Whispers in the Reading Room, by Shelley Gray

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

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.

My Take:

Lydia Bancroft leads a quiet life as a librarian living with a melodramatic mother. Her job barely brings in enough money to make ends meet and she’s gradually selling off her family’s possessions to provide extra income. Once wealthy, the household has been greatly depleted after paying off her late father’s debts. Her mother insists she marry well, but Lydia doesn’t have many suitors. When Sebastian Marks comes along, he seems the answer to Lydia’s prayers and her mother’s demands. He’s a gentleman, he’s generous, and he shares Lydia’s love of books.

Whispers in the Reading Room is a romance, drama, and discourse on the class divide in Chicago. Sebastian has managed to straddle the gap between poverty and wealth but he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from. When a woman comes to him desperate for a job, to the point of being willing to prostitute herself, he gives her a position as a private maid. Yes, this is a narrative that doesn’t shy away from mentions of prostitution, gambling, excessive alcohol consumption, and violence. There are two romantic pairings, with the secondary couple being two of Sebastian employees. They spend a lot of time with each other, being open and honest. In contrast, by the end of the book there are still important things Lydia doesn’t know about Sebastian and this could’ve caused problems in the future.

This is the final book in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, and I have enjoyed all three. Readers of the previous two books will recognize the two detectives in it from those books, although I was disappointed that other familiar characters didn’t appear. I was also dissatisfied with the ending and felt it wrapped up too abruptly. I’d guessed the killer, but didn’t think the revelation was well-paced. There was another wrap up in the conclusion which completely threw me. It felt like it had been thrown in but, looking back, it is possible to see the clues regarding it. I guess I was so focused on the main storyline that I completely missed them.

Thank you to Zondervan and BookLookBloggers for my complimentary copy of Whispers in the Reading Room, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read Whispers in the Reading Room? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Publisher: Zondervan (a division of Harper Collins)

Publication Date: 10 November 2015

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   Shelley Gray’s Website   Zondervan’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

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