Horror Novella Review: The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner

I finished this book yesterday, wrote a review and posted it to my blog. Who the heck am I?!

The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner

Released October 2021

Dark Fiction  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Bookshop

The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner is a sawmill gothic that begins with June Vogel’s return to Storm Break, her family’s estate. Things in the great house aren’t what they used to be. Doors slam in the night. Faucets turn on, untouched. Something is always watching, whatever June does. And when her brother returns with his new bride, deceit and betrayal threaten to destroy everything she loves.

My 2 Cents For Free!

This review is my personal reading experience. Yours may differ. Don't be blaming me if it does!

The Secret Skin is a quick gothic read. It has all the spooky things you’d expect in a gothic and a few surprises too!

June returns to the family estate, a looming mansion on the coast, to care for her 9-year-old niece while her brother takes a long honeymoon with his new bride. The house appears to welcome her but the staff is cold and haughty as ever. And the kid? Well, Abigail isn’t too thrilled about any of it. “I have promised to hate you.” Haha, this kid is such a little shit. I loved her.

Anyhow, before long doors start slamming, Abigail exhibits some strange supernatural powers and June feels eyeballs following her everywhere. It’s great fun and very spooky. Abigail and June develop a sweet relationship and spend their days out of the house as much as they can for obvious reasons. When the brother Frederick and his brand-new bride Lillian return early, things start to go awry. June and Lillian become fast friends and maybe a little more (uh oh), the past haunts them all, and when you can hear a house breathe you might want to start running!

There is much going on here, almost too much for its 102-page count. While I enjoyed it for its brevity because some books are simply too long and drone on forever (yeah, yeah, you know it’s true), I think I could’ve read another 200+ pages of this story and been happy about it. It’s one of those books I’d like to fall into and sit for a while. With that said, it doesn’t feel incomplete, and it doesn’t leave you hanging. I’m just being greedy.

The writing is beautiful and eerie, the secrets are dark, the characters are lovely, and I think you should all give it a read if you like gothic stories.


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About Author Wendy N. Wagner

Wendy N. Wagner grew up in a town so tiny it didn’t even have a post office. With no television reception, she became a rabid reader, waiting impatiently for the bookmobile’s fortnightly visit to her tiny hometown. Today, her family struggles to find room for her expanding book collection in their Portland, Oregon, home. She buys books about history, weird animals, martial arts, gardening, and zombies.

Ms. Wagner’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, The Lovecraft eZine, and the anthologies Heiresses of Russ 2013, Armored, and The Way of the Wizard. Her first novel, Skinwalkers, a Pathfinder Tales adventure, is forthcoming 2014 from Paizo Press. She is the Managing/Associate Editor of both Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine.

Ms. Wagner is a regular blogger on the Inkpunks publishing blog and a twitter junkie (@wnwagner). You can contact her at wendy(at)winniewoohoo.com.


  1. 100 pages is not very long! And this story does sound like it's got some eerie fun in it. :)

    1. I felt incredibly accomplished finishing a book in a sitting or two, lol.

  2. Yeah I'm outta there. This sounds scary fun though!

  3. Good review! I think I'd enjoy The Secret Skin.

  4. That does sound good. 100 pages if done right is a good, quick read that I can handle when I don't have a lot of time. Congrats for finishing a book.

    1. This is why I am fond of novellas now. I still read longer books but sometimes they feel entirely too long!

  5. Adding to my TBR immediately! The colors on the cover are beautiful!!


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