Kay Regnery has created a story that pulls you in and holds you tight. This story is not your typical romance. It is edgy, heartbreaking, painful, and beautiful. It is the kind of story that gives you hope that fairy tales can come true, even in the real world. For me, I will never look at Hansel and Gretel the same way again. ~ Alyn, Guilty Pleasures
In this modern retelling of “Hansel and Gretel,” 13-year-old foster children, Holden and Griselda, escape from their abductor after three years of brutal captivity and try to cross the Shenandoah River on foot. Tragically, one of them makes it to safety but the other is left behind.
Ten years later, Griselda’s boyfriend drags her to a fight club grudge match where her world is turned upside down when she watches Holden step into the ring.
Though the connection between them is fierce, bitter regret, simmering rage and a cache of physical and emotional scars lie between them, just as dangerous as the whitewater of the Shenandoah.
Never Let You Go is a story of fear and hope, defeat and survival, and two people – once profoundly broken – who discover that love is the only thing that can make them whole again.
This is a standalone novel inspired by Hansel & Gretel. New Adult Contemporary Romance: Due to profanity, scenes of physical abuse and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18. (Note: children are not sexually abused in this book.)
For June and July 2015, 25% of all gross royalties will be donated to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.
Review copy provided for an honest review
I love it when authors are able to take an old story and breathe new life into it through a different perspective. I especially love it when those stories are fairy tales. That being said, this story is far from a fairy tale, it just lends a nod to one in particular. Remember the story of Hansel and Gretel? You know, the two little kids that get lured into a witch’s trap because they were hungry and her house was made of sweets? That story sparked the inspiration for Holden and Griselda, two foster kids who are lured into their own personal hell after taking a walk to the store to get some food.
Neither Holden nor Griselda had the greatest upbringing. Both were in the foster system, and neither of them had any family left to go to. What they did have was each other. Holden, a freckle faced, stammering, scrapper who had to fight to prove himself, and Griselda, a girl who just never seemed to have things go her way, but who was pretty and she wasn’t mean. For some reason, the pair had a connection they couldn’t explain. They were just always there for each other. Although things weren’t perfect at their foster home, they did have their moments of amusement. This included family outings. On one particular outing, the food that was packed was left in the heat and spoiled before anyone noticed. When Griselda volunteered to walk to the store for more food, Holden volunteered to go with her. Unfortunately, they never made it. Kidnapped, shackled, and fearful of being killed by their captor, the two do everything they can to keep his anger at bay. Unfortunately, it does not always work. According to Caleb Foster, their captor, Holden and Griselda are actually Seth and Ruth, his younger siblings who seem to have an unnatural fondness for one another. Obviously Caleb is not well, and his is devout to his bible to say the least. Confused and scared the pair refuse to play along only to realize that refusal will quickly get them a beating. For years they endure and plan an escape but their friendship grows too as the pair begins to mature and take more notice of one another. This of course complicated the matters since their captor is determined that Ruth was a temptress sent to coax his brother Seth to the fiery pits of Hell.
When the moment finally appears, the pair make their escape, but the task and the Shenandoah prove to be too much for one of them. Forced to make a horrible choice; stay, or be killed, the pair is separated staring at each other from across the river as the gun shots go off.
Years later, we meet Zelda, a nanny in an abusive relationship who refuses to leave because she feels it is all she deserves. She has been with Jonah for a while and despite his harsh words and even harsher treatment, she cherishes the small moments when he is holding her and she can pretend she is back with the love she lost so many years earlier. For years she has been saving her money in hopes of finding Holden but she still has such a long way to go. The more she tries to save, the more things seem to come up. Now Jonah wants to go on a mini vacation with his buddies and she knows it will cost her. Despite not wanting to go, Zelda plays along and in the events of the weekend winds up at a fight club. Surrounding by hay bales and boisterous crowds, Zelda hears something she hasn’t heard in over 10 years. Looking at where the noise is coming from she sees a bloodied face approaching her before the world falls away to darkness.
Seth was itching for a fight. Sitting in his pick up getting himself in the right mindset, he knew this match was going to be tough. This one was a grudge match and he was warned that his opponent was not happy, and probably had a weapon. Did he care? Not really. Once in the ring, he knew he would win, and despite a face that not look liked hamburger, he did. Looking up from his victory (if you can call it that) Seth spies the sight of an angel. It couldn’t be her, she was dead. He saw her grave! Walking closer, she turns around and he looks closer. That face. Shouting a name he has not uttered in years the woman looks on trying to determine who he is. But as pain suddenly erupts over and over, Seth’s world spins upside down then disappears all together.
What a ride! I do love a good bit of suspense and this story definitely has it. Griselda and Holden are the epitome of young love and despite the abusive situation, the two are able to sneak some innocent and tender moments away from their captor. You can genuinely feel their relationship grow and are pulled away from them just as they truly become aware of one another on a more intimate level.
What I truly love is the underdog story. Despite all odds Holden and Gris find each other as adults (no this is not a spoiler) and the connection between them is so strong that I was literally gripping my Kindle waiting for the two of them to finally accept what was right in front of them. Unfortunately things are still not all hearts and flowers. These two have a number of struggles to survive before they can finally be happy. Both of them still have significant others, both have mistakes they are trying to deal with, and on top of it all, they have to get to know one another all over again. Especially Holden. He endured so much and yet in his eyes, he sees it all as a blessing. All of his anger, all of his choices, his entire life was led by the idea that Gris was dead. Now they must both live with the consequences of those actions into to find the life they have always wanted. A life together.
Bravo to Kay Regnery. I was unaware of her work until now but I am a fan. Her characters are so emotional and so vivid that I feel like I am right here with them. My heart ached for Holden and Gris and I found myself cheering them on as read. She pays so much attention to detail. Everything from a tiny tattoo of two very significant letters, to a scar on the chin of a little girl that was all grown up. She even throws in a few twists that I was not expecting in the slightest (things are not always as they same and she is very good at leading readers to assume things until the time is right to reveal the truth). Kay Regnery has created a story that pulls you in and holds you tight. This story is not your typical romance. It is edgy, heartbreaking, painful, and beautiful. It is the kind of story that gives you hope that fairy tales can come true, even in the real world. For me, I will never look at Hansel and Gretel the same way again.