EXCERPT: Only later would I mark how he watched my approach with both sadness and trepidation.
‘Oh!’ I exclaimed, dragging up some vestige of coquettishness. ‘A late Christmas present for me?’
‘Yes,’ he said, refusing to meet my eye. ‘Take it as such. I won’t be charging you. Truth be told, I don’t know if I should give it to you at all.’
And then he was gone, disappeared like a puff of dark dust. Upon closer inspection, I saw the package had been wrapped, sealed and tied with the string circled three times around. Unable to open it with my own power, I walked to the desk and asked Mr Sylvan to lend me his letter opener. Silver and sharp, it weighed heavy in my hand as I sliced through the string and along the sealed edges.
‘It’s my Christmas portrait,’ I said as much to myself as to Mr Sylvan. I unwrapped the layers and uncovered the image printed on heavy paper. I felt myself frown at first. Haley had promised a tint, but I saw nothing but ordinary black and white.
Then the image blurred in my trembling hand.
‘Mrs Krause?’ Mr Sylvan’s voice lurked beyond the roaring of the rush of blood in my ears.
I dropped the image to the desktop and braced my hands beside it. A sob caught in my throat, perfectly timed to Mr Sylvan’s un-Sylvan-like gasp.
The Christmas tree it seemed, had failed in its spell to protect me from the ghost of Sallie White. For there she was, in the photograph. Right behind me. Her hand resting on my shoulder.
ABOUT ‘THE LADY IN RESIDENCE’: Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.
In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?
MY THOUGHTS: An enjoyable read, but not a particularly gripping or memorable one. I guess I was expecting more ‘gothic’ atmosphere.
The Lady in Residence is a combination of romance and a ‘paranormal’ mystery set over two timelines. I enjoyed the characters of Dini and Quin, but I found Hedda to be quite cold and calculating. Although I guess that had I found myself in her circumstances in that time, I might be much the same.
I have to admit to skimming large tracts in the second half of the book when my interest began to wane and it seemed that we were just rehashing old ground. So I may have missed it, but I can’t recall seeing any reference to ‘true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again’. If there are indeed references to this, please don’t hesitate to correct me.
I found the author’s notes at the end of the book most interesting. ‘There’s a Russian nesting doll structure to The Lady in Residence. Sallie haunts Hedda, Hedda haunts Dini,’ which explains the central theme of the novel perfectly. That and obsession.
‘The story of Sallie White is true, and the details of it depicted in The Lady in Residence fall in line with the newspaper accounts of the time.’
Pittman also talks about the beauty of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, calling it ‘historically exquisite, but there is a sense of heaviness to it too.’
So please do read the Author’s note, but not before the book as it contains at least one spoiler that I can think of.
#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #christianromance #mystery #paranormal
‘She fixated on the idea that a man who had sisters knew how to be kind to a woman.’ – I snorted at this! I have three brothers and they spent most of our days enjoying making mine miserable!
THE AUTHOR: Allison Pittman is the author of For Time and Eternity, Stealing Home, the Crossroads of Grace series, and her nonfiction debut, Saturdays With Stella. A high-school English teacher, she serves as director of the theater arts group at her church. She is also the co-president of a dynamic Christian writers group in the San Antonio, Texas area, where she makes her home with her husband and their three boys.
DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing a digital ARC of The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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