Monday, July 29, 2013

HFVBT: The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton--Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
I am sad to say that for all my knowledge of history, I really know almost nothing of Empress Theodora. What a story I have missed out on! A woman who rose from less than nothing to become the most powerful woman in the Byzantine empire. A truly inspiring story.

I am very impressed that this is Stephanie Thornton's first novel. It is an excellent piece of historical fiction. The reader can tell that she has a passion for history...the research she put into this novel really shows. But it's not only the historical aspects that really shine. The characters are interesting and engaging. Theodora especially is a heroine to root for again and again. I mean, who doesn't love a rags to riches story? But this is a story that beats all stories of that type, in my opinion. When we look at a character like Theodora, what she had to overcome to rise so far, our hardships in life seem to pale in comparison.

It's a rare treat to read a novel that is not only interesting and entertaining, but also an inspiration that all things can be overcome with a little faith and a lot of pluck. I'm so glad that I was given the opportunity to review Stephanie's first book and I'm so looking forward to her next release.

About the book
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
NAL Trade
Paperback; 448p
ISBN-10: 045141778X

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?

Praise for The Secret History
“Stephanie Thornton’s Theodora is tough and intelligent, spitting defiance against the cruel world of the Byzantine Empire. Her rise from street urchin to emperor’s consort made me want to stand up and cheer. Her later years as empress are great fun to read, but it was her early struggle as actress and courtesan that really had me roaring: either with rage at the misfortunes heaped on this poor girl, or with delight as she once more picked herself up with a steely glint in her eye and kept on going.”—Kate Quinn, author of Empress of the Seven Hills

"Loss, ambition and lust keep this rich story moving at top speed. Stephanie Thornton writes a remarkable first novel that brings a little known woman to full, vibrant life...A sprawling and irresistible story."—Jeane Westin, author of The Spymaster's Daughter

"A fascinating and vivid account; in The Secret History, the life of Empress Theodora leaps from the page, as colorful and complex as the woman herself."—Michelle Diener, author of The Emperor's Conspiracy

About the author
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.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #SecretHistoryTour

One copy of The Secret History and a Byzantine coin. Open Internationally. Please leave a comment and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win (email address, Twitter handle, etc). Last day to enter is Monday, August 12 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.


Follow on Bloglovin


Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Hey Michelle! This looks like a great read!

    Melissa AT

  2. Fascinating - a perfect book for the end of summer! Thanks for the giveaway!


  3. Definitely someone in history I wasn't familiar with and now want to learn more about.

  4. Darlene's Book NookJuly 29, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    I love this time period, but I have to admit that I am not familiar with Empress Theodora either! Sounds like a fascinating book!! Thanks for the giveaway!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

  5. Based on the title, I thought it was The Secret History by Donna Tartt which has been on my TBR for ages! But this sounds equally fascinating! (and I;m curious about that Byzantine coin you threw in!)

    Thanks for the giveaway! readerrabbit22 at

  6. Emma @ Words And PeaceJuly 29, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    as a Christian Orthodox, I would be curious to see what the author did with Theodora. Thanks for the giveaway! Emma @ Words And Peace ehc16e at yahoo dot com

  7. This sounds lovely! But, I was confused by the title, too!

  8. This book is on the top of my to read list! I can't wait to read it.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  9. Do not know this author. I am sure it will be a good book.

  10. I've never heard of Empress Theodora. Time to learn.


  11. This woman does seem to be a mystery.

    funmail07 at gmail dot com

- See more at:
- See more at: