Heart of Stone is an odd mix of a spunky main character urban fantasy and a romance bordering on straight-laced erotica. The sex scenes are long and explicit so if that’s a problem, this is not the book for you. I’ll admit to skimming at points, though the existence of the sex scenes was critical to the story.
With that out of the way, I’m going to talk story.
This is just the type of romance tale I love. Both of Kees and Ella have given up on love for very good reasons, though in Kees’ instance, he believes himself to be incapable of it from the way he was created. They both have to work through their own expectations and issues before they can accept what’s happening.
Ella loves easily, but is slow to trust not so much Kees but herself. She needs to heal from a traumatic past where she lost both parents in unusual circumstances. Kees, on the other hand, denies what’s happening because he “knows” it’s impossible. When he turns around, it’s very quick, but the timing of his change makes sense. While not always likeable, in Kees’ case, they are characters I could connect with, both in purpose and in failings, though that might be something odd to say when one is a grotesque. Not grotesque in appearance but rather was frozen in a statue that resembles a gargoyle except does not funnel water away from a building, a neat little art historian fact brought out in the story. His natural appearance is both intimidating and haunting, while his human appearance is traditionally impressive.
The urban fantasy side of the story was everything an urban fantasy should be. It has a complicated history, revealed in dribs and drabs as the book progresses, that leads up to this moment. There’s an ongoing threat for which this book is the opening move. We learn what’s happening in two ways: Through Kees telling Ella only what he thinks she needs to know until he finds someone official to take her in and train her. And through what they discover while looking for that mentor as they dodge the evil powers set to releasing demons to ravage the Earth.
It’s strong, dramatic, and compelling.
I didn’t need the explanation at the end (based on a recounting of something learned about their history from a mage’s grimoire), but I’m good at picking up on story clues and even figured out the twist…well, one of them. This did not, however, prevent me from enjoying the story.
As I said, an odd mix, but don’t get the impression that it’s two stories mashed together, however. The romance is crucial to the events in the urban fantasy, especially where Ella’s healing is concerned, and without mystical powers and demons to fight, Kees would have been nothing but the stone statue where he begins the story. Christine Warren manages to blend the two genres until one could not be extracted without harming the other. Together they form a tale with a strong heart and compelling story.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.