Friday, August 2, 2013

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora by Stephanie Thornton

Synopsis: Where Theodora went, trouble followed…

In sixth century Constantinople, one woman, Theodora, defied every convention and all the odds, and rose from being a common theater tart to become empress of a great kingdom, the most powerful woman the Roman Empire would ever know. But the woman whose image was later immortalized in glittering mosaic was, in fact, a scrappy, clever, conniving, flesh-and-blood woman full of sensuality and spirit whose real story is as surprising as any ever told…

When her father dies suddenly, Theodora and her sisters face starvation 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 of the city’s infamous amphitheater in a scandalous dramatization of her own invention. When her daring performance grants her a back-door 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 will thrive 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?

My Thoughts: I watched a history channel show awhile back on Roman Emperors and it briefly covered Justinian and Theodora-the former actress and whore he married.  Little did I know from that brief glimpse the fascinating story behind the beautiful woman who captured the Emperor's heart!   The novel starts out with the untimely death of Theodora's father, leaving the young girl, her drunken mother, and her sister Comito to fend for themselves.  As many down on their luck females were forced to do at the time, Theodora's mother encouraged her daughters to take to the stage-a sordid environment where young girls hoped to lure a wealthy patron or sold their favors to the highest bidder.   Theodora is a late bloomer who pales in comparison to her older sister Comito but she soon blossoms into a desirable young woman and uses her charms to make her way in the world. 

Theodora is a fascinating character but she is one with flaws.  Graced with brains and beauty she often makes foolhardy decisions based on emotion instead of the smarter choice.  Along her path to glory she makes many enemies, some very interesting friends and is also faced with some very heartrending decisions in order to protect those she loves.  I was really captivated by this story and very saddened by what Theodora had to go through just to survive.  Even when she attained great power there were always those more than willing to use her to attain their means and although she found her great love in Justinian she was always fearful of losing it.  I really enjoyed Stephanie Thornton's writing style and The Secret History kept me reading late into the night.  I cannot wait to see what she tackles as her next topic and recommend this to all lovers of historical fiction.  This book with the gorgeous cover contains an equally marvelous story in it's pages that you won't want to miss out on.

 This book was provided to me from the publisher via NetGalley for participation in the author's tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

This is the last stop on the tour but if you'd like to see all the reviews, giveways, interviews and guest posts with author Stephanie Thornton you missed, you can view the rest of the tour schedule HERE.


I am excited to be able to offer up one paperback copy of The Secret History and a Byzantine coin to one lucky winner!

TO ENTER: Leave your name and email address in the comments. One extra entry each for spreading the word via Twitter, Facebook or your blog.

OPEN:  Internationally!

GIVEAWAY ENDS: Midnight August 10th. Winner will be selected and announced on the 11th. Good luck!

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.
For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton's website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Would love to read this book Lomazowr@gmail.Cromwell tweet @rhondareads

  2. Sounds great. jtretin at aol dot com. I re-tweeted your tweet to my followers - @readsalwayss.

  3. Thank you for opening it to all. Much appreciated.


  4. thanks for the giveaway! As an Orthodox Christian, I'm really curious to see what the author did with Theodora!
    here is my Tweet:
    sent also to FB.
    Emma @ Words And Peace ehc16e at yahoo dot com

  5. I am excited to read this book about a woman who went from direst poverty to empress of the Byzantine empire -- in a time when women were treated like absolute chattel or slaves. Her name is greater today than her husband, Justinian. Please enter me so I can read this already critically praised book. Thank you for the giveaway.


  6. I'd love to win a copy.

    And I love to read about your foster work with the kitties.

  7. Also tweeted about it......

  8. please enter me for the giveaway!!
    thank you!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  9. shared on my FB wall:

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  10. Theodora is one of the most fascinating characters of her time. I'd love to win a copy of this new book about her. Thanks for the giveaway.
    I also tweeted a link to this post:
    Thanks again.

  11. Thank you for the giveaway!

    volta2173 at sbcglobal dot net

  12. I haven't come across Theodora before this book. I'm surprised because I do love history.


  13. I would so love to read this book. Thanks!
    kaiminani at gmail dot com


    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  15. I would love to read this book.

    Kerry Amburgy-Dickson

  16. Tweeted (11:10 PM - 4 Aug 13 · Details)and shared on FB. Sounds like a great book in such an exotic location! Thank you for the giveaway.

  17. It sounds so interesting. I really love Roman history. Theodora is certainly a very tough and determined woman. Please enter me. Thanks!