Blog tour (Book review): Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport + International giveaway

A magical, mystical and atmospheric retelling of Beauty in the Beast; the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport (published by Swoon Romance)

About the book:

When Elizabeth Ashton escapes her damaging city life and finds herself in the remote town of Hemlock Veils, Oregon, she is smitten by its quaint mystery; but the surrounding forest holds an enchantment she didn’t think existed, and worse, a most terrifying monster.

The town claims it vicious and evil, but Elizabeth suspects something is amiss.

Even with its enormous, hairy frame, gruesome claws, and knifelike teeth, the monster’s eyes speak to her: wolf-like and ringed with gold, yet holding an awareness that can only be human.

That’s when Elizabeth knows she is the only one who can see the struggling soul trapped inside, the soul to which she is moved.

Secretly, Elizabeth befriends the beast at night, discovering there’s more to his story and that the rising of the sun transforms him into a human more complex than his beastly self.

Elizabeth eventually learns that his curse is unlike any other and that a single murderous act is all that stands between him and his freedom.

Though love is not enough to break his curse, it may be the only means by which the unimaginable can be done: sacrifice a beauty for the beast.

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My review

What a fabulous and unexpected surprise this book turned out to be.

As someone who adores fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the Hemlock Veils blog tour.  Besides, with books that describe the settings as being remote, quaint and enchanting, how could I not want to read this book?

I admit that I was a little nervous going into this book, as Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite stories, but luckily it soon proved that, despite some niggling issues, Hemlock Veils is a pretty wonderful adaptation of the much beloved classic.

Not only that, but Jennie Davenport effortlessly takes the bones of the story and moulds it into her own, providing the reader with a wholly unique experience that will linger with bibliophiles for days.  

Elizabeth is a pretty remarkable character.

Escaping from the hell that her life had become following the events that forced her to steal money from her employer, for the sake of her drug addicted brother, and which subsequently led to him being shot in front of her, Elizabeth finds herself stranded in the remote town of Hemlock Veils.

Luckily, one of the residents in the forest arrives to assist her with her car troubles, and grudgingly invites her to stay a night or two in town while she waits for her vehicle to be repaired. It’s while she’s walking with her would-be saviour, that they encounter the beast that has been terrorising the locals for years.

Of course, what Elizabeth encounters after a few brief, heart-stopping moments, is a beast that seems more human than monster.

Now it’s at this point that I did find the fact that she lost her fear of him so quickly to be rather unbelievable, but given the magic realism elements in the story, I do think that there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that this book requires.

Elizabeth eventually finds herself charmed by the quirky and hidden little town and its locals, and decides to settle down in order to start over.  It’s here where she encounters Henry Clayton, the cold and hardened businessman who owns the place.

Henry, for his part, refuses to make Elizabeth welcome and lets her know in no uncertain terms that she should leave. The two butt heads, argue and exchange plenty of heated words over the next few weeks, even during the moments when she tries to befriend him.

I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. It’s easy to guess why Henry wants to get rid of Elizabeth; and while Elizabeth is quick to connect the dots, the build up to their romance is a slow burn, one that takes a good time to develop.  

Henry, for his part, tries very hard to push Elizabeth away, preferring to stick to his beastly form when he goes on his nightly walks in the forest with Beth (by this time she’s established a friendship with the beast).

As a whole, Jennie’s characters are interesting, very well drawn and have flaws that add an even more interesting dynamic to it. The local characters are pretty interesting in their own right and enhance the feeling of community within the small town.

What stands out strongly is the fact that a lot of social commentary is also interwoven into the novel; including examples of rape culture and the highlighting of the dangers of mob mentality.

There’s also interesting mythology that forms part of this retelling, and it’s this that adds that extra unique make element to it. I won’t spoil it for you, but the folk lore that features in here only serves to make the ending so unconventional in comparison to the story that most of us are familiar with.

Overall, while I did find myself struggling to believe the way some things played out, I can truly say that this is a retelling that is definitely worth the read.  

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About the Author

Though Jennie Davenport was raised throughout the Midwest, she now lives in the little desert mining town of Bagdad, Arizona, where six guys beg for her constant attention: a husband, three young, blond sons, a German shepherd with a name much mightier than his disposition (Zeus), and a black cat named Mouse.

When she isn’t trying to run her home with as little casualties as possible, Jennie loves snuggling with her family, laughing with her friends, delving into brilliant entertainment of any vein, and playing outside.

Despite the way being a writer is in her blood, and the wheels of her writerly mind are constantly turning, Jennie likes to think that in another life, she would have been a Broadway star. Or an American Idol finalist.

Jennie lives for the fall, and not just because of her adoration for the NFL (Go Broncos!). In her perfect world, she would have the springs, summers, and falls of Colorado, and the winters of Arizona—someplace where the climate and weather would allow her to go on a trail run all year round.

But even though she prefers the pines and mountains, she is a devoted fan of all nature, from sandy beaches to woodsy cabins, and all are her greatest inspiration. She believes nature is one of the best healing remedies, with a magic all its own.

Jennie’s passion for writing is the way she survives, and is as vital to her sanity as oxygen, caffeine, food, and music. Even before she began writing it, well-told, original, and character-driven romance was always her weak spot. Add the paranormal or magical realism element and she may never make it back to reality.

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