The Restorer (Graveyard Queen Series #1)

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen Series #1)

by Amanda Stevens

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778314004
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 02/21/2012
Series: Graveyard Queen Series , #1
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 421,347
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.62(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is an award-winning author of over fifty novels. Born and raised in the rural south, she now resides in Houston, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

I was nine when I saw my first ghost.

My father and I were raking leaves in the cemetery where he'd worked for years as the caretaker. It was early autumn, not yet cool enough for a sweater, but on that particular afternoon there was a noticeable bite in the air as the sun dipped toward the horizon. A mild breeze carried the scent of wood smoke and pine needles, and as the wind picked up, a flock of black birds took flight from the treetops and glided like a storm cloud across the pale blue sky.

I put a hand to my eyes as I watched them. When my gaze finally dropped, I saw him in the distance. He stood beneath the drooping branches of a live oak, and the green-gold light that glimmered down through the Spanish moss cast a preternatural glow on the space around him. But he was in shadows, so much so that I wondered for a moment if he was only a mirage.

As the light faded, he became more defined, and I could even make out his features. He was old, even more ancient than my father, with white hair brushing the collar of his suit coat and eyes that seemed to burn with an inner flame.

My father was bent to his work and as the rake moved steadily over the graves, he said under his breath, "Don't look at him."

I turned in surprise. "You see him, too?"

"Yes, I see him. Now get back to work."

"But who is he—"

"I said don't look at him!"

His sharp tone stunned me. I could count on one hand the number of times he'd ever raised his voice to me. That he had done so now, without provocation, made me instantly tear up. The one thing I could never abide was my father's disapproval.


There was regret in his tone and what I would later come to understand as pity in his blue eyes.

"I'm sorry I spoke so harshly, but it's important that you do as I say. You mustn't look at him," he said in a softer tone. "Any of them."

"Is he a—"


Something cold touched my spine and it was all I could do to keep my gaze trained on the ground.

"Papa," I whispered. I had always called him this. I don't know why I'd latched on to such an old-fashioned moniker, but it suited him. He had always seemed very old to me, even though he was not yet fifty. For as long as I could remember, his face had been heavily lined and weathered, like the cracked mud of a dry creek bed, and his shoulders drooped from years of bending over the graves.

But despite his poor posture, there was great dignity in his bearing and much kindness in his eyes and in his smile. I loved him with every fiber of my nine-year-old being. He and Mama were my whole world. Or had been, until that moment.

I saw something shift in Papa's face and then his eyes slowly closed in resignation. He laid aside our rakes and placed his hand on my shoulder.

"Let's rest for a spell," he said.

We sat on the ground, our backs to the ghost, as we watched dusk creep in from the Lowcountry. I couldn't stop shivering, even though the waning light was still warm on my face.

"Who is he?" I finally whispered, unable to bear the quiet any longer.

"I don't know."

"Why can't I look at him?" It occurred to me then that I was more afraid of what Papa was about to tell me than I was of the ghost.

"You don't want him to know that you can see him."

"Why not?" When he didn't answer, I picked up a twig and poked it through a dead leaf, spinning it like a pinwheel between my fingers. "Why not, Papa?"

"Because what the dead want more than anything is to be a part of our world again. They're like parasites, drawn to our energy, feeding off our warmth. If they know you can see them, they'll cling to you like blight. You'll never be rid of them. And your life will never again be your own."

I don't know if I completely understood what he told me, but the notion of being haunted forever terrified me.

"Not everyone can see them," he said. "For those of us who can, there are certain precautions we must take in order to protect ourselves and those around us. The first and most important is this—never acknowledge the dead. Don't look at them, don't speak to them, don't let them sense your fear. Even when they touch you."

A chill shimmied over me. "They…touch you?"

"Sometimes they do."

"And you can feel it?"

He drew a breath. "Yes. You can feel it."

I threw away the stick, and pulled up my knees, wrapping my arms tightly around them. Somehow, even at my young age, I was able to remain calm on the outside, but my insides had gone numb with dread.

"The second thing you must remember is this," Papa said. "Never stray too far from hallowed ground."

"What's hallowed ground?"

"The old part of this cemetery is hallowed ground. There are other places, too, where you'll be safe. Natural places. After a while, instinct will lead you to them. You'll know where and when to seek them out."

I tried to digest this puzzling detail, but I really didn't understand the concept of hallowed ground, although I'd always known the old part of the cemetery was special.

Nestled against the side of a hill and protected by the outstretched arms of the live oaks, Rosehill was shady and beautiful, the most serene place I could imagine. It had been closed to the public for years, and sometimes as I wandered alone—and often lonely—through the lush fern beds and long curtains of silvery moss, I pretended the crumbling angels were wood nymphs and fairies and I their ruler, queen of my very own graveyard kingdom.

My father's voice brought me back to the real world. "Rule Number Three," he said. "Keep your distance from those who are haunted. If they seek you out, turn away from them, for they constitute a terrible threat and cannot be trusted."

"Are there any more rules?" I asked, because I didn't know what else I was supposed to say.

"Yes, but we'll talk about the rest later. It's getting late. We should probably head home before your mother starts to worry."

"Can she see them?"

"No. And you mustn't tell her that you can."

"Why not?"

"She doesn't believe in ghosts. She'd think you're imagining things. Or telling stories."

"I would never lie to Mama!"

"I know that. But this has to be our secret. When you're older, you'll understand. For now, just do your best to follow the rules and everything will be fine. Can you do that?"

"Yes, Papa." But even as I promised, it was all I could do to keep from glancing over my shoulder.

The breeze picked up and the chill inside me deepened. Somehow, I managed to keep from turning, but I knew the ghost had drifted closer. Papa knew it, too. I could feel the tension in him as he murmured, "No more talking. Just remember what I told you."

"I will, Papa."

The ghost's frigid breath feathered down the back of my neck and I started to tremble. I couldn't help myself.

"Cold?" my father asked in his normal voice. "Well, it's getting to be that time of year. Summer can't last forever."

I didn't say anything. I couldn't. The ghost's hands were in my hair. He lifted the golden strands, still warm from the sun, and let them sift through his fingers.

Papa got to his feet and pulled me up with him. The ghost skittered away for a moment, then floated back.

"We best be getting on home. Your mother's cooking up a mess of shrimp tonight." He picked up the rakes and hoisted them to his shoulder.

"And grits?" I asked, though my voice was hardly louder than a whisper.

"I expect so. Come on. Let's cut through the old cemetery. I want to show you the work I've done on some of the gravestones. I know how much you love the angels."

He took my hand and squeezed my fingers in reassurance as we set out across the cemetery, the ghost at our heels.

By the time we reached the old section, Papa had already pulled the key from his pocket. He turned the lock and the heavy iron gate swung silently inward on well-oiled hinges.

We stepped through into that dusky sanctuary and suddenly I wasn't afraid anymore. My newfound courage emboldened me. I pretended to trip and when I bent to tie my shoelaces, I glanced back at the gate. The ghost hovered just outside. It was obvious he was unable to enter, and I couldn't help but give a childish smirk.

When I straightened, Papa glared down at me. "Rule Number Four," he said sternly. "Never, ever tempt fate."

The childhood memory flitted away as the waitress approached with my first course—roasted green-tomato soup, which I'd been told was a house specialty—along with the pecan pie I planned to have for dessert. Six months ago, I'd moved from Columbia to Charleston, making it my home base, but I'd never had dinner at any of the upscale waterfront restaurants. My budget normally didn't allow for fine dining, but tonight was special.

As the waitress topped off my champagne, I caught her curious, sidelong glance, but I didn't let it bother me.

Just because I happened to be alone was no reason to deprive myself of a celebration.

Earlier, I'd taken a leisurely stroll along the Battery, pausing at the very tip of the peninsula to enjoy the sunset. Behind me, the whole city was bathed in crimson; before me, a fractured sky shifted into kaleidoscopic patterns of rose, lavender and gold. A Carolina sunset never failed to move me, but with the approaching twilight everything had turned gray. Mist drifted in from the sea and settled over the treetops like a silver canopy. As I watched the gauzy swirl from a table by the window, my elation faded.

Dusk is a dangerous time for people like me. An in-between time just as the seashore and the edge of a forest are in-between places. The Celts had a name for these landscapes—caol' ait. Thin places where the barrier between our world and the next is but a gossamer veil.

Turning from the window, I sipped champagne, determined not to let the encroaching spirit world spoil my celebration. After all, it wasn't every day an unexpected windfall came my way, and for barely lifting a finger.

My work usually consists of many hours of manual labor for modest pay. I'm a cemetery restorer. I travel all over the South, cleaning up forgotten and abandoned graveyards and repairing worn and broken headstones. It's painstaking, sometimes back-breaking work, and a huge cemetery can take years to restore fully, so there is no such thing as instant gratification in my profession. But I love what I do. We Southerners worship our ancestors, and I'm gratified that my efforts in some small way enable people of the present to more fully appreciate those who came before us.

In my spare time, I run a blog called Digging Graves, where taphophiles—lovers of cemeteries—and other like-minded folks can exchange photographs, restoration techniques and, yes, even the occasional ghost story. I'd started the blog as a hobby, but over the past few months, my readership had exploded.

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The Restorer 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 229 reviews.
vickytren More than 1 year ago
A very talented author. I enjoyed her story. This book was hard to put down.
romancemistress More than 1 year ago
Creepily spooky, the first book in Amanda Stevens' new Graveyard Queen series starts out with a BOO! Actually it begins with cemetery restorer Amelia Gray confiding to the reader that she can see ghosts and has had the ability since childhood. However, since her father instructed her to never speak of her ability - and never speak to the ghosts, either - Amelia has long since buried it, instead busying herself with her blog Digging Graves and traveling around the South restoring old cemeteries. But some of the dead won't stay buried and so Amelia finds when a fresh body, a homicide victim, turns up in the historic Charleston cemetery she is currently working on. When Charleston police detective John Devlin approaches her with the bad news, Amelia can no longer ignore the fact that the dead don't always want their secrets buried with them. And the reader gets introduced to this possible romantic interest who seems as haunted as any graveyard Amelia's ever visited. History and mystery combine in this spooky proof of the truism that old secrets never long as there's someone to dig them up. P.S. Check out Amanda's website...she always has some creepily evocative video footage. The one she had up for The Devil's Footprints was verrry effective!
Theresa_Raymer More than 1 year ago
Amanda Stevens writes a wonderful story that is a combination of ghost story, romance, mystery. I was hooked in the first chapter when Amelia sees her first ghost, and her father explains to her the rules of what she should do when she sees the ghost. I stayed up late in the night just to finish this book. Such an excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amelia does not take the advice of her father before starting her job at Oak Grove Cemetery. During the resturation project Amelia finds a crime scene, hidden chambers, ghosts and a handsome man. You don't know who done it up until the very end. 288 pages.
butterflly13 More than 1 year ago
I had a lot of fun reading this book. It flowed well and was creppy and fun at the same time, I have a hard time finding creepy boooks without boring me or grossing me out this was a good find. (The second in the series is even better.)
StephWard More than 1 year ago
Summary: Amelia Gray has always been aware of ghosts, and now she travels all over the South cleaning up forgotten or abandoned graveyards. When an enigmatic yet haunted police detective asks for her help to trap a serial killer, their growing attraction constitutes the very gravest of threats. Review: I had very high hopes when picking up this book. The description sounded right up my alley - a series of murders in an abandoned graveyard? Awesome! This plot sounded fresh and really interesting - tons of potential. The main line of the story is what kept me reading. It was something new and the twists were good - they had me guessing until the end. The main character, Amelia Gray, was a well done heroine. She had the normal struggles in life with the added problems that seeing ghosts brings to the table. Aside from the solid characters and strong story line, my love for this book stopped there. Of course there was some romance, as to be expected, but what could have been an intriguing relationship or at least the start of one, turned out to be overly predictable and boring. Parts of the story, mostly about the background of some of the characters and the stories surround Charleston's history really bogged the book down. There were good twists and secrets throughout the book, which I was hoping would be given answers at the end, but I was left hanging - and not in a good way. I see how leaving questions unanswered leaves an open ending for the next book, but these questions left me feeling frustrated instead of intrigued. I have already received the next two books in this series, and I'm hoping that they will rekindle my love for this Gothic romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It grabbed my attention immediately and held it throughout. I did not want to put it down. It made me think logically as I was trying to figure out who the killer was, but it also had my mind going into paranoia mode whenever I would see something move out of the corner of my eye. I love it when a book does that to me, but it is rare to find these days. I can't wait to get started on the next in the series.
Pink_Girl588 More than 1 year ago
This is such a well written book. It is scary, disturbing, and rewarding at all the right times! I couldnt put this book down! It will not disappoint! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i cant belive how good this book was.Very dark and twisted at the end, I wouldn't recommend for people who get scared easily or for nightime reading. BUT STILL A FAVORITE!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting characters dropped into the Charleston setting, this first novel in the Graveyard Queen series sets up the premise of the archeologist cemetary restorer who has been able to see ghosts since her childhood, her growing attraction for the homicide detective who is haunted by the ghosts of his own past, and their efforts to solve the mystery of why bodies keep turning up in the graveyard at Emerson, a traditional southern college. Filled with intriguing trivia about graveyards, symbolism, epitaphs, and burials, this is a paranormal page turner with lots of twists, but the resolution is a bit rushed and formulaic while leaving multiple other plot strings unresolved. An interesting read for lovers of mystery and ghost stories in a southern setting.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Most of us don't know it, but the dead roam around this earth just as we do. They are restless spirits, looking for warmth and solace in those who can see them. Yes, there are people who can. Some of them choose to embrace their gift. Some of them, however, must not give in to the temptation. Because once you allow yourself to embrace that gift, to give in to the dead, it opens up a whole new dimension - one that changes your life drastically. The ghosts will follow you until you give them what they want. Most just need closure to move on. Some of them are after your soul. For Amelia Grey, her Papa has always given her simple rules to follow. She saw her first ghost at a young age. Confused, she turns to her father for questions. And that's when he tells her his four rules. Because Papa can see them, too. Amelia has done well for herself up until now. The ghosts have always been around her. Having a job that deals with being at a cemetery, that'll do it. She's now helping in part of an ongoing investigation. The man that's on the case is both irresistible and haunted. Despite those rules hammered in her mind, she is drawn to John Devlin, and the ghosts that follow him. I can say with full honesty that while reading this, icy tentacles of fear and excitement ran up and down my body. My gut clenched and my heart pounded. The Restorer is one of the most eerie, haunting books I've read in a long time. Every creak of my house settling had me jumping. I left the lights on while reading. Yes, I even looked over my shoulder to make sure no one stood behind me. Ms. Stevens created such chilling suspense that I questioned the motives of each character. Secrets were unveiled and I wondered who had been hiding what. The vivid details weaved throughout the story had my imagination working in overdrive. I am fascinated by the paranormal and loved reading about a heroine who can see the dead. The imagery of ghosts energy fading off in the twilight, the gut-wrenching emotion Amelia, John Devlin, and others felt, I felt too. I am even getting chills again while writing this. I never would have guessed the ending of the book. The further the reader gets into the story, the more intense it gets. Ms. Stevens comes back in full force with The Restorer, and you won't want to miss it! If you love a haunting story full of ghosts, secrets, an extraordinary heroine, mystery and murder, then this book is for you. Though, you might want to read it during the day, when the ghosts are at bay. Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
Lark-Howard More than 1 year ago
NEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THE DEAD. NEVER STRAY FROM HALLOWED GROUND. NEVER GET CLOSE TO THE HAUNTED. NEVER, EVER TEMPT FATE. My father's rules. I've never broken them.until now Amelia Gray is a cemetery restorer. She also sees ghosts. Since she discovered her ability when she was nine, she's never broken her father's rules. The rules have kept her safe. But when the body of a murdered young woman is found in the graveyard she's restoring, the dangerously attractive Detective John Devlin comes looking for her for help. Unfortunately he's haunted and Amelia is attracted to him like no man she's ever known. As the bodies pile up, Amelia is drawn into the investigation and closer to the man she knows she should stay away from. Add a secret society, shadows in the night, a cyber-stalker and, of course, Devlin's ghosts and you have a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one to The End. Amanda Stevens has an amazing talent for writing intriguing gothic mysteries set in the South-in this case Charleston. Her characters are full of quirks and eccentricities, charm and secrets. Amelia is the perpetual outsider who unravels just enough secrets to reveal a darker mystery that underlies the series. Devlin is reminiscent of the great tortured heroes of the classics-REBBECCA's Maxim de Winter, JANE EYRE's Rochester, and even the haunted Heathcliff-and, like them, the reader isn't sure if he's the hero or the villain. And neither is Amelia. I loved this book and had only one complaint-that it ended and I have to wait for the next in the series to get more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book I've read in awhile..cant wait to read the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading the entire series, and look forward to the Awakening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great mystery, romance and horror story
notrow1 More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in the Graveyard Queen series. I really enjoyed it! Amelia Gray is a wonderful character. I really liked her. She is a grave restorer with a secret. She can see ghosts. However, she has rules that she lives by: Never acknowledge them, speak to them or let them sense your fear. Never stray too far from hallowed ground. Keep away from those who are haunted and never tempt fate. When she stumbles across the body of a young woman in a cemetery, her life is turned upside down. As danger threatens she finds herself attracted to Detective John Devlin, the policeman leading the investigation. Unfortunately, he has his own ghosts haunting him. I have a passion for ghost stories and when this book was recommended to me by Amazon way back in 2011, I added it to my wish list. It was only in 2014 that I managed to purchase a copy but, due to my large reading list, I hadn't been able to read it until recently. I started to read this book and didn't put it down until I had finished it. I found myself intrigued with Amelia's career choice. Restoring old cemeteries takes patience and dedication. (I know of a few cemeteries near me that could do with some TLC come to think of it). Adding to her career choice is her ability to see ghosts. This makes her life a little harder and turns her into a bit of a loner, as she is afraid of accidentally attracting the ghosts into her life and harming the ones she loves. I enjoyed getting to know John Devlin a lot more, as he has a past that is tragic. But, I think that both Amelia and Devlin make a wonderful couple, even if he is haunted by his dead wife and daughter. This story is a mix of mystery, thriller, police procedural, supernatural ghost story and romance. I found myself holding my breath on occasion as the mystery, suspense and danger had me sitting on the edge of my seat. It is thrilling in places and scary (think spiders and rats and dark places) in others. I also found myself on a roller coaster ride of emotion as the story unfolded. I had tears running down my face during certain scenes. However, I was a little disappointed at the ending even though I knew it was the first book in the series. There were a few loose ends not tied up and, even though it didn't end in a cliffhanger, the ending left me feeling unsatisfied, which, as a reader, I hate. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to continuing this series and reading the next book, The Kingdom, as soon as I can. Amanda Stevens has written a wonderful start to a series. I love her fast paced writing style and the flow of the story is wonderful. Her characters seem realistic and come alive on the page. I would definitely consider reading more of her books in the future. Due to some scenes of violence and some gore, I do not recommend this book to younger readers. However, I highly recommend this book if you love horror/mysteries/thrillers/police procedural's/supernatural ghost stories or paranormal romances. - Lynn Worton
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put the book down and had to immediately get the next. The characters are deep and you want more. I would find myself reading all night, so I could finish it. An absolute must read if you like a good ghost story mixed with a tad of romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and frightening. I loved it and can't wait to read the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a different kind of paranormal romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fresh, interesting premise, nicely written, with well-developed characters. Just enough creepiness to entertain. I can only hope this series continues!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one kept me guessing. I loved it .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read for anyone who likes mystery, thrills and ghosts. Creepy at all the right times. Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago