Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
No, not the cheesy old TV series. The story of Rome's first emperors is equally soap-operatic, and infinitely more lurid.
It's interesting to contrast Dynasty with Mary Beard's recent SPQR. (Others have done the same.) The books are almost mirror images of one another. SPQR is cerebral; Dynasty is visceral. SPQR is analytic (though a good read); Dynasty is narrative (though well-researched). SPQR avoids the Great Man view of history; Dynasty embraces it. SPQR is extremely reserved about accepting what the Romans themselves wrote about their history; Dynasty leans heavily on ancient sources.
In other words, Dynasty is an eye-popping, page-turning, ripping good yarn. If you liked Holland's previous history (the outstanding Rubicon) you'll like Dynasty. I read through the whole thing in a couple of sittings. It's vivid. It's immediate. Above all, it's astoundingly personal; it makes the people and events of two thousand years ago seem like the people and events of today, only writ large.
How accurate it is is another question. I'm not among those who believes that we should disbelieve ancient writers on principle because they were credulous (they weren't) or partisan (they were, but so are modern writers). Nor do I believe, as some writers seem to, that nobody ever actually said anything witty, or did anything theatrically over-the-top, or indulged in some reprehensible appetites.
All the same, Holland--while acknowledging frankly his struggle with the "Scylla and Charybdis" of extreme skepticism vs. extreme credibility--chooses to lay on the gory details with a broad brush. I think Holland's aim (aside from making narrative sense, which is difficult and worthy in its own right) is to give us some sense of Roman history as the Romans might have understood it. He recounts Roman origin stories that are clearly mythical, for instance, in the same authorial voice that he uses for biography.
So don't look for anything about the daily lives of the populace, or the economics of slavery, or the remarkable engineering infrastructure. This is old-fashioned blood-and-thunder storytelling. Take it for what it is, and enjoy.
Holland's Rubicon, while no less readable, is somewhat more judicious. If you're only going to read one of the two, read that one.