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March 1, 2024

The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy ~ a Review

by MK French


In 1955 Missouri, Loretta Davenport is a young mother and devoted wife to an ambitious assistant professor at the local Bible college. After a viral illness, Loretta hears the voice of a local girl who was murdered. While her husband Pete feels it's only her imagination, parapsychologist Dr. Hansen believes her and wants to cultivate her power. Pete feels it's the mark of the Devil, and that it's up to him to save her from evil. Loretta wants to help the dead, but first, she must save herself.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy
March 2024; Lake Union Publishing; Lake Union Publishing
audio, ebook, print (351 pages); mystery

Loretta married at sixteen, dropping out of high school and giving up her dreams of journalism when swept off her feet by her husband Peter. Everything she has done since then has been guided by him, including who she can be friends with and how she looks in public. Pete is charming in public, but behind the scenes drinks and frightens Loretta and the children. They're her entire world, but the cracks in her life get more distressing once she sees spirits. Pete forbids her from going, distrusting psychologists and preferring to think she's simply making it all up. But her little rebellion helps her feel better about herself, and it seems to prove that the voice she heard was real when her anonymous tip leads to the body's recovery. She continues to push her limits, much to Pete's displeasure, but he has more than just alcohol and control issues going on.

This is 1950's small town America. It's a time period when husbands controlled wives and children, and women couldn't have bank accounts under their own names without a male family member's permission. The system worked well if he was a good man, but if he's not, then their fate depended on his overall goodwill. This can include gaslighting, physical abuse, or in that time period, even signing wives into asylums to be heavily medicated, given ECT, or even lobotomies. As part of a Pentecostal sect of Christianity, there's also the belief of speaking in tongues and exorcism, which Pete also turns to his advantage. His reputation as a professor in a Bible college and the need to keep up perfect appearances hides a rotten core. This aspect of him is revealed slowly but can be disturbing for some readers, as he puts the blame on Loretta. If not for her growing friendships outside of the oppressive church and her neighborhood, she might never have had potential outlets. 

Overall, this was an enthralling story, with a murder mystery and the flair of Gothic horror as well. In the author's notes, we see the acknowledgment of Shirley Jackson as an influence, and I see it in the text. It's well-written and shows the dark underside hiding beneath the veneer of suburbia.



Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 



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