November 14, 2008
The House on Tradd Street
By Karen White
While I haven't reviewed much literary fiction on this blog, I do enjoy it. On the other hand, I think it's something of an artificial category. The title and faux-impressionist cover speak of the setting but conceal the contents. At least the blurb is honest; otherwise people might be quite surprised to find themselves reading a ghost story with strong romance and mystery elements.
The eponymous house on Tradd Street is Melanie Middleton's unexpected inheritance. She grew up in Charleston and appreciates the history, but she doesn't appreciate the upkeep old houses require nor that her mother sold their house when it was supposed to become Melanie's. Though Melanie has become a realtor specializing in historical homes, she lives in an ultra modern apartment. But now Nevin Vanderhorst has died and left his home to Melanie with several strings attached. To her the most bothersome is having to live in the house.
Mr. Vanderhorst's mother left the family with Joseph Longo when he was a child, a strangely out-of-character move. Melanie inherited the ability to see ghosts from her mother and now she can see both Louisa Vanderhorst and a more malevolent, unknown male presence. However, Melanie wants to keep her nose out of the mystery. On the other hand, handsome, younger author Jack Trenholm is all too interested in the mystery. Joseph's descendant Marc Longo also approaches her to purchase the house.
In addition to suddenly gaining a social life, Melanie's parents are re-entering her life. Her former alcoholic father has been given control of the finances to restore the house and her runaway mother is calling. To survive her childhood Melanie became a very anal and controlled woman. The ghosts, suitors, and reemerging family ties through her off-balance and force her to own up to parts of herself she prefers to ignore.
There's quite a bit going on in THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET and Karen White manages well. She rotates between focusing on the family, mystery, or romantic aspect often enough that you don't forget one plot thread is happening but not so often that the story loses its flow. The characters get less equal attention. Melanie is very well-developed and Jack has interesting dimensions. Marc, the final point of the triangle, is fairly one-note. Sophie and Chad, two supporting characters who appear frequently, are entertaining but rarely escape being stereotypical modern hippies. While I liked all of the characters, in the end I felt like I only had a grasp on Melanie.
Karen White can be found at her website. You can also learn more from my interview with her. The sequel to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, titled THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, will be published November 2009. I intend to pick it up.
My review copy was received through PUMP UP YOUR BOOK PROMOTION.