book review, historical fiction

Review: The House With The Golden Door by Elodie Harper

The House With The Golden Door by Elodie Harper, the sequel to The Wolf Den, follows Amara after she has gained her freedom yet is still held under the control of her wealthy patron. Elodie Harper knocked it out of the park again with the sequel, and I am so invested and ready to read the third and final book in this trilogy!

Amara at first enjoys some measure of freedom in running “her” household, planting an herb garden to remind her of her childhood, continuing her loan business, and moving in influential circles to gain strategic, social alliances. When her former pimp, Felix, forces her hand, Amara must buy Victoria and Britannica outright–once again putting her in his debt.

The constant facing of past trauma when returning to the Wolf Den to deliver monthly payments to Felix keeps Amara’s emotional state on a knife’s edge. However, solace comes in an unexpected lover; an unlikely romance that flourishes with one of her patron’s slaves. Obviously they must keep their relationship secret, as any slip up could be a matter of life and death.

Harper continues to expertly craft complex, nuanced female characters–those we cheer for and those we aren’t quite sure if we like or trust. Amara’s relationship with her lover is complicated and precarious within the societal context of the power structures of the day. The personal sacrifices they must both make, sometimes at the cusp of or over the line of their own dignity and personal boundaries, is inevitable. Bodily autonomy is a continuous theme throughout this book, as well as in the first. Amara’s lover has no power over his own body as a slave, and although Amara is considered a freedwoman, she too does not have full power over her own body.

The end of The House With The Golden Door had my chest in tight knots. The harsh reality for Amara and her lover was heartbreaking. The book ends in 76 ad, and the Vesuvius eruption happens in 79 ad, so I anticipate a time jump in book three. I am so curious to learn the fates of each character when disaster strikes.

As a random aside, book 1 always brought to mind Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Cities in Dust” (because of course,) but for some reason SatBs song “Scarecrow” seemed to be the theme of book 2. (PS does anyone else do that–have an accidental song they associate with a book because they happen to be listening to it a lot during reading?)