For my own benefit I will add a few reviews of the book below that explain the historic setting.
A Misunderstood Villainess?,
April 1, 2014
This review is from: I Am Livia (Kindle Edition)
Having been a fan of the TV series and book, I Claudius, I recognized Livia as the wife of Augustus Caesar and mother to Tiberius Caesar who reportedly poisoned anyone who stood in the way of her ambition. The book does not disappoint, though the author, Phyllis T. Smith, takes a decidedly more understanding look at Livia than other historical accounts. In this historical fiction we hear the story of Livia through her own voice, from her early years as the precocious daughter of a prominent Roman family who learns not to utter "foolish truths" but instead to take "perverse pleasure in pretense". We see her rapid rise to power by marrying Octavian, who, after defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, becomes "First Citizen" of Rome. Through it all, Smith reveals Livia as intelligent, scheming, and ruthless but curiously sympathetic, thanks in large part to the author's vivid first person narration. We can better understand Livia's methods, even though we should disapprove of them. I found I Am Livia an intelligent and engaging look at one of history's most notorious and perhaps most misunderstood women.
Now my own comments. The author explains the ridiculous notion that Livia poisoned her opponents in a way that makes so much sense that one can not even begin to believe that the poison allegations could have been true. I just plain like the character that Ms. Smith has drawn. I would have trouble ever making her a villain in my thoughts. And I had a lot of fun spending a bit of time in this era of Rome.