Set in the Holy City - historic Charleston, SC, we pick up from the last book with Melanie (Middleton) and Jack Trenholm, settling into marriage with a busy lifestyle and twins, Sarah and JJ (Jack, Jr), and Jack’s daughter, Nola, a sophomore at Ashley Hall. Nola is also interested in a boy named Cooper which Jack must warm up to.
They are the owners of a historic home on Tradd Street (an interesting story from previous books), with its quirks and their dogs. The restless dead had left her along for almost a year as Melanie settled into her new life as wife and mother without the distraction of spirits needing her for something.
Jack is a bestselling author (charming, funny, and irresistible) and Melanie, a successful Realtor, is returning to work after her maternity leave. They are coming up on their first year as parents. Melanie is having a hard time finding and keeping a nanny since she likes things a certain way with her routines. This has been the reason she has been delayed getting back to work, much later than she planned.
Melanie’s first day back, feeling a bit insecure, not having lost all the baby weight, she lands a new client, Jayne Smith from Alabama, who has recently inherited a prominent historic home, the Pinckney mansion. Being an orphan, she is not related to the owner and hates old homes and has never been to Charleston.
She wants Melanie to sell it and find her a new one. Something fresh and new with lots of metal, glass, and stone. Ironically, she is a qualified nanny and does not mind Melanie’s attention to order and details. A match made in heaven.
However, Jayne is not so sure she wants to move into Melanie and Jack’s house since it is also old and historic until she decides about her own living arrangements. However, she soon learns it feels like a home and feels comfortable there.
Melanie and her mom (both with psychic gifts) decide they want to try and discover the past of the house, to warn off the spirits for Jayne to possibly decide to hold on to the home since there was a lot of history. After all, it was on South Battery near the corner of Legare, a huge white house with the portico and columns.
Button Pinckney was an acquaintance of Melanie’s and a good friend of both her mother and mother-in-law. They all went to school at Ashley Hall years ago, and her mom had attended the funeral.
Why would Jayne inherit a home from a stranger? Jayne was raised in the foster care system and was never adopted. Melanie liked her and wants to help. If they can warn off and rid the house of spirits, evil, and ghosts- maybe Jayne will decide to keep the house.
Melanie had a flash of déjà vu, since a man Vanderhorst had left her his crumbling old home that she did not want or need either, not so long ago. She knows all too well about an albatross of a house left to an unsuspecting stranger.
We meet up with Dr. Sophie Wallen-Arasi, professor of historic preservation at the College of Charleston, and Melanie’s mom, Ginette, as well as Melanie’s annoying cousin and Jack’s ex-girlfriend, Rebecca—plus her husband, Marc Longo who stole Jack’s book idea, the story of a disappearance and a murder that occurred in the twenties in her house and made it into a runaway bestseller (with Jack being dropped by his publisher as a result).
An ongoing mystery of the Pickney house. Button never married. She had an older brother-Sumter. He married Anna, another classmate and they had a daughter. She died when she was a child. Anna and Sumter divorced shortly afterward and Anna remained in the house with Button. She died about ten years later. Sumter never remarried and moved to New York after his divorce.
Melanie’s parents have recently remarried and have a good relationship. In the meantime, Melanie lets her old insecurities get in the way making her jump to the wrong conclusions. We also meet up with Detective Thomas Riley and he helps Melanie run a background check on Jayne for the nanny job and he seems to like Jayne. Melanie and Ginette are curious why a generous philanthropist decided to give her entire estate to a deserving orphan.
However, Melanie and Ginette get more than they bargained for with ghosts of the past at the old Pickney mansion. From chilling spirits, haunting ghosts, a cat, a disturbing antique doll, a hanging, a past mental illness, warnings to go away, and desperate cries of help— Jayne, Melanie, and Jayne may have more in common than they may know.
Old secrets which have been buried, all come to the surface. A decades-old mystery to be solved with a shocking conclusion.
As always, Karen White is multi-talented, writing southern women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, paranormal, romance, literary, and historical, crossing many genres. Always love her tales of Charleston and the dark family secrets of the South. I especially loved the reference to Wendy Wax (very cool) —another favorite.
Charleston is such a beautiful city with its historic architecture, and always love catching up with familiar landmarks. Well-crafted and engaging. An intriguing twisty mystery with paranormal elements, enjoy catching up with familiar characters. I enjoy Jack and Melanie’s relationship and the dramas of their lives. If you love history, southern fiction, and ghost stories you will enjoy the series.
Having read and enjoyed all the books in the series, highly recommend them all! In addition to the reading copy, also listened to the audio version (nicely done as always), narrated by Aimée Bruneau, with a charming southern accent.
Looking forward to the next- hoping we hear more about Jayne's mysterious past.