I discovered author Amanda Stevens when editor J.T. Ellison asked a group of thirteen authors to contribute a southern gothic short story, based on a photograph of a dilapidated house, to the book, Dead Ends. Amanda Steven’s story leaped off the pages for one significant reason: her writing is reminiscent of what I know as British phrasing, that fluid, conversational manner in which Daphne Du Maurier, for example, lulled her readers in her world-class novel, Rebecca. I don’t come across this captivating style of writing often. There’s an intelligent beauty to it, and Amanda Stevens wields it seemingly effortlessly. I looked further into author Amanda Stevens, discovered fifteen novels, and randomly chose The Awakening. I am glad I did.
Set in historic Charleston, South Carolina, The Awakening opens in Woodbine Cemetery, a hidden and forgotten burial ground, of which narrator, Amelia Gray, is commissioned to restore. Already the reader is poised to look over their shoulder. That the narrator speaks in a tone matter of fact prepares them for something unusual, though they immediately accept the premise as a matter of course. It is the fall, the wind rustles tree limbs overhead, the air is chilling, and Amelia Gray is an intuitive who sees the dead.
The Awakening is a mystery wrapped in a ghost story. Amelia discovers an unnamed baby’s grave in Woodbine Cemetery, sees the ghost of a child, and the story takes off in a dynamic suspenseful, surprising, and au courant. Because Amelia Gray is rebounding from her unresolved, broken love affair with dark and handsome John Devlin, a compelling romance tugs at its middle, and elements of the heroine’s journey string us along. This story has everything to keep the reader turning its pages: an eerie setting, a compelling backstory, an intriguing love interest, and, most important to me, a narrator that lets the reader know what she is thinking as events heighten to a hair-raising collide, and hidden elements come to light.
I recommend this expertly paced and crafted book because, to me, it defies genre. It is everything riveting, written in language so uncommonly beautiful I looked forward each night to returning to its burning pages.