With The House on Prytania, book two in her Royal Street series, Karen White spins another paranormal charmer full of mystery and intrigue, sending readers on a high stakes adventure that will have them clamoring for the next installment.
About The House on Prytania
In The House on Prytania, A woman is haunted—both literally and figuratively—by ghosts of the past in this second novel of the Royal Street series by New York Times bestselling author Karen White.
Nola Trenholm may not be psychic herself, but she’s spent enough time around people who are to know when ghosts are present, and there are definitely a few lingering spirits in her recently purchased Creole cottage in New Orleans. Something, or someone, is keeping them tethered to this world. And not all of them are benign.
But with the sudden return of Sunny Ryan, Beau Ryan’s long-lost sister, Nola has plenty to distract her from her ghostly housemates. Especially when the tempting—yet firmly unavailable—Beau, wanting to mete out justice to those he blames for Sunny’s kidnapping, asks Nola for a favor that threatens to derail her hard-won recovery and send her hurtling backward.
He asks her to welcome Michael Hebert back into her life, even though Michael is the reason for Nola’s bruised heart. Beau is convinced that Michael’s powerful family was behind Sunny’s disappearance and that Michael is the key to getting information the police won’t be able to ignore—if Nola is willing to risk everything for which she’s worked so hard.
Torn between helping Beau and protecting herself, Nola doesn’t realize until it’s almost too late why the ghosts are haunting her house—a startling revelation that will throw her and Beau together to fight a common enemy. Assuming Nola can get Beau to listen to what the spirits are trying to tell him, because ignoring them could prove to be a fatal mistake…
Excerpt from The House on Prytania
The Crescent City, with its long and tangled history, its glorious architecture and subtropical allure, along with its inarguably dark past and requisite restless spirits, is a forgiving place. A city with accepting arms for society’s lost and hungry souls, and a haven for people like me who’d stumbled and fallen yet managed to pull themselves back up. People who were brave enough to try again in a place known for its extremes, or simply too hard-headed to admit defeat.
As the St. Charles streetcar I’d just exited waddled its way down the tracks toward the river bend, I listened to its clanging and jangling. It had become the soundtrack of my life in a new city, much as the church bells chiming their holy chorus in my hometown of Charleston once were.
Slowly walking down Broadway, I enjoyed the afternoon air of an early-October Saturday. The oppressive humidity of summer had lifted, giving us a reprieve, and although the temperature was nowhere near what anybody up north would call cold, it was cool enough that I wore a sweater over my T-shirt. Even my fingers felt chilled as they gripped the straps of my backpack.
I considered slipping on the gloves that my stepmother, Melanie, had sent me-along with typed instructions on how to care for them. I was due a visit from my family-my parents and my twelve-year-old half siblings, Sarah and JJ-the following week, and I didn’t want to register Melanie’s disappointment at seeing my dirty gloves. Exactly the reason why I wasn’t wearing them. Because absolutely nobody in real life had the patience to clean their gloves to Melanie’s specifications. Unless they were Melanie.
I lived on Tulane University’s so-called fraternity row, my upstairs town-house apartment sandwiched between two fraternity houses, so I was prepared to dodge the street football being played as I made my way down the sidewalk. The days were shorter now, the rose-tinted dusk sky hovering over me as I walked, the growing dimness darkening the shadows between houses and behind unlit windows. Not for the first time, I was grateful that I had only five senses and couldn’t see anything within the shadows. But just because I couldn’t see anything didn’t mean that nothing was there.
I climbed the steps to my apartment, enjoying the drifting scents of something spicy and pumpkin-y baking in the oven. Being greeted by fresh baked goods was just one of the perks of having the Southern version of Martha Stewart as my roommate. A version that sported flame red hair and had a skill set that included all things domestic as well as the ability to change a tire while wearing high heels, and had an accent as thick as the Delta mud from her home state of Mississippi.
Jolene McKenna was a force of nature whose turns of phrase could be simultaneously head-scratching and profound, and whose sweet nature hid a backbone of steel mixed with concrete. Jolene had been my roommate during my abbreviated tenure at Tulane, and when we’d run into each other in New Orleans seven years later, I had needed a roommate, and she’d needed an apartment. It had seemed serendipitous.
As soon as I opened the French door at the top of the stairwell and threw off my backpack, I was attacked by a small gray and white fur ball with two dark button eyes and a matching nose and a wildly waving plumed tail. He was wearing yet another fall-themed dog sweater courtesy of his favorite aunt, Jolene. Although Mardi was technically my rescue dog, Jolene had taken over all his accessorizing, something my stepmother, Melanie, could appreciate. I had drawn the line at monogramming, but little by little I’d noticed MLT (Mardi Lee Trenholm) appearing on bowls, bedding, and his dog-sized bathrobe.
At the tap-tap sound of approaching high heels, Mardi and I looked up to see Jolene. As usual, her hair and makeup were perfect, and she wore a Wizard of Oz-themed apron over a cocktail dress. At her look of disappointment, something clicked in the back of my mind. “Oh, no. Did I forget . . . ?”
“Yes. Tonight is the big welcome-home party for Sunny Ryan. I’ve been texting you for the last hour, but you didn’t respond.” Her eyes widened as they settled on my unruly hair, which had had only a glancing swipe from a brush earlier that morning before I’d left for work. “I’m not sure if we have enough time to make you presentable, but I’ve never been called a quitter.”
She took Mardi from my arms. “Sorry-I was catching up on Beau’s podcast and my battery died. Really, Jolene, there’s no reason for me to get all gussied up.” I used one of her words to placate her. “It’s just a small gathering of family and close friends.”
Jolene grabbed my wrist and began pulling me toward the bathroom. “I’ve already drawn your bath. It’s grown cool, but that means you won’t lollygag. And of course you should get gussied up. Beau will be there.”
I blinked at her. My relationship with Beau Ryan was complicated. Which was a lot like saying the levee system in New Orleans might have a few flaws. I hadn’t the energy or the time to hash it all out now. Instead, I said, “Well, Beau is Sunny’s brother, so it would be strange if he wasn’t. And I’m sure his girlfriend will be there, too. Besides, I haven’t heard from Beau since Sunny showed up the night of Mardi’s gotcha party. He’s obviously moved on now that he doesn’t need my help finding his sister.”
Jolene stopped at the threshold of the bathroom and pulled off my baggy cardigan before gently pushing me inside. “For someone so smart, you sure can be ignorant. Now hop in the tub and do the best you can with that shampoo. You have exactly five minutes, and I’m timing you. Starting now.” She tapped the screen of her smart watch before closing the door in my face.
One hour and fifteen minutes later, we were in Jolene’s relic of a car-named Bubba by its owner-and heading down Broadway on our way to the Ryans’ historic family home on Prytania in the Garden District. Mardi, wearing a celebratory yellow kerchief that matched his sweater, sat dutifully in his car seat in the back, the air from the vent blowing his fur from his face like in a shampoo commercial. The heater in the old car apparently had only two settings: off and full blast. I wanted to crack open my window to let in fresh air but was scolded by Jolene, who warned me that the three layers of Aqua Net she’d applied to my hair could go only so far.
A silver platter filled with Jolene’s pumpkin nut muffins sat on my lap. Apparently, she had the hearing of a bat, because despite the volume of the heater and the rumbling of the tires passing over the ubiquitously uneven paving of New Orleans’s streets, she heard me carefully lifting the plastic wrap to grab a pinch of one, and she slapped my hand.
“You’re worse than Mardi,” she scolded.
“I’m starving. I’ve been cutting bathroom floor tiles all afternoon. Thibaut is teaching me, and he’s very patient, but it takes forever. I didn’t want to take a food break and disappoint him.”
Jolene swerved around a giant pothole in the middle of the road, causing me to grab the platter to keep it from sliding off my lap. “You do know that Thibaut works for you, right?”
“Yeah, that. I keep forgetting.” Thibaut Kobylt was a master of all things construction related and led the two-man crew-including another jack-of-all-trades, Jorge-helping me restore my first home, a Creole cottage in the Marigny neighborhood. He was talented, smart, funny, and had the patience of Job. His only flaw was that he’d done time in jail for the manslaughter of his wife. I’d left out that little detail when telling my parents about Thibaut. There were some things they were probably better off not knowing.
Regardless, I was lucky to have Thibaut on my crew, which was a very small one, owing to the not-unfounded rumor that my house wasn’t “right.” Meaning it was haunted, possessed, or cursed. Or maybe just possessed or cursed, since it shouldn’t still be haunted. With the help of a reluctant Beau Ryan, who still hadn’t reconciled himself to the idea that he could communicate with ghosts, we had eradicated two spirits bound to the house-those of Beau’s grandfather and his grandmother’s best friend, Jeanne, who’d been murdered in the house in 1964 by her own father.
But in the weeks since, it had become clear even to me that things were still not right with the house. Judging from the fact that neighbors and most workmen continued to refuse to set foot inside, and from the regular delivery of gris-gris bags to my front porch, I wasn’t the only person who thought so. Even when the house was empty, the atmosphere was like that of a suspended breath, the air thick with the sort of tension that precedes the whistling of a teakettle.
I had even thought I’d smelled a hint of pipe tobacco, the telltale sign that Beau’s grandfather was nearby. But he couldn’t be. Beau had sent him to the light. Maybe he just wanted to hang on for a little while longer to get to see Beau. Or maybe they didn’t allow smoking in heaven. Any reason other than the nagging thought that Charles Ryan still had something to tell us.
“How long do you think we need to stay?”
Jolene sighed as she turned onto Prytania, rolling over the curb and jostling the platter on my lap. “Don’t you want to get to know Beau’s long-lost sister and find out where she’s been for the past couple of decades? I mean, the last time they saw her, she was just a baby. That’s a lot to go over.”
“I agree. And I’m interested in hearing her story. Yet from what she’s already told us, all she knows is that she was adopted when she was a toddler and raised by a loving family in Edina, Minnesota. Curiosity about her birth parents brought her back to New Orleans.”
“So what’s bothering you?” Jolene asked.
“I didn’t say something was bothering me.”
“You didn’t have to. You’re snapping that rubber band on your wrist, which is something you’ve started doing when you’ve got something stewing inside your head.”
I thought for a moment, trying to pinpoint exactly what was bothering me. “Don’t you think it odd that Sunny showed up when she did? Right after we’d uncovered the truth about Antoine Broussard and his connection to her kidnapping?”
“But now that Sunny’s shown up, none of that matters anymore,” Jolene said as she slid into a driveway and flipped down the car’s visor-bravely hanging on to the ceiling with duct tape and a prayer-and began reapplying her lipstick.
“Exactly,” I said.
She carefully closed the visor, then turned her gaze to meet mine. “What are you saying?”
I shrugged, not really sure what I was saying. “I don’t know. It just seems like such a . . . coincidence.”
“And there’s no such thing as coincidence,” she said slowly, echoing the oft-repeated mantra of my father, Jack Trenholm. He was an international bestselling author of true-crime books, and it was something he’d discovered in his research and that had been proven time and time again.
Jolene shifted in her seat so that she faced me. “Sometimes, Nola, we are handed miracles disguised as coincidences. For over twenty years, Sunny had no idea that she had a family looking for her, and that family had no idea that she was even alive. Then suddenly, for reasons beyond our comprehension, all the stars aligned, and the pieces fell into place, and Sunny and her family are together again. I don’t think it’s fair for us to question it. I think all we need to do is rejoice in this miracle.”
When I didn’t respond, Jolene squeezed my hand where it rested on the seat. “I don’t blame you for questioning it. It’s your nature to question things. I’m sure you can’t help but compare Sunny’s story with your own and how you had no one looking for you after your mama died. But that was only because they didn’t know you existed.” She squeezed my hand again, then sat back in her seat. “But now you are loved to pieces by your family and friends, and that’s the most important thing. Even if that little green face of jealousy pops up every once in a while, you can just whack it on the head with the full knowledge that you are deeply loved and cherished.”
“You’re right,” I said, my eyes open but seeing nothing except my thirteen-year-old self on a cross-country bus from California to South Carolina, with all my hopes and fears confined to a single piece of paper crumpled in my pocket, on which my mother had scribbled the name of the father I had never met.
“And I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I think your heart is still hurting because of Michael. He’s a weasel and he betrayed your trust, and it takes the heart a lot longer than the brain to get over that kind of hurt. Just thank your stars that it was short-lived and you didn’t have to eat the whole egg to know it was rotten.” She gave me a sympathetic smile to soften her words. “I think that might be the reason why you can’t feel the kind of happy you should at Sunny’s reunion with her family.”
The mention of Michael Hebert shook me out of my reverie. I widened my eyes, finally registering where Jolene had parked the car. “Where are we? This isn’t the Ryans’ house.”
“I know that. I just didn’t want anyone seeing me fixing my makeup.”
By “anyone,” I knew she meant Jaxson Landry, a local lawyer and the object of her unrequited love. He was dating her friend Carly. She had told me that Jaxson had bought a ring for Carly, and I didn’t want to rub salt in the wound. Pressing hard on the pedal, Jolene backed out of the driveway, oblivious to the blaring horn of an oncoming car.
“Maybe I need to stop looking at everything like a crime novel and just be happy for Beau and his family,” I said.
“I think that’s a very good plan. Besides, Sunny looks like Beau and is cute as a button. Except for the blond hair. It’s completely the wrong shade.”
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Author: Karen White
Launch Date: May 9, 2023
About the Author Karen White
With almost two million books in print in fifteen different languages, Karen White, the author The House on Prytania, is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 34 novels, including the popular Charleston-set Tradd Street mystery series.
Raised in a house full of brothers, Karen’s love of books and strong female characters first began in the third grade when the local librarian issued her a library card and placed The Secret of the Old Clock, a Nancy Drew Mystery, in her hands.
Karen’s roots run deep in the South, where many of her novels are set. Her intricate plot lines and compelling characters charm and captivate readers with just the right mix of family drama, mystery, intrigue and romance.
Not entirely convinced she wanted to be a writer, Karen first pursued a career in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, in a weak moment, she wrote her first book. In the Shadow of the Moon was published in August, 2000. Her books—referred to as “grit lit” (Southern Women’s Fiction)—have since been nominated for numerous national contests, including the SIBA (Southeastern Booksellers Alliance) Fiction Book of the Year.
When not writing, Karen spends her time reading, singing, and avoiding cooking. Karen and her husband have two grown children and a spoiled Havanese dog, Sophie, and divides her time between Atlanta, Georgia and the northwest Florida coast.