The World’s Fair has introduced many new ideas to Chicago society—but can two individuals from very different backgrounds find love together?
It’s mid-September 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning debutant of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago’s wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball.
Sean is on the fringes of the Chicago elite. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best chance to ensure security. Despite social boundaries, he is enamored with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean will do anything to keep her safe—even if he can never earn her affections.
Eloisa longs to feel normal again, but a killer is on the loose. In the last month, three debutants have been accosted by an assailant wielding a knife, and Eloisa fears for her safety at every event she attends. As the danger in the city increases, and as the romance between Eloisa and Sean blossoms, they both realize they want to be seen as more than how the world views them. But will they catch the killer before all their hopes come crashing down?
The newest in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery Series features Eloisa, who was a victim of the nefarious Douglass Sloane in Secrets of Sloane House. Sloane escaped legal justice, and Eloisa has kept quiet about what happened that night. Despite her mother’s best attempts to find her a suitable husband, Eloisa knows her opportunities to marry are slim to none. Thankfully, she doesn’t blame herself for what happened, but society places great value a woman’s virtue and she no longer has hers. It’s interesting that when she does reveal her secret, it’s not to people of her social set but to those of a perceived lower class.
This is a book very much about class differences. Even the assailant is known as the Society Slasher since he only targets that section of the Chicago’s female population. Sean’s partner, Owen Howard, is from society and knows many of the victims. He also understands Sean’s situation, especially after meeting Sean’s sister, Katie. But love doesn’t respect the boundaries of class, and the paths set before these two couples won’t be easy. The living conditions of Eloisa and Sean are also described and, as you can imagine, one is opulent and the other is simple.
As for the mystery, Gray writes in such a good way that I found it difficult to work out the identity of the assailant. I had a couple of ideas and narrowed it down to one, and then found at the end that I was totally wrong! The attacker is someone who appears at various places in the narrative. See if you can pick up the clues to his identity.
Since I’m someone who has read a lot about the Chicago World’s Fair, I am a little disappointed that some events were either ignored or written about incorrectly. While the Society Slasher is fiction, there were young women who went missing during the fair. They weren’t society women, but probably closer to Katie in status. They were later discovered to be victims of a serial killer. Secondly, there is a description of a fire that destroyed several of the fair’s buildings. This fire actually took place at a later point in time. Lastly, the quartet attends an event to close the Fair. In truth, this gala was canceled after Chicago’s mayor was assassinated two days before the fair ended. Perhaps I’m being picky; I only mentioned these because of elements of the narrative. Despite this, however, this is a novel I enjoyed and would recommend although you may want to read Secrets of Sloane House first.
Thank you to BookLookBloggers and Zondervan for my complimentary copy of Deception on Sable Hill, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read Deception on Sable Hill? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Zondervan (a division of Harper Collins)
Publication Date: 07 April 2015
Page Count: 336