Friday, May 14, 2010

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

This review was originally supposed to be posted over at Royal Reviews in the next week or so, but unfortunately the lovely Annie, Alaine and Sheree have decided to close their doors. The challenges that they are running will remain up for this year, but there will be no further new reviews put up on the site. I will miss them, but I couldn't waste an already written review! I don't do them that often anymore. **Update - Royal Reviews isn't closing now, but will be under new management!**

Practical-minded Melanie Middleton hates to admit - even to herself - that she can see ghosts. But she's going to have to accept it, because an old man she met just days ago has died, leaving Melanie his historic Tradd Street home, complete with a housekeeper, a dog, and a family of ghosts anxious to tell her something.....
Enter Jack Trenholm, a gorgeous writer obsessed with unsolved mysteries. He has reason to believe that some diamonds that went missing from the Confederate Treasury are hidden in Melanie's home. So he decides to charm the new tenant, only to discover he's the smitten one.

But it turns out that Jack's search has caught the attention of a possibly malevolent ghostly presence. Now, Jack and Melanie need to unravel a mystery of passion, heartbreak, and even murder. And they must hurry...for an evil force - either dead or alive - lies in wait.

I first remember wanting to go to the American South,  and Atlanta and Charleston in particular,  after reading Gone With the Wind. I realise that the idea of the plantation house like Tara are much rarer than they might be in my imagination, but from what I can tell, there are still many gorgeous old homes that have been protected in the heart of Charleston. Just a quick Google will bring up homes for sale in the area that are just beautiful (in fact, I just wasted half an hour doing this instead of actually finishing my review!)

Realtor Melanie Middleton is at the top of her game, and her game is selling the historical homes of Charleston, but for Melanie herself, she can imagine nothing worse than buying one of these money pits which require huge amounts of money and work just to maintain, let alone to have to renovate within the rules stipulated by the city council. Melanie likes her sleek, modern and minimalist home, if for no other reason that there are no ghosts to talk to her.

When she goes to visit elderly Mr Vanderhorst, little does she know that her worst nightmare is about to come true. She visits him with a view to getting him to sell his crumbling house on Tradd Street, but even before she enters the house she already is off balance having seen the ghost of a woman near a rope swing in the garden. An urgent call on a weekend brings the news that Mr Vanderhorst has died and that he has left the house to her, on the condition that she must do the house up using the funds that will be made available to her.

Melanie usually prides herself on her self control, but for many people she gives off an aura of iciness. One person who is prepared to try and break through her frosty exterior is Jack Trenholm. He is a local author who specialises in books about unsolved mysteries, but he has recently been badly burned in the media and so he is regrouping. Jack believes that there are secrets to be revealed inside of the Tradd Street home, specifically what exactly happened to Mr Vanderhorst's mother who was rumoured to have run off with one of the local gangster's in the 1930s.

Jack is my kind of guy. Funny, charming, urbane, suave and interesting. Melanie is determined that she is not going to fall for him, yet increasingly he is the one that she turns to when things start going bump in the night in her house, to help her work out what the connections are between the Vanderhorst's and her own family, and to help with the renovation on the house. More often than not he also finds himself running interference between Melanie and her parents. Her father is an alcoholic who Melanie is not prepared to give any more chances after being disappointed so many times over the years, and her mother is something of a diva who walked away from her family to pursue an opera career many years before.

As the spirits become restless, Melanie finds herself in danger physically. Is it the ghosts or are there other factors at play here? There are also many questions to be resolved. Why would an apparently loving and devoted mother disappear without a trace and never contact her child again? And how do some missing diamonds from the Confederate Treasure tie into the mystery of what happened to Mrs Vanderhorst? Can Melanie resist Jack's charms and will she ever grow to like the house that seems to have taken over her life?

Part ghost story, part mystery and part romance, this is a book that ticks all the boxes. I am waiting very impatiently for my library to get the next book in the series, so that I can come back and spend more time with Melanie, Jack, and the colourful array of secondary characters that will hopefully accompany them in the next adventure, The House on Legare Street.

Rating 4.5/5


  1. Great review! I loved this book, and the settings in Charleston...and I had to laugh at the image of you googling plantation houses.

    I've been wanting to visit Charleston, ever since reading a few books that are set there.

    I guess Pat Conroy's South of Broad probably takes place there, too.

  2. I am so excited to read this book, and the second installment as well. I have been hearing such good things about this series and I like the fact that it has such a charming male lead. Are you planning on reading her new one, On Folly Beach? That is my next read, and it sounds very good! Wonderful review!!

  3. I haven't read this one or the sequel, but am in the middle of On Folly Beach right now - my first experience with Karen White - and I'm enjoying it very much! This series will have to go on my wish list. :)

  4. Carrie, I am looking forward to read On Folly Beach.

    Zibilee, I am planning to read On Folly Beach. It sounds like something that I will really love.

    Laurel, I would love to go to Charleston. It's on my one day list.

  5. There were several aspects of this book that I liked, however, Melanie grated on me a bit, and even more so in the second book. I do want to read more by Karen White, just perhaps with a different protagonist.

  6. Great review! I've been hearing a lot about this author lately as she's got a new book out but I think I'd like to start with this one first. Keep us posted on how it goes with the second book!