Return to Tradd Street
NAL / January 7, 2014 / $15.00 print, $7.99 digital
Facing her future as a single mother, psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton is determined to be strong and leave her past with writer Jack Trenholm behind her. But history has a tendency of catching up with Melanie, whether she likes it or not.…
As the hauntings on Tradd Street slowly become more violent, Melanie decides to find out what caused the baby’s untimely death, uncovering the love, loss, and betrayal that color the house’s history—and threaten her claim of ownership. But can she seek Jack’s help without risking her heart? For in revealing the secrets of the past, Melanie also awakens the malevolent presence that has tried to keep the truth hidden for decades.…
There are several elements of Return to Tradd Street, the fourth and final book in Karen White's Tradd Street series, that make the book an enjoyable read. The first thing that comes to mind is the Southern setting. White wasn’t raised in the South—her biography states she grew up in London—but she captures the best of the South’s characteristics—the strength of the women, the charm of the men, the deep devotion to family, and the almost subliminal consciousness of the past.
The hero and heroine are my favorite type too: the competent, high-achieving heroine, confused and dazzled by the charm-oozing hero. While the conflict keeping the two apart is somewhat weak and is just a Big Misunderstanding, I easily went with the flow. Melanie Middleton has always questioned Jack Trenholm’s interest in her, and when she makes the big leap to tell him that she loves him, he fails to reiterate in kind. He proposes once she tells him she's pregnant, but she rejects his proposal. Part of the enjoyment in the story is watching Jack attempt to charm himself back into her good graces. Of course Melanie realizes what he is trying to do, but she finds it almost impossible to resist:
He was resting his elbows against the arms of his chair and regarding me with those intense blue eyes. “You’re still beautiful, you know. Maybe even more so.”
My half-formed sentence flew from my head. He’d always had a knack for chiseling my defenses away one pebble at a time. But his words had been more like a wrecking ball against my castle walls. I started to smile, but then I remembered my reflection in the bathroom mirror as I’d dressed that morning- the bloated face and body, the lanky hair, and the zit on my chin. I hadn’t kept Clearasil in my bathroom cabinet since I was about sixteen, and I’d dabbed on a spot of whitening toothpaste instead—an old home remedy I’d probably read in Seventeen magazine—and belatedly wondered whether I’d remembered to wipe it off before heading to the office. . .
“What do you want, Jack? I’m very busy . . .”
As if I hadn’t spoken, he said, “Your eyes are brighter than I ever remember seeing them, and your face looks good with a little padding.” He paused, leaning forward, his voice lowering a notch. “And your body—it’s like ripening fruit.” His eyes dipped for a moment to my chest, where I knew the buttons on my blouse were straining to keep it closed. His eyes rose to meet mine. “Pregnancy definitely suits you.”
There is just something so delicious about the chase, especially when the hero has to put some effort into it, and the heroine doesn’t just drop into his lap like a ripe plum. Of course there is always the danger, that once the chase is over the man will lose interest, but with Jack, you just know that his heart is involved, even if he can’t put his feelings in words.
Another part of the appeal is the understated humor. It is reassuring that even with the horror of past wrongs, and a very angry ghost, nothing too horrific will face the hero and heroine. Told from first person point of view—Melanie’s—the reader gets a glimpse into her entertaining challenges of a first pregnancy at forty:
I stepped out onto the sidewalk, letting the door to Ruth’s Bakery jingle shut behind me, feeling no better than when I’d entered five minutes before. In the past, Ruth had had my bag of doughnuts and extra-cream latte ready to grab and go on the way to my office. However, my mother and soon-to-be-ex-best friend, Sophie, had paid Ruth a visit in an apparent attempt to ruin my life. Clutched in my hands was a bag of two organic bran-and- broccoli muffins, as well as a tall cup of green tea without sugar. I couldn’t say for certain, but judging from my first and only bite I was pretty sure that the first two ingredients on the muffin recipe were cardboard and dirt. . .
I walked down the sidewalk on Broad toward Henderson House Realty, ditching the bag of muffins in the first trash receptacle that I passed. I’d had such high hopes when actual hunger pangs had gripped me after the early-morning nausea, and the thought of hidden candy bars in my office lightened my step so that I was almost skipping by the time I reached my building.
Mixed in with Jack’s uphill courtship, and Melanie’s pregnancy challenges is an intriguing mystery. Melanie has finally come to terms with the fact that she “sees dead people” only to lose this ability with her pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean that ghosts are not around.
We looked at one another, seeing our frosty breaths as if we were standing outside on a January morning instead of inside the house at the end of summer. Together we inched forward to peer up the attic stairs.
We stopped, and I blinked several times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.
At the top of the steps, somehow pulled out from under a heap of old furniture and junk, was an ancient cradle, outlined in the fading light of early evening from the window behind it. . .
Then from somewhere behind us came the sound of a baby crying the mewling echoing against the plaster walls and tall ceilings of the old house, and sending a chill deep down into my womb, where my own baby lay, protected.
Jack reached out and put a hand on my abdomen, touching our child for the first time. Our eyes met in a mixture of fear and anticipation, as if we were both realizing that we were in this together, and that we were up against more than we’d bargained for.
Return to Tradd Street is the fourth book in this series, and while it could be read as a stand-alone, I do recommend reading the other books in the series first since the nuances of the varied relationships have been built up over time. You won’t regret starting from the first book, and lucky you—you won’t have to wait for the next installment. For readers who already follow the series, you won’t be disappointed in this latest release. It has all the charm, humor, and spooky mystery that you have come to expect from this series and Ms. White.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Return to Tradd Street by Karen White, available January 7, 2014:
Leigh Davis, Blogger