Karen White’s Second New Orleans Ghost Story
A review of summer read The House on Prytania.
The second book in Karen White’s “Royal Street” series, The House on Prytania revisits New Orleans transplant Nola Trenholm as she adjusts to Southern living, recovers from romantic betrayal and fights off the spirits while renovating her heavily haunted home.
White manages to blend modern Southern charm with a ghost story while maintaining a voice distinct from Southern Gothic mysteries, making for a simultaneously light and nail-biting beach read.
A driving characteristic of the book is New Orleans itself. The city, still holding on to remnants of trauma following Hurricane Katrina, encapsulates the abundant joy that can exist alongside demons of the past, a pattern White leans into with most of the main characters of the book. Nola’s love of historic architecture and homes, for example, is inextricably tied to the memories and literal spirits—good and bad—that linger within their walls.
Though caught in a tangled love triangle turned knot with the reappearance of an old high school boyfriend, Nola’s strongest relationships throughout the book are those she shares with her roommate and sister. All with varying degrees of fashion sense, life experience and psychic abilities, the trio is endearing and honest, portraying the only relationships truly worth rooting for throughout the novel.
There were times when the supernatural felt out of place in the otherwise very normal, if fraught, lives of the main characters, not the least of which was the intensely cathartic exorcism performed as a closing scene. Given New Orleans’ cultural history with Louisiana voodoo, White has space to further integrate this spiritual connection into the location, rather than tying it solely to individuals as she continues the series.
While the plot was at times cluttered, inviting in more characters than ultimately had any proper purpose, White effectively built anticipation throughout the book to a dramatic, but satisfying, ending with just enough loose ends to hint that the series will continue.
The House on Prytania is out now and is one of our Summer Reading List picks. View the full list here.