Review: “Whispers in the Reading Room” by Shelley Gray

Today’s review features a recent historical suspense/romance release from Shelley Gray: Whispers in the Reading Room. If you are intrigued by the Gilded age, the World’s fair in Chicago, or just a good old suspense with a bit of wit, this book might be for you!

_225_350_Book.1763.coverAbout the book: 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 thoughts: This book was quite entertaining with a swift-moving plot and vivid characters, though not quite a favorite in the genre. The witty dialogue was fun, and I really enjoyed the bit of dry humor thrown in (especially concerning Sebastian’s logical/analytical personality vs. some very emotional women). It also had a good cast of secondary characters that added perspective.

Sebastian was interestingly portrayed as a nontypical hero – what with his unfortunate upbringing and choice of business. This was unexpected and a nice departure from the norm. While he was still likable and properly effected by circumstances in the story, I would have liked just a little more of a transformation from his character arc. This would be my only complaint with the story.

I think my favorite things about this book were the setting and bookish elements. It was neat to see a lesser-known side of Gilded-age Chicago. And, the glimpses of a library and comparisons of life to literature were fun –especially for a book lover! It was interesting to see how Lydia’s love of books was portrayed in a way that encouraged her character to come out of her shell.

Thank you to Zondervan, BookLook, and the Fiction Guild for a complimentary review copy of this book.

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