By Connie Almony
Release Date: February 17, 2014
Cole Harrison, a war veteran, wears his disfigurement like a barrier to those who might love him, shielding them from the ugliness inside. He agrees to try and potentially invest in, a prototype prosthetic with the goal of saving a hopeless man’s dreams. Carly Rose contracts to live with Cole and train him to use his new limbs, only to discover the darkness that wars against the man he could become. At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Only it is not her love that will make him whole.
In an effort to help save her father’s company while bettering the life of amputees, Carly Rose moves into the lavish home of an angry, liquor guzzling war veteran. She understands post traumatic stress disorder, and though her understanding helps, she still finds it quite difficult to help a man who not only appears to not want her there, but who seems to take great pleasure in mocking her when the chance arises. If not for her love for and loyalty to her father, she might leave… except the hints of sorrow she sees in his eyes compel her to stay. But how can she help bent on self-destruction?
As Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales, I clamored to read this modern day telling of the story. I expected to enjoy it, but I must say, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I found myself, on many nights, staying up much later than I should to read just one more chapter, then one more, then one more. Ms. Almony wrote with a depth and authenticity that gripped, flayed, and encouraged my heart—depending on the scene I was reading.
What struck me most was her skill at characterization. She did a masterful job with Cole, the gruff, wounded, yet tender hearted war veteran, revealing his personality through each piece of dialogue and flitting thought. His actions, word choices, and perceptions all pointed to a cohesive and dynamic individual I could easily visualize. Contrasted with the sweet, quiet, yet focused and determined Carly Rose, who was also masterfully crafted and revealed, Cole appeared all the more masculine and unique.
I was equally impressed with how Ms. Almony revealed Cole’s inner struggle as a former soldier who was now so dependent on others for even the most menial of tasks. I felt, it seemed, the entire spectrum of human emotions as through his experiences of being hopeful for increased independence, fearful of his inner demons, terrified of failure, terrified more of allowing hope to blossom only to have it shattered, his deep longing for love yet his distrust of it… Bravo, Ms. Almony! At the Edge of a Dark Forest is a brilliant story of love, hope, and deep emotional healing.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery