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The Wolf Den

"An entertaining firecracker blazing with wolfish verve and a woman’s desire to escape the Pompeii brothel she’s enslaved to."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Set in AD 74, Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den tells the enthralling tale of Amara, a prostitute enslaved to Pompeii’s lupanar brothel. Serving a rich feast of historic atmosphere with all the pace of popular drama, fans of spicy historic fiction will be left longing to devour the second course of this trilogy - think TV show Harlots set in ancient Pompeii.

Educated doctor’s daughter Amara once lived free, but the poverty that came in the wake of her father’s death led to enslavement to the Wolf Den brothel, where her cell is adorned with a picture of “a woman being taken from behind” and a terracotta lamp “modelled in the shape of a penis” (the real-life lupanar brothel is famed for its erotic frescos). By day, the she-wolves visit the women’s baths and stalk the streets to draw business to the Den. By night, “the brothel passes like a scene from Hades: the endless procession of drunken men, the smoke, the soot, angry shouting,” until Amara lies in her cell, “unable to sleep, suffocated by rage”.

When fellow she-wolf Victoria says how lucky they are, Amara’s retort is characteristically sharp: “Here we all are…Four penniless slaves sucking off idiots for bread and olives. What a life.” And a life she refuses to settle for when “the desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging deep under her skin, breaking her apart.

Harper’s style is exhilaratingly direct, with images lingering long in the mind’s eye. You smell the oil lamps and temple incense, taste sticky figs, feel physical blows, and the dialogue packs powerful punch too. It’s a vivacious piece of work, and all underpinned by a woman’s longing for freedom.

Joanne Owen

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Reader Reviews

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“I’ve just read a fantastic book about prostitutes in a Pompeii brothel” is not something I ever thought I would find myself telling people but that was before I encountered The Wolf Den. Like a breath of fresh air – it surprised me just how much I could identify with these women and how much I cared for them.

“I’ve just read a fantastic book about prostitutes in a Pompeii brothel” is not something I ever thought I would find myself telling people but that was before I encountered The Wolf Den.

I don’t even consider myself a big fan of historical fiction and I think that’s maybe why I loved this so much. It’s not so much about the history, although the setting is obviously critical to the whole story, it's more about the characters of these female workers. Although they exist in a different place and time, where people were traded as commodities and women were second class citizens, Amara and her friends face similar issues to women today and I think that’s what makes their story so compelling.... Read Full Review

S Harper

Clever, tragic, compelling and totally immersive! A brilliant book about slavery in Roman times that resonates today in light of reports of modern day sexual slavery. Well drawn characters who you will be rooting for long after turning the final page. An absolute triumph for Elodie HARPER who has dealt with a difficult subject with sensitivity and grace.

Such a clever book! The main character Amara is determined to escape her life of slavery in a Pompeiian brothel (caused by the death of her father). The subject of sexual slavery is dealt with sensitively and the other women enslaved with Amara are also fascinating characters. I did not want the novel to end and found that it was hard to accept not knowing the fates of Amara’s friends Victoria, Beronice and Britannica.... Read Full Review

Jennifer Stoddart

A great historical novel dealing with the seedy side of Ancient Pompeii. These 'She-wolves' are not to be underestimated, as a pack they are stronger than their masters could ever imagine.

The Wolf Den follows the daily lives of the sex workers enslaved at the titular whore house. The narrative takes place in Ancient Pompeii and takes its inspiration from graffiti found amongst the ruins of the town. The women find strength and hope in the little acts of kindness that they share and their hopes of betterment. The underbelly of Pompeii's sex trade and money lending is told with a vividness that at times makes for unpleasant reading forcing you into the lives of the unfortunate females (and males).

The main character Amara's desire to elevate herself once more is beautifully arced as she realises her power and how best to utilise her intellect and skills.... Read Full Review

Helen Precious