Ovid, the Roman poet, was exiled to Tomis on the Black Sea for what he says in his "Tristia": Carmen et error [A poem and a mistake]. From this ambiguity, scholars and historians through the years have tried to puzzle out why he was exiled. Alison presents us with her speculation, giving us a lush, sensuous tale of Ovid and a mysterious "witch", Xenia, he meets on vacation on the Black Sea [a more salubrious part than his final home]. They fall in love and he takes her to Rome. He begins writing a tragedy of Medea with her as muse and model for the priestess. Xenia feels he has betrayed her with another woman. Jealous of his patroness, Julia, of the imperial family, she exacts a horrible vengeance. I could SEE all scenes before me vividly, despite the author's sometimes purple prose. Besides the jealousy and betrayal, a main theme is the permanence of art and the artist [in this case Ovid.] Will he always be remembered, he keeps asking her. The novel took awhile to pick up steam, but finally rolled on swiftly to its inexorable conclusion. This novel is the expression of the inner life of its characters. Recommended. On rereading in November 2016, I lowered my rating to 3***.