The House with the Golden Door (Volume 2) (Wolf Den Trilogy)

Written by Elodie Harper
Review by Erin Page

Ancient Pompeii comes to life in the second installment in Elodie Harper’s Wolf Den trilogy. The bustling Roman Empire city is the vibrant home of Amara, a former enslaved woman for whom the figures of her traumatic past are not so far away as she might like them to be. Though she lives as a courtesan within the patronage of a wealthy and powerful man, Amara struggles to find happiness. She longs for sovereignty over herself, and to abandon forever the sex work that she was trafficked into as a young woman. Perhaps even more than that, she hopes to rescue her friends from the lower social classes, and it is this desire that drives her to constantly seek out ways to make more money. Her attempts at business—whether collecting interest on risky loans, or arranging musical performances for the Pompeiian upper classes—consume her days, while her volatile patron and other lovers populate her nights.

The novel follows a circuitous path, winding down the ancient streets of Pompeii in pursuit of its heroine. Amara’s perspective is insightful and ambitious enough to hold the reader’s attention through her many small triumphs and tragedies. The portrayal of Amara’s sex work is always in service to the story, with a believable mix of feminist and misogynist character turns. As a sequel to the first book, it portrays a well-rounded and diverse cast, adding lively new blood to the well-known classical age with Harper’s clear prose and modern dialogue.