The story's blurb:
When Delia Forrest talks to statues, they talk back. She is, after all, the last of the Steward witches.
After an arsonist torches her ancestral home with her estranged father still inside, Delia is forced to sell the estate to pay his medical bills. Her childhood crush, Grant Wolverton, makes a handsome offer for Steward House, vowing to return it to its former glory. Delia agrees, as long as he’ll allow her to oversee the restoration.
Working so closely with Grant, Delia finds it difficult to hide her unique talent—especially when their growing passion fuels her abilities.
But someone else lusts after both her man and the raw power contained in the Steward land. Soon, Delia finds herself fighting not just for Grant’s love, but for both their lives...
The blurb for Stevens' debut appealed to me, partly because I've long been a fan of the ancient Greek Pygmalian myth. Again, though - and I feel rather like a broken record for trotting this complaint out so very often - the story's execution did not come close to meeting its promise. Why? I just couldn't get behind the idea of a man loving a woman he believes is either a thief or delusional. Frankly, it was easier to get past the idea of his loving a thief because I've read and enjoyed romances with sticky-fingered heroines. But falling in love with a nut and believing that by living in an isolated part of Virginia and maintaining a low profile, he can keep her craziness contained, seemed delusional to me. Add to that the idea that he'll have children with her and I was thoroughly creeped out. One does not perpetuate the genetics of mental illness, particularly when it occurs on both sides of the family tree. So, ew.
And that's not all...the author tells us Grant and Delia are in love, but outside of an intense physical response to one another, she doesn't show it, or prove it. Again, the falling in love with a nut-job impinges upon this, but not only from Grant's side. Delia spends the vast majority of the story angry with Grant - because he's single-minded in taking her legacy away from her and because he is high-handed - and sad because he doesn't believe that she can communicate with statues. They are on a most uneven footing because of many things - money, status, but mostly power. The author tries to even things out by ceding emotional control of the relationship to Delia, but she's too insecure about herself for this to work.
As far as the villainous sub-plot, I actually liked it, both for the graphic depiction of violence, and the over-the-top evil. Stevens demonstrates a strong ability to write this sort of material, which at moments reminded me of Anne Rice in Queen of the Damned and Pandora, which is high praise indeed. And as a result, rather than earning an F, the story instead earns a D.
Stone Kissed will be published late in the month; I read an advance copy provided by the publisher.