Melanie “Mellie” Middleton is a very particular person: she keeps her life organized on spreadsheets – from her job selling historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina to her shoe and clothes collections – and likes as few surprises as possible. Lately, however, her life seems to have other plans and curve balls keep coming from everywhere. Her own historic home continues to need serious TLC and the costs keep mounting. Her mother, who left her and her father when Mellie was very young, is back in her life and her recovering alcoholic father is sober and ready to strengthen the relationships with both of them. And there’s that whole “ability to communicate with the dead” thing always causing Mellie new problems.
When Jack Trenholm, the man Mellie is having an increasingly hard time hiding her feelings for, shows up on her doorstep with a teenage daughter, Nola, who he just discovered he had now that Nola’s mother died, asking Mellie to let Nola live with her while they work through this new tenuous relationship, she thinks things couldn’t possibly get any more complicated. As always, it seems, another ball is about to drop.
Jack’s mother gives Nola an antique Victorian dollhouse in the hopes of helping her feel more at home in her new life. They quickly discover that something is very wrong with this house, the dolls always showing up in unexpected places, often with strangely broken parts. A feeling of foreboding surrounds the house and Mellie knows she needs to find out who the house originally belonged to and what unsettled spirits are still attached. Nola’s mother is also sticking close and seems to have something she needs to take care of before she can move on. But what could that be?
As Mellie, her mother, Jack and Nola work to answer these questions they must also work on the very real issues in their own lives. For Mellie, it seems, life is just meant to be full of surprises.
The Strangers on Montagu Street is actually the third book in Karen White’s Tradd Street contemporary paranormal mystery series. Having not read the first two books in the series there were often times I felt in the dark about the background of the characters and their many varied and complicated relationships. For example, Jack and Mellie obviously have quite a colorful past but I am not fully sure what that is from reading this book. Having said that, this is still a very entertaining read and somehow combines fun and quirky southern antics with more serious topics like suicide, abandonment and murder.
I got chills when a normal walk down the street suddenly had a dead person staring at Mellie or walking towards her in hopes of help. A trip to the hospital has the dead lining the walls and peering in windows at her. Such seemingly casual inclusion of these types of occurrences bothered me enough to have me peeking over my shoulder to make sure I was alone.
The touching and fragile growth between the characters gave a very real and solid contrast to the paranormal elements and really made me want to go back and read the first two books in the series to get caught up on how they all got to this point. I plan on doing so as The Strangers on Montagu Street ends with “to be continued” and I am very excited to see where the author takes Mellie next.
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Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Joan Schulhafer. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.