An elaborately plotted but dull life of Titus Flavius Verspasianus, the Emperor Suetonius called the ""darling of the human race"" and Desmond uninflectedly sees as ""good."" Desmond has Titus putting Nero up to the performances that brought his downfall, and shows her hero--later, unavoidably (according to Desmond), responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem--running into Joseph of Arimathea in England, celebrating communion with St. Paul in Rome, and visiting Peter in prison. Meanwhile Berniece, the Jewish queen Titus brought to Rome, survives the eruption of Pompeii and returns to Judea, horribly scarred, to live with her cousin Salome. These are the chance connections historical novels are made of, but while Desmond pumps some life into fools and villains such as Claudius and Nero (she has models to go by here), the noble characters are no more than stick figures. . . whose big moments have no more, no less impact than the narrator's asides on Roman baths.