Melanie Middleton is an excellent Realtor in the exclusive district of Charleston known as South of Broad, yet she hates the houses she sells. She sees the old mansions as termite-infested money pits. Still, the money is good and a girl's gotta eat, right?
One day she is summoned to the home of elderly Nevin Vanderhorst at 55 Tradd Street. After a disconcerting meeting in which Mr. Vanderhorst only seems concerned in finding out if Melanie can see the ghost of his mother in the front yard (she can, but only admits it reluctantly), he sends her on her way. Days later, she finds out the old man has passed away and left his historic home to her--if she wants it. He has left behind a letter explaining some family history and asking her to find out what happened to his mother when he was 8 years old. Mrs. Vanderhorst disappeared and was never seen again. Well, who can resist a plea like that, from practically beyond the grave? Certainly not Melanie, who has a big heart that she likes to hide behind her career-woman persona. With some loyal, talented friends, Melanie sets out to restore the house and solve the mystery.
Charleston and ghosts are a perfect fit. (There's a very long story that I won't get into here about a ghost tour I went on in the city. Needless to say, my husband will be going on any future ghost tours alone. No, I didn't see a ghost.) One of the first things anyone thinks of in connection with Charleston is the beautiful old homes. So this was a very atmospheric book that had me ready to drive on down to Charleston for another visit.
I think my one problem is that the characters were a little...expected? That's not to say that I didn't like them; I liked them a lot. But they were probably exactly what you expect from my description. Career girl with a heart, her troubled family, kooky friends, and sexy yet surprisingly vulnerable love interest.
And speaking of the love interest...
Jack Trenholm. Me-ow. So what if I expected him? He was, um, sexy yet surprisingly vulnerable. :-) I obviously can't resist the type. I found myself mentally ogling his abs and pecs right along with Melanie. The tension between the two is delicious.
I think maybe part of the reason I knocked the rating back is that there's a big mystery about Melanie's own past. There's a reason she hates old houses. There's a lot of hinting around, but it takes a long time to find out what has left her so emotionally scarred. I got a little frustrated with it. I have a feeling the next book will explain all that better so I have high hopes.
The mystery involved puzzles and codes and the Civil War (as all books set in Charleston must), and even more history and unrequited love/lust. All great ingredients. I think everyone can guess who done what pretty early on, but the details did surprise me.
I don't think the ghost-y element should put anyone off. It's there, but it's not too scary, and it's not really the point. The point is love and peace and family ties.
I recommend this read for a fun little piece of Charleston. If you can't get there in person, the next best thing is to go in a book, right? I'll be reading the sequel, The Girl on Legare Street.
Read an excerpt.
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