Return to Tradd Street

Berkley
Published January 7, 2014
ISBN-10: 0451240596
ISBN-13: 9780451240590

Return to Tradd Street

Tradd Street Series, Book 4
Available Now in Paperback

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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.…

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

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.

4 1/2 stars–TOP PICK!
“White’s iconic Southern fiction with a woo-woo twist is superb.”
—RT Book Reviews

“Madcap paranormal, historical mystery, and small-town romance complete with all the requisite quirky side characters collide in the latest and apparently final installment in White’s Tradd Street series.”
—Booklist

“White is a good writer and carries an intriguing story smoothly forward…an interesting, engaging read.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Return to Tradd Street is a book with the right combination of chills, thrills and romance…Karen White saved the best of this series until last and her readers reap the benefits.” —Jackie Cooper, The Huffington Post

Return to Tradd Street will leave you with a wonderful taste of Southern hospitality while also craving more of these delightful characters.”
—Fresh Fiction

CHAPTER 1

My eyes flickered open in my Tradd Street bedroom where splinters of light fed slowly into the room through the plantation shutters. The gossamer curtains that my mother had thought would add a touch of femininity to the otherwise masculine space moved softly from cool air being blown from the vent hidden in the wide baseboard.  A wet nose and furry ear pressed against my cheek as General Lee’s tail fanned my chest.  Yet none of these creature comforts eased the tightening in my chest that had seized me upon waking as the reality of my life once again came crashing down on my head like an avalanche with no impediments.  Despite a lifetime of being in control of my destiny and what I thought was a fulfilling life of purpose as a successful Realtor, I found myself in the most incomprehensible and extraordinary predicament: I was forty years old, single, and—most baffling of all—pregnant.

I glanced over at my bedside table to the small domed anniversary clock that had belonged to the home’s previous owner, Nevin Vanderhorst.  Like most everything else in the bedroom and the rest of the house, I’d kept it although I wasn’t altogether sure why.  I liked to tell myself it was because it would make the house easier to sell if I didn’t put too much of a personal stamp on it.  But sometimes, like now, I imagined I could hear Mr. Vanderhorst’s voice telling me about the love he had for his family’s ancestral home. It’s a piece of history you can hold in your hands. I hadn’t really understood what he’d meant at first but now, I was afraid, I was beginning to.

I was wary of understanding that connection between history and family. Despite being a native Charlestonian with my own baggage of family trees and old houses, I’d done very well without it for nearly thirty-three years, after all. At least until my mother, who had abandoned me when I was six years old, decided it was time we reconcile.

I squinted at the round face of the clock, silently cursing my decision not to replace my electric clock with a similar one—except with even larger, brighter neon numbers I could read without my glasses. I fumbled in the bedside drawer before finding my glasses and sticking them on my nose. Seven thirty. I jerked up, mortified that I had once again slept in. Not that anyone ever got to Henderson House Realty before nine, but since I’d begun my employment there I’d been like Old Faithful, always at my desk by eight o’clock. It’s what had put my name on the sales leader board in Mr. Henderson’s office every single quarter since my first year. A record I’d kept until recently.

I’d begun to swing my legs to the side of the bed when the room tilted and the contents in my stomach left over from the night before began to jostle for attention. Groaning, I lay back down on the pillow, feeling no better despite a wet swipe from General Lee’s tongue  A brief tapping on the door was followed by the appearance of Mrs. Houlihan, my housekeeper, entering the room carrying a plate of Saltines.

“Seems I got here just in time. Your mama told me to have these on your bedside table each morning. You’re supposed to eat a couple before you even raise your head off the pillow.”

I’d inherited Mrs. Houlihan along with the dog and the house. Although still having doubts about the benefits of the latter two, Mrs. Houlihan was worth her weight in gold. And, after studying her broad chest and ample hips, I realized that would be a considerable amount, indeed.

“Thank you, Mrs. Houlihan,” I said as I took a proffered cracker and stuck it on my dry tongue. I left it there to dissolve, afraid that if I moved my mouth too much my stomach would protest. I closed my eyes to keep the room from spinning and heard the sound again. It was what had awakened me, forgotten as soon as consciousness had claimed me.

“Did you hear that?” I asked, lying very still so I could both hear better and wouldn’t throw up from any sudden movement.

“Hear what?” Her eyes met mine.

The sound was so small it would have been easy to ignore. Except that it was accompanied by a rush of frigid air, like the door to a tomb had just been opened.

Readers Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion

INTRODUCTION

Melanie is only going through the motions of living since refusing Jack’s marriage proposal. She misses him desperately, but her broken heart is the least of her problems. Despite an insistence that she can raise their child alone, Melanie is completely unprepared for motherhood, and she struggles to complete renovations on her house on Tradd Street before the baby arrives.

When Melanie is roused one night by the sound of a ghostly infant crying, she chooses to ignore it. She simply does not have the energy to deal with one more crisis. That is, until the remains of a newborn buried in an old christening gown are found hidden in the foundation of her house.

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.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Why does Melanie hold out on Jack’s marriage proposal? How do forces (human or otherwise) bring them together and continue to entwine their lives?
  • How does Melanie feel about her psychic gifts? Would you find them a comforting ability or an upsetting curse?
  • How does the author describe the psychic experience-what specific kind of activity arises? Is this how you would imagine a ghostly encounter (cold spots, movement in the corner of your eye)?
  • “There’s no such thing as a stray feeling. I think more people are psychic than we think.” Do you agree with this idea? How can you know for sure?
  • Why do you think Louisa remains at Tradd Street? Is she a protective spirit for Mellie and, later, her twins? How does she play a role in the events of the book? Do you think she unraveled the mystery of the lineage while “nesting”?
  • Discuss the role and types of mother and child relationships (by blood or otherwise) in this book.
  • “If you wait until everything’s perfect, until all your differences have been settled and all the stars have aligned just right, then you miss your chance at happiness.” Do you agree? How does Melanie’s goal of perfectionism undermine her chances at love and a “peaceful” life? Do you think the experience of motherhood will adjust her expectations?
  • Were you surprised by the Gilbert’s decision? Or the nerve of Marc to offer a bid?
  • Do you think Melanie made the best choice in the love triangle that formed between herself, Jack, and Detective Riley? What kind of futures could both men offer her?
  • Do you think the attic encounter will resolve Camille’s presence? Why do you think Charlotte’s spirit hasn’t haunted the home after so much history and drama that occurred there?
  • Can you imagine Melanie one day giving up her business to consult on police cold cases? If you had a paranormal gift, would you offer up your services?
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