Review: Scarlette by Davonna Juroe

Title: Scarlette
Author: Davonna Juroe
Genre(s): Adult Historical Paranormal Fairy Tale Re-telling
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ninety years before the Brothers Grimm penned their version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” an historic, gruesome series of events shocked all of Europe. Starting in 1764, an unidentified wolf-like animal ferociously mauled dozens of peasants in the Gévaudan region of France.

Whispered rumors of unnatural creatures blended with age-old superstition to cause mass hysteria. A werewolf was blamed for the carnage. Alarmed, King Louis XV sent his best huntsmen to rid the province of the beastly scourge, but this legendary massacre had only just begun.

Scarlette, a 19-year-old seamstress who is laboring to make ends meet, lives under this dark threat. Although fearful of the nightmarish monster lurking in the surrounding forest, she remains skeptical of the supernatural gossip.

Until her grandmother is attacked.

Scarlette learns that her grandmother has been infected by the animal’s bite. Desperate to save her, Scarlette begins to uncover the dark secrets of her village and finds there are those who wish to keep their pasts hidden. As time grows short, Scarlette is befriended by a local nobleman and a woodcutter who both share an eerie history with the wolf.

Scarlette must unravel the men’s connection and solve a long-forgotten crime. But as she pieces together the clues, Scarlette finds herself torn between the two men. Both of them desire more than friendship and together hold the key to the cure.

Based on both the traditional Grimm fairy-tale and older known French versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” this dark Young Adult novel is set against the 18th century Beast of Gévaudan attacks and blends fairy-tale with Gothic romance in a modern, accessible prose style. Unique to the genre, the novel revives the fable of the girl-in-the-red-cloak with a new historical angle that blurs the line between folklore and reality.

I’m a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings. The darker, the better. Scarlette doesn’t disappoint, although it wasn’t what I expected.

The story deviates from the fairy tale plot that we all know and love, but it doesn’t disappoint. In this book, the “wolf” is both real and figurative. Scarlette, our protagonist, lives in the mid-1700s France, in a small town that is frightened and shocked by animal attacks on the population. Her mother is terrible to her, her employer is a lecherous old man, and she’s struggling to feed herself and keep a roof over her head. Scarlette’s grandmother is the only light in her life… but poor granny doesn’t last very long.

As the attacks intensify, Scarlette becomes confused and overwrought. She makes friends with a rich nobleman, who isn’t what he seems. Or is he? Good ol’ Marquis de Sade gets a minor role–which is always a great way to solidify a place in my heart.

The woodcutter guild was an interesting aspect that I wish was explored in greater detail. Scarlette’s friendship with a woodcutter who saves her is on shaky ground–especially since the guild kidnapped her previously, adding to her disorientation and confusion. I would have loved to see the story finish on a darker note than it did, but, after all, it is a fairy tale. Happy ever after mandatory?

Scarlette blends paranormal, romance, and historical fiction into an interesting story. I’ve tried to decide if this is Young Adult or Adult, and because of the dark tone and theme, I would consider it Adult. The details of 1700’s France are fascinating. The older I get, the more I appreciate historical fiction, and Ms. Juroe did a great job creating that time period.

If you like fairy tale re-tellings or paranormal historicals, I would suggest this book. A solid four of five stars, and I’m looking forward to more of the author’s books.

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