, too, Geybie. This one is more focused on him than romance, but it does get into his relationships.

Thanks and you bet! 🙂

Carole's Random Life
4 years ago

I don’t really know much about Nero at all. This does sound like an interesting read that is set in a time period that I know very little about.

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

I didn’t really either. I knew he was the big bad that supposedly burned down Rome and that was about it.

It was neat to get more about him and the Roman Empire.

Anna@herding cats&burning soup

Oh interesting! I’m rather clueless on Nero as well but it sounds fascinating. I’m trying to do more historical fiction so thinking I might need to try this 😀

Sophia Rose
4 years ago

Yeah, this one was good for learning about a historical figure, but in a way that felt like a story rather than a recitation of facts. I’m not sure I’ll read part two because I’ve gotten attached to Nero and I really don’t want to see the ending because I know how it does end. But yes, this was a good one for trying HF.