Not being a real scholar of Greek or Roman history, I went into this novel somewhat blind. I knew various things about the attitudes such cultures held regarding homosexuality, but was not familiar with the story of Antinous and Hadrian, and so I have to say right from the beginning that I can't confirm or deny just how historically accurate this book is. (However, when a book that's less than 200 pages long can boast a 3-page bibliography, it's a fair bet that the author put a good amount of thought and research into what they wrote.)
What I can confirm is that if you're someone to enjoy historical fiction set in this time period and you can appreciate the concept of a caring homosexual relationship, then you really ought to read this book. For all that it's short, it doesn't lack for much. Details are sparse in some areas, but given that it's written as though by Antinous himself, in the style of a memoir, that's forgivable. The important details are there, the ones that mean something to Antinous and to the situation he's in. While there is clearly passion, he tries to tell the story in a dispassionate way, to record the facts rather than to wax eloquent. It works well.
You can't help but really get a feel for what Antinous goes through, his thoughts and realizations and his dealings with Hadrian's court. Nor can you entirely blame him at the end, for his sacrifice, trying to preserve what they had before it, by necessity, has to end. When Antinous comes of age, he can no longer be accepted as Hadrian's lover, as it was shameful to have two full men be in such a relationship.
I closed this book feeling, aside from melancholy, the urge to go and learn more about these two people, and the world in which they lived. Melanie McDonald did a beautiful job of introducing me to a wider world, and for that, she deserves congratulations. I can only imagine the effect that this might have on others, opening them up to a historical romance that's unlike most others.
I rated this book 4 out of 5. If I gave half-points, it would have been 4.5, losing a small amount only because I thought the book was a little too short. Not so much as to make the storytelling suffer, but it still felt as though she could have tackled more and still held my interest without complaint. I'll say one thing, though. If I ever find another one of her books, I'll be hard-pressed to not buy it!