By Kelly Bridgewater
Back Cover Copy:
Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart.
Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does.
Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.
Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.
Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.
I truly enjoyed reading the first two books in The Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series by Shelley Gray. Secrets of Sloane House and Deception on Sable Hill. Both of the stories were rich in historical detail and interesting characters. In Whispers in the Reading Room, I sadly have to have did not hit the mark with me.
First, being part of a mystery series, I expected a mystery. There was none. If you called a dead body and accusing the owner of the gambling saloon the only suspect without looking at anyone else, then this could be a mystery for you. But as an avid mystery reader, this really had nothing to do with the story. The mystery element felt like it was thrown in at the last minute but really had nothing to do with the overall conflict. It was majorly downplayed for me.
As for the characters of Lydia Bancroft and Sebastian Marks, Sebastian was the only character that I felt a smidgen of empathy for. Lydia is a fallen woman of society because of a couple of financial issues her father left her and her mother in, so her mother is pushing her to marry anyone with money to help them out and keep face in society. Lydia loves books and hides all her emotions while she widdles away the hours reading them. Even though Lydia is demanding and pushing to Sebastian, she is a weakling to everyone else in the story.
Sebastian Marks made a better life for himself by promising to not be like his mother who was a prostitute while she was alive. He now has money and fear of the slums of Chicago’s society’s underbelly. Presently, he owns a gambling club, so he still wants more from his life. He is a closet bookworm, which is how he meets Lydia. I really liked how he swore to better himself and he did.
As for the romantic conflict, way too fast for my taste. In the beginning of the novel, Lydia is engaged to Jason, a wealthy man in society. Then Sebastian helps her escape Jason, and they slowly move through a relationship, even an akward proposal. I really didn’t feel that they loved each other the way Gray wanted us to believe they did. Their relationship was weird and odd.
On a positive note, Gray does a good job at keeping the historical detail on target. I was reminded of Chicago right after the World Fair in 1894. Every tiny detail now to the outfits the woman wore or the positions in the job market appeared to fit the time period. I really felt like I was enjoying life in Chicago in the late nineteenth century.
Overall, Shelly Gray’s Whispers in the Reading Room is a lackluster conclusion to her The Chicago World’s Fair Mysteries. I really couldn’t wait for the book to be done. It did not grab my attention at all.
I received a complimentary copy of Whispers in the Reading Room from Zondervan Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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