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Once upon a time, a family lived up on the wild northern moors. They were clever and attractive, close-knit and polite. And everyone left them strictly alone…
Halloween is a wild, weird night in the lonely moorland towns of the north. It’s dark and cold, and cracks can open up in the fabric of the safest world.
Davey Bell has been trying to live safely. He’s struggled through a rough adolescence and has a decent job, a home of his own. He agrees to a meeting with his ex, even though Burdo got him into so much trouble in the past.
But Burdo has plans, armed robbery amongst them. When Davey recoils from his efforts at blackmail, Burdo swears he’ll track him down. There’s something inhuman about Burdo’s rage, and Davey panics and runs from him. The town is small, the darkness beyond it absolute. Davey has lived there all his life, but he takes a wrong turn on the moorland road and is suddenly lost.
It’s the first night of winter, and set to freeze hard. Not much chance of survival for a man without shelter, a man on the run from his past… Then Davey stumbles into the forest, and his fears of Burdo and the cold dissolve to nothing at the sound of deep, bestial growls.
The moon is full. Ancient moorland legends are coming to life in its silvery radiance. Out of the woodland steps a strange young man, and the snarling beasts fall back. He’s offering sanctuary, but at what price? He’s the most beautiful creature Davey has ever seen. If Davey follows him in fascination through the gateway of Wolf Hall, what secrets will unfold before the dawn?
Holiday-themed short stories are such a guilty pleasure of mine, but a holiday shortie written by Harper Fox, well, that might just be classified as Extreme Indulgence™. For the record, my wolf-shifter track record is tricky, with me liking less than half of the stories I read in the trope, but yeah…Harper Fox, so things turned out a-okay.
All gushing aside, Wolf Hall did have a rocky start. I was confused and felt disconnected from the characters at first. I couldn’t decide how the characters fit in the context of the book. Then I took a deep breath, reread the blurb and things finally settled in…
I liked MC Davey. I could tell from the start he wanted to be a good guy, but that he felt trapped by and lost in his small-town world. Davey clearly made some bad choices in his life, with help from his sometime friend and on/off lover, Burdo.
For me, Burdo was unlikable from the start. He’s written as one of those thug types who you just know is going to cause serious trouble for the fair MC. When Burdo tries to lure Davey (via blackmail) to commit a crime, Davey decides the gig is up. He’s not going to be pressured to do wrong, in fact, piss off and maybe he’ll just rat out Burdo this time.
Except it’s dark and cold and Halloween, and Burdo wants what he wants. Threats and chases and angst, oh my! Plus a warning for Davey from the crazy old bat in town; I could have sliced the tension in this novella with a butter knife, yum. And then, THEN comes MC Lowrie to the rescue.
Who is Lowrie, though? He was beautifully and mysteriously written; I loved every page given to him (and his entire family, for that matter). He clearly had things to hide, and maybe he even felt a little dangerous(!) For those reasons, Lowrie and his family totally made the story for me.
One of the greatest things about Fox’s writing style is that she can make you feel like you’re in possession of all the important details about every character, so that no matter how short the story is, you KNOW these people, and you’re cheering for them to get their happy ending, asap. She draws complex players that deserve whatever’s coming to them, bad or good. And man, does she ever build a beautiful world!
My biggest complaint about Wolf Hall is that I wanted more, about Lowrie, his family and naturally, about Lowrie and Davey together. If you’re a fan of Harper Fox, pick this one up, and have a spooky good time!