My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the second in the series and while I did think the first book was 50/50 mystery and overwrought romance, I liked it. I didn’t dislike this one but it was even less a mystery than the first. It’s full on gothic paranormal with a little mystery.
Amelia, the Graveyard Queen, is a cemetery restorer and as a taphophile myself, I like the premise. In this case, Amelia isn’t staying around her native Charleston but has been called to the remote location of Asher Falls to restore its cemetery. Amelia wants a break after the nightmare with Devlin, a local detective and his ghosts. In this verse, ghosts are not benign things and being haunted has severe consequences. Amelia, like her father, can see them but following his strict rules, she never interacts with them. Until Devlin. Until that opened a door.
Asher Falls is so remote, it has to be approached by ferry. She meets a young man on the ferry who tells her the ghost story of the town, how the Asher family, kings of the island, managed to actually flood part of the town submerging the cemetery and were forced to open their own family graveyard to what was left of the town. That is the cemetery she’s restoring. And the young man is Thane Asher, the adopted grandson of Pell Asher, the man responsible for the misery. The town is dying and Amelia has no idea who has hired her. (And I’m thinking really if you’re going to hint at the Fall of the House of Usher maybe we should do more than change one letter)
Her contact is Luna, a realtor who has put her out in the sticks in a one-time church (hallowed ground so Amelia is okay with that, ghosts can’t get her) and told her that Tilly Pattershaw, the crazy old woman who lives nearby might help her with the brute work. Amelia quickly meets Sidra a young girl who can see ghosts but won’t admit it and Ivy, Sidra’s friend. Ivy has a crush on Thane and wants Amelia gone. Luna has two friends Bryn and Catrice and it’s early on hinted that they are witches.
The cemetery is creepy what little is described, i.e. The Asher mauseoluem and a grave that’s hidden in a laurel bald with the symbols indicating a mother and child dying together in childbirth, but much newer than the Victorian era when that would have been popular. The whole town feels oppressive and Amelia begins to realize that there is something bad going on with the very nature of the place and it has more going on than just the ghost haunting her, the ghost of Tilly’s daughter, Freya who died twenty-five years ago.
If it had just been the mystery of who killed Freya, it would probably have been a stronger story truth be told. But it goes haring off into the paranormal big time (which is okay. I LIKE paranormal stories) but it’s so melodramatically gothic horror that it doesn’t quite work for me. Demonic possessions and the secret of Amelia’s connection to the place were pretty blatantly obvious and at the same time such a stretch. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. The romance with her and Thane (with many many interludes about how she can’t be with Devlin but will love him forever) was frankly creepy (it might have meant to be though). At the end I wanted to slap her for doing stupid things (like going back into danger alone without taking her dad or Devlin or anything remotely like a weapon). I’ll probably be read the next one but this is the last I buy. It’s shifted to library rental (and was I ever right about that Fall of the House of Usher thing).
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