STARRED REVIEW
February 2015

A fairy tale gets an upscale retelling

By Katherine Coville
Review by
When young Ursula Brown reaches the estate of the Vaughns (who are also recognizable as the Three Bears) to be a governess for their son, Teddy, her story becomes less a simple fairy-tale retelling and more of a mash-up of classic literary tropes.
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When young Ursula Brown reaches the estate of the Vaughns (who are also recognizable as the Three Bears) to be a governess for their son, Teddy, her story becomes less a simple fairy-tale retelling and more of a mash-up of classic literary tropes.

Set in the Enchanted Forest just outside of Bremen Town, this Regency romance recalls the manners and traditions of a Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë novel. And like the heroines from these popular writers, plain but passionate Ursula finds herself in an impossible love triangle.

There’s more at work than romance, however. Not all of the town’s humans think the talking bears are charming, and many start to consider their species to be superior and voice their discrimination openly. The unexpected arrival of a blonde, petty-thief girl at the Vaughns’ manor only complicates the heated debate.

Peppered with Mother Hubbard, Mrs. Van Winkle (whose husband disappeared and hasn’t been seen in years) and other nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale characters, the story turns suspenseful with the introduction of a villainous individual straight out of traditional literature. Regional dialects and humorous takes on the human-animal relationship add even more amusement. This deceptively simple story will give readers paws—or rather, pause—to appreciate the clever construct and wordplay.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Cottage in the Woods

The Cottage in the Woods

By Katherine Coville
Knopf
ISBN 9780385755733

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