I have found the perfect summer read. Karen White’s House on Tradd Street incorporates all of the essentials: intrigue, romance, history and comedy into one praise-worthy novel.
Set in Charleston, S.C., this book stars Realtor Melanie Middleton, who lives her life by the rules. She’s logical, organized and disciplined. She can also see ghosts—a talent that tests her patience when one ghost enters her life uninvited. When Melanie suddenly comes into ownership of a house she had only been interested in selling, her life is immediately turned upside down.
To make matters worse for Melanie, Jack Trenholm enters the picture. A gregarious and handsome man, Jack writes historical novels, and the house Melanie has just inherited intrigues him—as does she. Jack is searching for a crop of Confederate diamonds that purportedly lie hidden in Melanie’s new house, and his search for the stones awakes a seemingly evil presence that lurks in the house. Jack has his work cut out for him from the beginning, as he attempts to woo Melanie and the ghost simultaneously.
Jack’s apparent cockiness is tempered by his charming Southern flair, and his recent career hit over a discredited book earns him sympathy. The relationship between these two is anything but static. From the start, Jack gets on Melanie’s nerves, and she does everything she can to keep him away. Unperturbed, Jack repeatedly saves Melanie from the ominous presences lurking in her living room and eventually earns the independent woman’s trust. Together, they must unravel the mystery of the Vanderhorst family, whose house Melanie is now living in.
White’s characters are dynamic throughout. The novel is riddled with painful notes from Melanie’s less-than-perfect childhood as she struggles to reconcile her past with her present. As she battles the memory of a mother who left, Melanie’s estranged father simultaneously insists on helping renovate the house on Tradd Street as he battles alcoholism and is reacquainted with his daughter.
Background characters including a scruffy dog named General Lee, Melanie’s hippie best friend Sophie and an affectionate housekeeper warm the pages of the book and each add personality to the story.
Praised for its Lowcountry appeal, The House on Tradd Street is a hit. Luckily for me, there’s a sequel out this month, and my favorite characters will be back for more mystery solving as their romance heats up in The Girl on Legare Street. Two more books in the series will follow, due for release in 2011 and 2013.