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The Devil and Mrs. Davenport

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Member Reviews

A thoughtful and somewhat frightening look at being a housewife in 1955 in a small community. Loretta's got issues to be sure, but she's not possessed. Her husband Pete has all the power- or so he thinks. It's a non-traditional Gothic and a very good read.

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Mid 1950's and Loretta Davenport is a wife to Peter, a professor at a biblical college and Mother to Lucas and Charlotte. She has her own ambitions but her husband prefers her to be the little wife at home, seen but not heard. After a bout of illness, Loretta starts to experience periods of extrasensory perception and starts to see Dr Hanson for further treatment. At the same time a young girl is killed and Loretta has visions of her last moments on earth. Pete dismisses her feelings and says the devil is at work leading to disastrous consequences.
Of course, we as the reader can see that the devil is not possessing Loretta, the devil is much closer to home in the way she, and probably many women during that period of history, is treated. Domestic abuse, coercive control and misogyny is rife throughout the book. But Loretta holds strong to her beliefs and despite everything on the whole remains positive.
Paulette has done a great job in the development of the characters, Loretta rises above the put downs and becomes stronger as the novel goes on.
I found the novel an enthralling read, I liked the psychic and paranormal aspects. I could imagine this being made into a film or TV series.

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This is not a fast paced book. But when it did pickup, it made the buildup more than worthwhile.
Married young to Pete, a controlling husband, Loretta is afflicted with seeing tragic happenings and is conflicted if she should say or do anything about the messages she is receiving.
The author writes with descriptively realism of an ego laden controlling husband. Of the loneliness of an oppressed wife. Of religious fanaticism and of the horrors in the 1950’s of the abusive treatment of those considered mentally ill.
Thank you, Netgalley and Lake Union Press for an early copy of this excellent book. Thanks also to the Author, Paulette Kennedy, for writing a poignant warning regarding what may be triggers for some. These comments and review are my opinion.

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ARC review, publishing date 3/5/24.

3.5 stars! This novel started off really strong, the first few chapters quickly hooked me with a 1950's housewife who has psychic visions. Loretta Davenport is married to Pete, a controlling, abusive, Pentecostal minister. The book oscillates between Loretta trying to understand and develop her psychic abilities, and being a domestic drama/thriller.

I enjoyed my time with this story, however I do feel that there are a few elements that, had they been fleshed out further, would have pulled me in more. In my opinion, Pete's extreme religious background was underutilized in the narrative- when I got the gist of where this story was going early on, I was excited to see how his fanaticism would play in to Loretta's personal journey, but (potential spoiler alert?) it really didn't. The ending of this one also felt rushed, with the "final showdown" lasting literally 2 pages.

All that said, I really did like this! The tone of the writing clearly reflected the setting time period and I appreciated the nods made to the reality of being a wife in the 1950's. Would recommend!

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Oh my heavens, this book! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this one, but it was excellent. I felt every single emotion evoked in this story. Let’s just say I absolutely despised Pete, he infuriated me.
The story is set in the 1950’s and boy oh boy, I’m so glad I wasn’t a wife and mother during those years. The story focuses around Loretta, a stay at home mother and wife in her late 20’s. This is truly a historical gothic tale, with a little bit of paranormal and a whole lot of rage for the way Loretta is treated by Pete and the men who think she’s “crazy”, why do they think she’s crazy? Because Loretta can see things, and talk to people who have passed on. She also has a sort of ESP, where she can sense when something bad may happen.
A teenage girl is found dead, and Loretta helps figure out what happened to her, and then previous girls who have gone missing, using her “psychic” abilities. Pete her highly religious, abusive husband thinks she has crossed the line into something taboo, forbidding her to seek the answers to why this is happening to her. I will say it again, I despise Pete. I’m sure you will too.
This book tore at my heart strings for Loretta whose husband dictated her every move, and those children who loved their mother so much, and saw the mistreatment first hand from their father. What a book! I have already added Paulette Kennedy’s previous books to my TBR pile, she is one fine storyteller.
Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read this incredible ARC.

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I really enjoyed this book, the premise of the story felt very original and not like a lot of books being published. The haunting atmospheric environment felt so real and I was really looking over my shoulder. I would highly recommend it if you enjoy a good gothic story

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This was an odd one. Moved slowly. I found myself bored at times. Definitely atmospheric.
Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley, and the author for the opportunity. All opinions are my own.

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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½
Genre: Historical Fiction + Horror + Mystery Thriller

The story takes place in 1955 in Missouri. A young housewife and mother named Loretta Davenport becomes ill with a fever that not only causes her to experience chills and aches, but also causes her to have unsettling hallucinations and hear voices from beyond. These voices are those of restless spirits, desperately pleading with Loretta to assist them in solving the murders that have not yet been solved. But her husband thinks all this is the work of the devil!

One of the things that you need to do is figure out who among the characters will be trustworthy. The author has done such an excellent job of developing the characters that I found myself questioning each and every one of them, including the main character.

The story was quite atmospheric. I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere of the 1950s. The story touches on many sensitive subjects, like motherhood, domestic abuse, and unsolved crimes. It also has themes of the supernatural and how women were treated and looked at in the 1950s.

I found Paulette Kennedy's writing style to be enjoyable. Not only was the story captivating, but it was also entertaining. The combination of historical fiction and horror, along with the addition of a mystery element, has worked very well for the book. I feel this book would make such a great movie if it got adapted.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for my review.

Name: The Devil and Mrs. Davenport

Author: Paulette Kennedy

Rating: 2/5

Unfortunately, this book was another book I did not enjoy. I was hoping that given the plot description and the enticing cover, I would like this book. However, I really did not. Quite frankly the plot ended up being too dark for my taste. There is a chance if I reread it, I will like it, but I am not entirely sure.

With that being said, I may consider reading another book by Kennedy. I also don't want to turn anyone away from reading this book. Just because I didn't like it, it doesn't mean someone else won't like it either.

My blog is



Thank you!

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Loretta Davenport, mother of ten-year-old Lucas and five-year-old Charlotte, and wife of Peter, a Bible History professor at Bethel College, falls ill with fever and begins to hear the voices of the dead for the first time.
In an attempt to understand her new psychic abilities, Loretta meets Dr Curtis Hansen who encourages her to hone her abilities. Loretta wants to use her abilities to bless others, but Peter, who isn’t the paragon of virtue he pretends to be, says they are from the Devil. He suspects that Loretta is having an affair with Dr Hansen. Worse, he fears losing control over her.
As Loretta, influenced and inspired by Dr Hansen, slowly discovers her desire for independence, Peter is driven by the need to curtail and control her.
Will Loretta ever be free of his influence? Or will she pay for ‘playing’ with the devil?

The story is set in September 1955. The story is written in the 3rd person past tense limited PoV of Loretta. But the flashbacks are in the present tense. The book begins with a content warning for references to physical, emotional, sexual and religious abuse; fatphobia; murder; self-harm; alcohol addiction; pregnancy and abortion.

Loretta’s critical self-talk tells us what a prig Peter is. How he won’t let her be herself, how he discourages her at every step, makes her feel guilty of being neglectful of the family even when she is sick. And all along, there is the threat of violence, overt and covert.
She has to buy his love with an “artfully concocted meal or with her body.”

The more we read about Peter, the less we like him. He isn’t an outright villain, but he is the kind of man who would not permit a woman to have her own interests. She must renew herself in the image he chooses for her, lest he do it for her.

Alcoholism is not Peter’s only addiction. Religion is too. There is a steady escalation in his bad behaviour over the course of the book.

The period setting is beautifully brought out. The author has used vocabulary from the era to create the world. Words like coffret and cabochon root us in the setting. The names of the characters were perfectly selected. Loretta, Ida, Barbara, Nancy, Curtis, Gregory, they fit right into the era.

Other details help us to understand the period. Rock and roll was forbidden in conservative circles, and Elvis was an emerging voice. The technology available then, while in its nascent stages, wasn’t freely available to everyone. Entire families shared a single phone line.

Additionally, as per the beliefs of the time, women were the property of their husbands. They could not work or open a bank account without the permission of their husbands or that of a male family member.

I could relate to Loretta. Our hearts go out to her for the abuse she suffers and to the women of the time for the control wielded by men and by the system over women.

I wasn’t satisfied with how the book ended. It would have been better if it had ended in the present. The Epilogue 18 years later served no purpose other than to bring in another gay relationship, a running thread in the author’s writing that I saw in her previous book, Parting the Veil. The only problem is that, compared to the relationship of Vera and Barbara, this other relationship seemed rather tokenish.

The devil of the title assails Loretta in many forms. It is the devil of alcoholism, infidelity, physical and mental abuse, the lack of women’s rights and freedoms, and even institutional religion. Since this book is set in the 1950s in the Deep South, the author also reminds us of the devil of slavery and segregation which oppressed the black community.

In the shape of Loretta’s neighbour Phyllis Colton, we come to know of the bigoted views that the people of the time held.

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At its core the Devil & Mrs Davenport is an intimate examination of the historical mistreatment of women’s mental health and the quiet terror that is coercive control.

We are introduced to Loretta, a housewife who discovers she has psychic abilities. Loretta is trapped in an abusive marriage with Pete. Things seem calm on the surface but things are of course not what they seem. When Loretta begins to find some independence from her husband she is faced with Pete taking more desperate measures in an attempt to keep his wife under his control.

I always appreciate the research and effort Paulette goes to in preparation to write her books. It shows in the believability of her characters and their stories. I loved the vintage vibes of this one and it’s clear to see Paulette’s love for Shirley Jackson’s work shining through. The story has a quiet horror feel to it, with an underlying unsettling tone throughout.

A wonderful blend of historical fiction, supernatural horror, thriller and mystery all in one.

I will continue to read everything Paulette writes! She never lets me down!

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, the author and NetGalley for my gifted ARC!

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Thank you to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing, and Paulette Kennedy for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You can't help but fall in love with Loretta and her story. It's the 1950s in rural Missouri - Pete and Loretta (Mr. and Mrs. Davenport) are the picture-perfect couple. Pete is a professor at the local bible college, Loretta is a homemaker, and they have two children.

But behind closed doors, Pete and Loretta's marriage is another story, one of perpetual unhappiness, especially after a local girl is found murdered. Loretta begins to receive messages from the next dimension, but Pete paints a picture of lunacy. With the help of a local parapsychological doctor, Dr. Curt Hansen, Loretta can channel these messages, which is a blessing. Pete sees this as the devil's work...

After reading "The Devil and Mrs. Davenport", I can say that the 1950s is another decade I want to read more about. This book reminded me of "The Lobotomist's Wife" and while the 50s were on the cusp of women entering the workforce and making a life for themselves, that decade is an eerie part of our nation's history. Women couldn't open bank accounts without permission from their husband or a male relative, divorce wasn't an option without substantial proof of adultery, not to mention the rise of institutions and unjust medical experiments. Paulette's writing transported me to this time.

Loretta's character was fascinating - inspired by Shirley Jackson - this talented and fearless woman, who is trapped literally and figuratively. I loved learning more about Loretta and her relationships with other women and men in the story, and how she sought out people to help her, despite her husband's wishes.

I don't want to give anything away, but I really enjoyed this story and the parapsychology element. Especially the mention of Rhine cards - I have read a few books that referenced Rhine cards, which was another fascinating experiment in the 1900s.

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An incredible and heartbreaking exploration about faith, forgiveness, family and what it means to live your truth.

The Devil and Mrs. Davenport is a fascinating story about Loretta Davenport, a wife and mother living in 1950’s America. Loretta shares two children with her husband, Pete, a god fearing man who expects his family to live by his rigid religious rules. When a local girl from their small town goes missing, Loretta learns she has the ability to speak to those that have passed on, including the missing girl. As Loretta works to solve the mystery, Pete does everything he can to save his wife from the devil.

I could not put this book down! The exploration of faith and belief was incredibly interesting, and horrifying at times. Seeing what those things can make a person do will never cease to amaze or fascinate me. I also really enjoyed the exploration of the metaphysical and seeing some of the history of parapsychology and learning more about that. Watching Loretta find her voice and her place was so satisfying, and she is a character I will remember for a long time to come. The mystery aspect was woven in seamlessly, and added the perfect amount of tension and feeling of mounting unease. On top of that, the time in which this novel takes place adds its one horrific elements. The world was not an easy place for women then, and when you add the religious fervour to that, it was downright terrifying. This book asks the question - who is the devil? This book is a must read, and such an important one as it makes us really take a look at misogyny, patriarchy, religion, abuse and ask ourselves how much things have truly changed.

I wholeheartedly recommend this novel! Just make sure to check out the trigger warnings beforehand.

Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Midcentury gothic in the vein of Shirley Jackson. Perfect for readers looking for a healthy dose of female rage in their stories

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"The bestselling author of The Witch of Tin Mountain and Parting the Veil mines the subtle horrors of 1950s America in a gripping novel about a woman under pressure - from the living and the dead.

The first day of autumn brought the fever, and with the fever came the voices.

Missouri, 1955. Loretta Davenport has led an isolated life as a young mother and a wife to Pete, an ambitious assistant professor at a Bible college. They're the picture of domestic tranquility - until a local girl is murdered and Loretta begins receiving messages from beyond. Pete dismisses them as delusions of a fevered female imagination. Loretta knows they're real - and frightening.

Defying Pete's demands, Loretta finds an encouraging supporter in parapsychologist Dr. Curtis Hansen. He sees a woman with a rare gift, more blessing than curse. With Dr. Hansen's help, Loretta's life opens up to an empowering new purpose. But for Pete, the God-fearing image he's worked so hard to cultivate is under threat. No longer in control of his dutiful wife, he sees the Devil at work.

As Loretta's powers grow stronger and the pleading spirits beckon, Pete is determined to deliver his wife from evil. To solve the mysteries of the dead, Loretta must first save herself."

Parapsychologists are my catnip.

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Gripping, emotional, and impossible to put down, The Devil and Mrs. Davenport is a must-read story of good versus evil with a paranormal edge.

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Paulette Kennedy’s third novel, The Devil and Mrs. Davenport, is a homage to both Shirley Jackson and the American South in the 1950s. Loretta Davenport is a mother and wife to a professor at a Bible college. When she begins to hear voices after a girl is murdered, Loretta’s mid-century domestic lifestyle is upended, exposing her to the casual misogyny that has isolated her and made her a target of her husband’s religious fervor. The only person who can help her claim her new gifts and reveal the girl’s murderer is a parapsychologist, but in 1955 this is harder for a woman to accomplish, leaving Loretta with a choice: take control of her life or accept her isolation. A novel with a distinct vintage vibe, Shirley Jackson would have no doubt loved Paulette Kennedy. Gothic and supernatural fans will be drawn in by this feminist narrative.

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The Devil and Mrs. Davenport is a short, captivating read stretching decades from 50s to 70s, my personal favourite time of America with all the jazz and rock n roll and culture yk. anyways. coming back to the book, it mixes paranormal with science which is so cool imo. it always fun when you get to know about something paranormal and there are scientific facts backing it up which helped the execution of paranormal so well. All the characters were really likable except the ones that weren't but all of them had the depth that made them seem like normal people with real issue. Women supporting women will never not be my favourite part of the entire book. Men haven't always been nice and they still aren't. ofcourse not all but most. So females looking out for each other will always be the sweetest thing ever. That being said it kinda reminded me how the life of white American women in the 50s is still a present reality for SO MANY south asian women, thats really sad.
I'm just happy that the FMC got her happy ending. My girl deserved it more than anyone in the entire story and so did the ghost girls.

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Loretta Davenport appears to be the perfect 1950s housewife, with two loving children and a doting husband who is an assistant professor at the local Bible college. After a bad bout of the flu, Loretta begins having unsettling visions - she believes they are sent by God, yet her husband believes they are the work of the devil. Loretta tries to understand and control these visions with the help of acclaimed parapsychologist Dr Curtis Hansen, but as her world literally and figuratively crumbles around her, and her visions become more intense, she will discover that sometimes evil is closer to home than you think.

A few of my favourite horror podcasts had flagged this as an upcoming release they were really excited about, so when I saw it on NetGalley, it was an immediate request. This book started off so promisingly - it has an excellent first line - but after the first few chapters, it quickly descended into your regular run of the mill predictable suburban thriller, with a sappy romance subplot to boot (if this is your wheelhouse then you might love it!). At times I felt like I was watching an episode of bad 90s supernatural TV like The Ghost Whisperer or Charmed and almost DNF.

Even if it fits the parameter for Gothic fiction, I never got that sense of unease and terror that I have from other Gothic novels - the author cites Shirley Jackson as a huge inspiration, but this had none of the subtlety and brilliance of Shirley Jackson.

Although I felt that the book evoked a sense of voice, place and time well (if a little stereotypically), I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was reading about a mid-century housewife’s experience written through a modern lens, and was therefore a bit inauthentic. The book covers a lot of sensitive subject matter, including the mental and physical load of women and mothers; post-natal depression; religious abuse; misogyny; domestic violence; alcoholism and the taboo of being LGBTQI+ in the 1950s, however I think it tried to cover too much ground, and felt as though some of those topics were inserted just to try to redress the issue because we know now better. Another gripe I had was that the falling apart of the house didn’t add anything to the story and seemed to just be there for the easy metaphorical comparison to the protagonist’s life falling apart.

I have read a lot of excellent reviews of this book, yet I found it cheesy and predictable - a total summer read. I was under the impression that it was going to lean more towards the literary Gothic, and perhaps if my expectations were not so high, I wouldn’t have been so let down, but I can’t imagine I would have liked it any more than I did.

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion

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Paulette Kennedy has a talent for writing characters who are timeless. Loretta, a 1950's era housewife, is one of those characters. Married at 16 to a dominant, ambitious assistant professor at a nearby college. Their life is, from the outside, the picture of domestic bliss. Two beautiful children, a nice home.

In the fall of 1955, Loretta is struck with an intense fever. While she is bedridden, she starts to hear a voice, from beyond. At the same time, a local girl is missing. Loretta takes the signals and messages from beyond and relays them to the police, who then find the missing girl. Loretta soon meets Dr Curtis Hanson, a parapsychologist, who is interested in studying and testing Loretta's gifts.

At the same time, Loretta's home life is unraveling. Her husband starts drinking (again) and coming home later and later. He starts to control where she goes, and who she speaks to, and soon, he wants to control her every movement.

What happens to Loretta is not an uncommon story. Not the 'voice from beyond' part, but the domineering husband part. One could say it was just the 'time', some of these ideals are still apparent in society today.

Paulette Kennedy has written another fantastic book about powerful women who do not know their strength until it's tested.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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