Restoring Faith

"I see dead people" doesn't quite cover it when it comes to Amelia Gray. She can see them ... and they can see her!

Having earned the macabre, but fitting pseudonym, "The Graveyard Queen" for her work as a graveyard restorer, Amelia is engaged to save the cemetery of Oak Grove. Adjoining the prestigious local university where all the who's who of the elite southern society sends their brightest, the committee wants the site restored in honor of the bicentennial. Only days into the job, she's leaving a restaurant when a black-clad detective steps out of the twilight and into her world...

A body has been found in Oak Grove, but the young woman isn't the rightful inhabitant of the grave she's been placed in. Drained of blood, it becomes clear that she was the victim of a brutal murder. Detective John Devlin asks Amelia to come in as an expert consultant, but they quickly find their interactions go beyond professional relations. Handsome and Heathcliff-like in his broody mystique, Amelia finds Devlin irresistible. There are two problems, though: the ghosts who shadow his steps.

There are three rules Amelia's father taught her to live by: never acknowledge a ghost, never interact with someone who is haunted, and never ever tempt fate. Ghosts desire what they can no longer share, and will sap the warmth and life force of the living if they can find a way to form a connection. For someone like Amelia, who can see them, spirits are an ever-present danger. Well, Devlin is without doubt a haunted man, trailing the specters of his dead wife and daughter in his wake. To associate with him in a professional capacity is to toe the line. To fall in love with him would shatter it completely, and leave her open to a threat which could cost Amelia her life. Not to mention placing her in the cross-hairs of the malevolent wrath of Mariama, the woman Devlin married and lost. She refuses to let him go, and will suffer no rival. Of Gullah descent, Mariama was a product of her heritage -- a culture which believes the spirit becomes more powerful in death.

Desperately trying to find a balance and avoid giving in to the growing bond between them, Amelia tries to focus on the case and her part in it. As more bodies are found in the cemetery, Amelia begins to notice an odd trend: every time a girl is found, an anonymous poster places an epitaph on her blog. When she realizes the postings match the inscriptions on the corresponding headstones where the girls are found, she sees that the killer knows who she is and is playing a terrifying game.

With no safe haven, Amelia must make the decision of who to trust, and how far she is willing to go to untangle the killer's taunts and save herself. Because to trust Devlin she will be breaking her Papa's rules, and when that line is crossed a doorway can be irreversibly opened.

~~~

This was a FABULOUS story! I gave up on paranormal/urban fantasy a few years ago because I couldn't find anything that really had any sort of legitimate plot line apart from finding the different ways humans can have sex with vampires and werewolves. The genre suffers from an overabundance of fantasmagasms and interracial S & M. Its potential in other areas doesn't really get explored. And there is potential, a great deal of it! This has been proven in The Restorer, which I cracked open on a whim (Fall is in the air and Halloween is less than a month away, so why not?).

Is there sexual tension and interaction? Yes, there is. Stevens doesn't use it as a crutch, though. Her story gives enough to the developing relationship between Amelia and Devlin (two human beings, may I point out for shockers), and things get spicy. Nothing wrong with that! However, more than equal time is given to Amelia's strange gift, her interactions with ghosts, and the twisty murder mystery. No over-sexed vamps or horny moon-puppies strutting around. KISS = Keep it simple, sweetheart!

I loved Amelia's personality -- she gives introverts a good name! She's intelligent, empathetic, and kind-hearted, but she closes herself off from others in order to protect herself from what personal connections could mean for her ghost-sight. It's not that she doesn't wish she could enjoy such relationships. She's a firm closet-romantic, and it doesn't take her long to do the head-over-heels jig for Devlin, but she's had to be careful. She needs someone who can understand what she lives with -- a man who trails ghosts behind him, perhaps? ;-)

In a nutshell, I LOVED this book! For those who like the concept of paranormal/urban fantasy, but want more than what has been on offer in so many cases, I would highly recommend spending some time with Amelia. You get your dose of romance, plenty of drama, and the chills of a good ghost story seasoned with a game of murder. Bravo!