Elizabeth Ashton is trying to start a new life. Without knowing how she's going to do it, she heads to the forests of Oregon that her father spoke of constantly before dying when Elizabeth was 18. During a rainy night, near her destination, her car breaks down and she reasons her way into walking the rest of the way. Unfortunately her plans are derailed by magic in the forest taking her to the small hamlet of Hemlock Veils. The tiny town has been terrorized by a beast in the woods for decades and no one goes into the forest at night because of it. Elizabeth, however, does not fear the beast.
I can't remember exactly who recommended this book to me, but I am grateful that they did. I'm not generally one for love stories, but I've had some good luck with fairytale retellings. This retelling of Beauty and the Beast does not disappoint. If anything, I find it's better than the original tale. Instead of being held prisoner, Elizabeth is almost forced out of town, but continues to fight. Elizabeth does not back down from a challenge. In the few times she is under attack, she holds strong and never gives up. That is the kind of heroine I want to read about.
The structure of the story is pretty straightforward. There are the occasional flashback characters to show how Elizabeth got to where she is and how the Beast became cursed. Everything else, however, follows a clear path that is easy to follow. It is a little bit predictable, but, like all good books, the cast of characters is engaging and the dialogue is intelligent and enjoyable.
One of the other things I greatly enjoy about this book is how seamlessly magic and the real world combine. Though Elizabeth has doubts about the magic from her father's stories, one encounter with the Beast is enough to convince her. Combined with her intuitions about the forest leading her to various locations, and the acceptance of the townspeople, magic is accepted as something real.
So if you're looking for an entertaining love story with a strong female lead and strong male lead, mixed with magic and intelligent discourse, I recommend Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport.