Hello, everyone! Today I am reviewing The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper, which is the sequel to The Wolf Den. I enjoyed the first book quite a bit, and I was excited to get access to an advanced copy of this one, as well.
The life of a courtesan in Pompeii is glittering, yet precarious…
Amara has escaped her life as a slave in the town’s most notorious brothel, but now her existence depends on the affections of her patron: a man she might not know as well as she once thought.
At night she dreams of the wolf den, still haunted by her past. Amara longs for the women she was forced to leave behind and worse, finds herself pursued by the man who once owned her. In order to be free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is.
Amara knows her existence in Pompeii is subject to Venus, the goddess of love. Yet finding love may prove to be the most dangerous act of all.
We return to Pompeii for the second installment in Elodie Harper’s Wolf Den Trilogy, set in the town’s lupanar and reimagining the lives of women long overlooked.
***Thank you to Union Square & Co. for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This was a compelling continuation of Amara’s story, but I didn’t love it quite as much as the first book. The plot and pacing weren’t quite as tight, and there were considerable sections where the story seemed to drag a bit. In the first book, there were constantly things happening, and Amara always felt like she retained a great deal of agency despite her horrid circumstances. In this part of the story, however, it seemed that she mostly was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. She did come up with some schemes to cushion the fall, and I enjoyed the displays of her cunning. It just all paled in comparison to her machinations in the first book. I don’t know. Maybe it was just that fighting to break free was a more engaging story than maneuvering to maintain her position.
One thing this book did really well was tackle the topic of PTSD. Amara experiences dreams, hypervigilance, reactions to triggers, and other signs of traumatic stress. Despite reaching her goal, she can’t seem to leave her past behind her and does everything she can to help the women she left behind in the Wolf Den even though it could mean her ruin. This is all made even worse once she realizes the freedom she worked so hard and lost so much for is a sham. Ultimately, she just moved into a prettier cage while still being just as trapped as before. At that point, she really began to make even more incredibly reckless decisions, including starting a forbidden love affair, and she became more and more desperate as things began to unravel around her despite her best attempts to keep control. The downward spiral was absolutely heartbreaking at times.
There were some stunning betrayals in this book. I definitely did not see the ending of this book coming, and parts of it made me so angry. I now hate several of these characters with a passion, and I’m hoping they are killed off in horrible ways in the next book. The Vesuvius eruption would be too kind an ending for them. I didn’t particularly care for where this book left Amara either, but it made sense that she would resort back to old patterns when completely cornered. She had a tough choice to make between a life of instability with love or a life where she had a modicum of control over her circumstances. I don’t begrudge her the choice she made because I’m sure she thought it was the only way to keep everyone she cared about safe, but I was a bit annoyed by how she went about it.
All in all, this book was a brutal portrayal of life in Roman times for the lowest classes. If you enjoy historical fiction, I cannot recommend this series enough. I cannot wait to see how Amara’s story ends. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.