The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman is a time slip romantic mystery based on a true story. This book was unlike any I have read. About a third of the way through it, I almost put it down. I am so glad that I did not.
This is the story of Hedda Krause in the early 1900’s and Dini, Marilyn Houdini Blackstone, of present day. How cute is it for a fifth generation magician to be named Dini, short for Houdini? It is set in San Antonio, Texas and based on the murder of Sallie White. The characters are intriguing. Hedda reminded me of an old movie actress. I loved her spunk and attitude. Dini was a different character with a lot of issues. She was obsessed with Hedda. I had difficulty relating to her.
Dini works various jobs, most of them in the magic field. She also narrates ghost tours at the Menger hotel. This gives her a chance to talk about poor Hedda and Sallie. Gil, the bartender at the hotel, is a friend and shares this interest.
This is where I almost quit reading. Granted, there is not a lot of Christian messages or lessons in this novel. There are some, but they are lightly sprinkled. It seemed odd to have a Christian book about ghosts, bars, cigarette smoking, and common-law marriages. It is based on a real life happening, so perhaps that is why it is gritty.
I felt better about reading this book after seeing the author note at the back of the book. It says, “A confession. I love a good ghost story. Do I believe in ghosts? No, at least not in the restless spirit of the dead variety. Ghosts are memories. Stories. When I hear stories about a haunted house, I don’t care about the current bumps in the night; I want to know the story of the person behind those bumps and why the story has lived long after the soul.” She even had in the story that we are not supposed to believe in ghosts.
Author Pittman has an inviting style of writing. Her stories grab the attention of readers quickly and retain it. This was no exception, I have long finished the book and am still pondering it. There are many twists and turns to make it exciting. The mystery begs for solving. I found myself going back to reread certain sections after I had finished the book wondering why I did not catch a certain thing. Everything get tied up nicely at the end of the book.
I recommend this is adult readers that enjoy gothic, mysteries, and time slip novels. There is a light Christian message. I enjoyed both story lines. They are extremely well connected. This would make a great selection for a book club, although there are no discussion questions. It would be fun to talk about this in a group.
I rated it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit, but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: The Lady in Residence
Author: Allison Pittman
Genre: Christian Historical
Release date: February 2021
Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?
Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.
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?
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About the Author
Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.
More from Allison
From Haunting to Healing: How Stories Bring New Life to Old Ghosts
If you really think about it, every story is a ghost story. Not the floating spirits of the dearly departed kind, not bumps in the night or mysterious howling in the darkness—but the best stories come from examining a haunted heart. Memories that pursue the present.
A few years ago I took the walking tour of haunted San Antonio. It was a lark, a fun tourist-y thing to do with some visiting friends. I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I am a collector of stories. The tour opens at the Alamo—sacred ground of slain soldiers. The second stop is the Menger Hotel, listed as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States by those who measure and evaluate such things. And while the tour guide waxed on about the guests’ litany of haunted experiences (including Teddy Roosevelt raging through the lobby), my mind stuck with the story of Sallie White. Sallie White is the Menger Hotel’s most famous ghost—a chambermaid whose apparition is reported to be seen walking the halls, towels draped over her arm, or to be heard as an efficient two-rap knock on your door late at night. My mind, however, didn’t dwell on Sallie the ghost, but Sallie the woman—just a normal, hard-working, poor woman, murdered in the street by a man who claimed to love her. But for that, she would have passed into history unknown. Instead, her story is told every night as strangers gather on the very sidewalk where the crime took place.
Years after first hearing the story of Sallie white, I stayed in the Menger for a few days to gather details for The Lady in Residence. I booked what they call a “Petite” room—meaning it is a room that maintains its original structure. Read: tiny. Exposed pipes, creaky wooden floors, antique furniture—the only update, the bathroom fixtures. As it turned out, my room was directly above the place where Sallie White was murdered. One night I pressed my ear against the glass and listened to the ghost tour guide tell her story. The next morning, I stood in the exact spot with a fancy Starbucks drink, thinking about her. She lives on, not because people claim to see her walking and hear her knocking in the dead of night, but because she is a woman remembered.
So, is that beautiful? Is it ghoulish? Maybe it’s both, but when I was given the chance to write a story set in and around the Menger Hotel, I was determined to make Sallie White’s story a part of it. I didn’t want to write her story—that would have required embellishment beyond those few historic, factual tid-bits that such a woman left behind. Sallie White didn’t have correspondence to catalog or a journal to give us insight to her thoughts. Instead, I wanted to tell it to readers everywhere who might never make it to San Antonio to hear it for themselves. When you read The Lady in Residence, you are going to hear the true story of Sallie White, all of it taken from a newspaper account of the time. And then, I did what all historical writers do…I folded it into my own tale and folded that tale into another.
That’s really the joy of writing a split-time novel—being able to draw back and shoot a narrative-arrow straight through the hearts of two stories, threading them together, to bring a haunting to a place of healing.
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Life of Literature, March 6
Inklings and notions, March 6
Godly Book Reviews, March 7
Vicky Sluiter, March 7
To Everything There is A Season, March 8
Pause for Tales, March 8
To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of The Lady in Residence!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.