I found The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman to be totally entertaining and as you can see my mini-me did too. McGuire was as riveted as me!
All jokes aside this split-time novel really does draw you into the stories of its main characters, strong and interesting women each in their own right. Whether it is the young widow Hedda Krause, who’s tragic story brings her to the Menger hotel where she encounters Sallie White’s ghost or the modern-day story of the fifth generation magician Dini Blackstone that draws you in more; you cannot help but be captivated by the winding story, vivid details, and interesting characters. Pittman is a master of nuance and seeing all the details collide and intersect is truly magical.
Pittman’s personal experience in the Menger hotel brings so much to life, her own visit was delayed and impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown and is referenced in the Author’s Note at the end of the novel. As an installment in the “Doors to the Past” series that will take us to a variety of American landmarks, it truly does this historic hotel and mysterious tale a true justice. I found the “ghost walks,” “magic shows,” and the haunting experiences with Sallie White to be a lovely way to parallel past and present. I love the way Pittman drew Dini into an unexpected love story and that Quinn Carmichael’s appearance on the scene has its own twists and turns. I really was left wanting more each time I set the book down. Dini’s independence juxtaposed with Hetta’s reliance on others was truly fascinating. The opposing experiences with “happy endings” and love was dynamic and so well done.
The author’s note, and ideas explored in her interview below, gave exciting details and insights into her experience at the American landmark, and to the story itself. I found it interesting that Pittman self-proclaimed “I don’t believe in ghosts” and yet she felt the pull to tell a tale of haunting and found a way to tell the story of Sallie White (despite the fact that “there’s no happy ending there”) as part of a larger story. “Sallie haunts Hetta, Hetta haunts Dini.” The “Russian doll nesting structure” to the story and the “bridging of haunting and obsession” is what Pittman describes in the author’s note, and in my mind is exactly what she achieved! The stacking of the stories, each reliant on the other, was masterfully done. I found her approach to the story what made it even more interesting. To hear Pittman say that she is usually very in control of her characters, she “keeps them on a tight leash” and takes them through the story by her own design; but then admits that “Hetta came with her own voice” and she could almost hear her audibly as she typed, WAS SO COOL! What a wild experience for Pittman and it translated so well into this story. I myself am not typically one for “ghost stories” either, but this story was beautifully crafted. Reading her author’s note helped me understand my own unexpected experience with the story so much better.
I rotated between a digital copy of the book and the audiobook which was an added enjoyment. I loved hearing Dini’s name pronounced, like the end of “Houdini” and there was something about the magical tale that came to life with the narration by Cybil Johnson
Thanks to Celebrate Lit Bloggers for my digital copy of the book. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
About the 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?
Click here to get your copy!
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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Connie’s History Classroom, February 26
Inspiration Clothesline, February 26
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Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 28
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Remembrancy, March 1
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deb’s Book Review, March 3
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Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, March 4
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 5
The Write Escape, March 5
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.