Author: Katy Regnery

Fragments of Ash by Katy Regnery

Fragments of Ash by Katy RegneryFragments of Ash by Katy Regnery
Series: A Modern Fairytale, #7
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on 25th September 2018
Pages: 358
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three-stars

My name is Ashley Ellis…

I was thirteen years old when my mother – retired supermodel, Tig – married Mosier Răumann, who was twice her age and the head of the Răumann crime family.

When I turned eighteen, my mother mysteriously died. Only then did I discover the dark plans my stepfather had in store for me all along; the debauched "work" he expected me to do.

With the help of my godfather, Gus, I have escaped from Mosier's clutches, but his twin sons and henchmen have been tasked with hunting me down. And they will stop at nothing to return my virgin body to their father

…dead or alive.

With a flip in gender-roles occurring here, Katy Regnery takes on the Cinderella story with ‘Fragments of Ash’ and starts off with brutality. But then again, the fairy-tales in their original incarnations were morality stories with barely leashed-undertones of violence, which in some way, are well-captured in what Regnery is trying to write. They offer no happy endings but rather, grim and disturbing outcomes. In this case, the loss of innocence—not only sexually—is what these origin tales do indirectly talk about, and Regnery’s portrayal of Ash’s own loss of innocence certainly fits into this particular framework.

As the downtrodden, unwanted heroine, Ashley battles these circumstances, or at least, tries to find her own self-worth as she tries to escape a life of servitude. Her temporary place of refuge brings her to an older, disgraced ex-law-enforcement man, whose experience, in contrast to her naïveté, is as jarring as their decade-old-plus age-gap.

But if this started out deliciously dark and ominous, the story did take a bit of a downward turn thereafter. I couldn’t quite get Julian’s cold-to-hot stance that felt like the flip of a light switch; one moment he was lamenting about how he never trusted women anymore and in the next he was suddenly all in like an alpha-male protector with Ash that it gave me whiplash.

From that point onwards however, there was nothing more in ‘Fragments of Ash’ that resembled the significant bits of the Cinderella story—no ball, no magical meeting with a prince, no lost glass slipper, no country-wide hunt for the rags-to-riches girl. And I guess I was quite disappointed when those bits didn’t show up, even if a retelling is obviously, one that’s expected to veer off course, off the straight and narrow into new paths forged.

The shades of grey were lacking here in any case—given the archetypal nature of the fairy tale—so villains are evil to the core, and the good, well, stay resolutely good, though there were parts where the stylised stereotypes became unwittingly hilarious more than hair-raising.

In short, ‘Fragments of Ash’ turned out to be middling read: it’s good for a day’s worth of escapism at least, as Regnery’s retellings typically are.

three-stars

After We Break by Katy Regnery

After We Break by Katy RegneryAfter We Break by Katy Regnery
Published by Katy Regnery on January 8th 2014
Pages: 304
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one-star

She was the girl.
The only girl.
The only girl I ever wanted.
The only girl I ever loved.
The only girl I could ever love.
And I killed it.
I destroyed it.
I threw her love away.
For nine years, I've kept the memory of her locked in the deepest corner of my heart...all the while hating myself for what I did to her.
To us.
Now, without warning, she's walked back into my life.
I'm covered in tats.
She's covered in Polo.
I write heavy metal songs.
She writes chick-lit.
My eyes are angry.
Her eyes are sad.
I still long for her with every fiber of my being.
But I have no idea if she feels the same.
I guess it's time to find out.

What kind of masochist would take part in this? Apparently the answer seems to point back to me.

Having been scorched and thoroughly burnt by a book I read recently, I fell back into what appears to be the exact plot and trope rehashed here, which left me beyond incredulous and unimpressed with the compendium of clichés and the laughably predictable behaviour of protagonists who simply acted the way I thought they would.

I’m tempted to sentence the second-chance romance to the death penalty.

Katy Regnery’s ‘After We Break’ is essentially an exercise in grovelling, where a decade ago, a scared-of-true-love male hero runs away from a woman declaring her love. Fast forward this nearly 10 years, the woman moves on with 1 man for a long time and the hero devolves into a tatted, metal-loving songwriting manwhore who has never forgotten his mistake and the first love that he can’t acknowledge.

I don’t think there’s much more to say as I skimmed through cliché after cliché where both characters have apparently never stopped loving each other, where a spineless heroine, despite her reservations, falls back into bed with the hero because he’s hot and can’t resist his newly-formed rough-edged sex appeal. The latter spends most of the time trying to convince her of his love as well as the idea of fate bringing them back together, when all along, never quite satisfactorily addresses the idea he would have been happy going on not searching for her or fighting for what he supposedly always wanted.

Believability, apart from being the core issue, ranks low on my scale here, more so when all I got was immense frustration with a malleable, weak-ish ‘heroine’ (who couldn’t move on from him properly) and an even weaker ‘hero’ (who downplays his numerous flings and then has the nerve to accuse the former of having slept with her boyfriend for years) whom I thought were better apart.

one-star

Smiling Irish by Katy Regnery

Smiling Irish by Katy RegnerySmiling Irish by Katy Regnery
Series: The Summerhaven Trio, #2
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on April 1st 2018
Pages: 281
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two-stars

Tierney Haven and Burr O’Leary come from completely different worlds…

…but there’s a reason they say “opposites attract.”

Bookish Tierney Haven has always preferred places to people, and she especially loves the peace and quiet of Moonstone Manor, an estate museum located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where she is head docent, chief historian and live-in caretaker. The very last thing she expects to find on the doorstep at midnight is bruised and bloodied stranger, Burr O’Leary, in desperate need of her help.

Against her better judgement and at the risk of her brothers’ wrath, Tierney offers Burr sanctuary at Moonstone Manor, and nurses him back to health, surprised to discover that the dashing, enigmatic stranger loves the history and peace of Moonstone as much as she. But Burr has a dark history, and those who hurt him will stop at nothing to eliminate him...placing Tierney in grave danger until he is well enough to find them first.

Katy Regnery’s books have always been odd reads for me. There, I admitted it. Having been introduced to her works via her retelling of fairy tales, I soon cottoned on to the fact that her writing isn’t quite a contemporary one, but one that seems to have a more distinct historical/fantasy style that doesn’t sit too well at times. Call it sensitivity to context maybe, but that has thrown me off a fair bit.

‘Smiling Irish’ is one of those times.

The rather odd first meeting of Tierney and Burr aside, there was something rather anachronistic and ‘traditional’ about parts of this story that felt out of place with the contemporary setting—the vocabulary, Tierney behaving like the stammering, blushing virgin she was, her weird, almost petulant outbursts of ‘sass’ (?) and weeping with the long internal monologues that somehow reinforced this—to the extent that I half expected most of the characters to dress in flowing gowns or rough linen. Not that I have a problem with virginity at all, but I’ve yet to read enough kick-arse types who really make a big, big show out of it. Mostly however, I think virgin heroines – Tierney being the perfect example of this – are too often portrayed as the damsel in distress, shackled either by their sexual inexperience or by some other fears that are somehow inexplicably linked to an intact hymen.

Regnery made a big deal of the Irish heritage here and much of the behaviour of the characters was attributed to ‘Irishness’ supposedly, which made me think that the rest of the population wouldn’t act like this because they weren’t ‘Irish’. The use of Irish (Gaelic) as well, became a point of contention for me when after a while, it felt as though Regnery inserted the language along with its translation needlessly, almost as if to show that research had been done on it and it had to appear in the writing no matter what the circumstance.

The long and short it is, ‘Smiling Irish’ wasn’t a good fit for me for a weird number of reasons, context and style perhaps, playing the biggest parts in my inability to enjoy the story. It isn’t to say that Regnery doesn’t appeal at all—I’m pretty sure this is my own quirk rearing its head here but I’m probably better off sticking to her fairytale retellings.

two-stars

Unloved by Katy Regnery

Unloved by Katy RegneryUnloved by Katy Regnery
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on October 8th 2017
Pages: 325
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three-stars

My name is Cassidy Porter...

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware - every day of my life - that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It's a promise I would have kept...if Brynn Cadogan hadn't stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain...

Unloved.

Katy Regnery is a relatively new author to me, so picking up ‘Unloved’ seemed like a given, since I did like one of her modern-day fairytales quite a bit. The fact that ‘Unloved’ also deals with the disturbing suggestion that violence is hereditary—violence against women in particular stands out here—made this a more intriguing prospect that I couldn’t wait to pick up.

The book started off slow, as both Cass’s and Brynn’s paths converged after an unfortunate act of violence up in the mountains of Maine, though it did turn quite weepy before long. If Cass was determined to keep his distance because of his belief that he had the murderous/violent gene in him, the latter seemed too fragile and prone to numerous crying bouts in contrast (which was what I mostly remembered of her), where her need for Cass seemed more like transference termed as love. High-drama (sometimes overly so, with soap-operatic overtones) with too much self-loathing permeated the pages so much that I had to put the book down a few times; overall though, I felt for Cass and the torment he’d put himself through because of what he’d wrongly believed his whole life.

The twist that came towards the end however, made it a lot harder to swallow the story hook, line and sinker given my own reservations by that point in time. What was then, the whole point of setting up the opposing ideas of nature vs. nurture (very broadly speaking)? Because I wasn’t too sure by the end of it, whether the twist was it meant to give credence to the argument (in an ironic way) or render it completely moot, because I was actually looking forward to the idea that Regnery seemed to be pushing for most of the book, which was that nurture can win over nature.

In short, I’m left somewhat neutral even by the time Cass/Brynn got their HEA along with electricity and other modern amenities, but this probably has more to do with my own expectations than the story itself. It’s probably not quite a story that’ll appeal very broadly, but then again, which book really does?

three-stars

Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Don’t Speak by Katy RegneryDon't Speak by Katy Regnery
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on February 27th 2017
Pages: 318
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four-stars

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

Fairytale adaptations have always enraptured me although the quality of retellings have always been varied. And of the numerous adaptations, I’ve almost never read a contemporary retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, which made ‘Don’t speak’ immediately a mesmerising standout because it was so different.

Katy Regnery blends the tropes quite seamlessly in a way that makes it the entire tale believable somehow: two contrasting protagonists, quite literally from different worlds with archetypical wicked-parents, yet with the earthy, intense flavour of young love that slips into hate and pain before the HEA that drops rather suddenly. Yet Regnery’s writing is lofty as well, with the elevated, descriptive purple prose that distances her book from the typical NA read as Erik and Laire are fashioned into stylised characters who fall into instant-love. There’s a lot of naïveté present written into them as well too – whether by choice remains unclear – and perhaps never seen more in Laire, whose constant sobbing and inability to stand up for Erik when it mattered most got on my nerves at times.

It’s the secret-baby issue here, that perhaps downed the reading experience for me and the lagging pace that had me struggling to turn the pages. Even though Erik/Laire were kept apart by circumstances beyond their control, I always felt as though Erik was the one who constantly tried to build bridges as Laire wallowed in her islander thinking…until she was forced out of the Banks. Coincidence, or serendipity, is the only thing that brings them back together and their rushed reunion – and tearful confessions that pledged forever love despite the thorny issues that led to a 6-year separation – precipitates a sudden number of events that leads to the rather rushed ending.

That said though, ‘Don’t Speak’ is undoubtedly a memorably read despite its faults, and pretty much one that left me on the verge of a book hangover.

four-stars