'Return to Harlech' is a slow burn worth the wait
Sometimes a character is such a pile of puke you just want something bad to happen to them.
Steve Savage, one of the two main characters in Ruth Torjussen’s “Return to Harlech: At atmospheric revenge Welsh horror” is one of those characters. I’m not a violent man (I’m really too pretty to let someone punch me in the face) but I really wanted to pull Steve from the pages and smack him.
Tess, Steve’s wife, is desperate for a baby – obsessively so. So, even though it seems like the pair have a terrible marriage – Steve is at least emotionally abusive and cheats – she plans a romantic weekend to Harlech, a picturesque seaside community that Steve spent a fondly-remembered part of his childhood.
Tess is also a damaged character, and that comes through with her obsession and her need to stay with Steve at any cost because she needs him to be the father of her unborn child and he convinces her she can’t live without them.
The story is a slow burn – things are revealed kind of like peeling an onion. Each page you get more and more into what is really happening. As the story is revealed, you find out more and more about Steve’s history and what he has forgotten or blocked out.
At the same time, Tess is having dreams of a young girl and begins forming a bond with a Harlech native who was very interested in Steve’s return. In fact, he’s just one person who is interested in Steve’s return, even though Steve has no idea who they were.
As the story progresses, the pieces fall into place and the terrible human being Steve is – a misogynistic jerk who believes his good looks and being a man make him above women – is revealed. You find out the memories Steve blocked and you begin hoping for the worst for him just as the characters do, too.
Torjussen does a great job of making you care what happens to both characters. You want things to go well for Tess. Her life has been, and remains throughout the story, horrible. She deserves a win. And you want something bad to happen to Steve because he deserves it.
I won’t say if Steve gets his just desserts, but it’s definitely worth the read to find out. The slow burn is worth it.
Return to Harlech : An atmospheric revenge Welsh horror
Independently Published (2021)