Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

Book Cover and Synopsis:
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 source for book: Review Copy
My Thoughts:
I found it very interesting to watch Lydia and Sebastian form a friendship despite their extremely different lifestyles. I liked how Sebastian seemed slightly different when he was around Lydia, because her influence made him want to be a better person. Honestly I'm not sure how realistic the whole storyline is, but it's definitely intriguing and it makes you think about differences in lifestyles, class, and even good vs. bad parts of town.

I was somewhat appalled by Lydia's mother's behavior as she languished in bed waiting for her daughter to catch a man to save them from their money troubles. I don't know how authentic this was, but it certainly shows the emphasis placed on a good match in the era. I liked how Lydia didn't necessarily follow her mother's money-grabbing wishes; instead Lydia thought to look ahead to her future instead of only her present circumstances.

This is apparently the final book in a series, however it works well as a stand alone. There are a few quick references to side characters that feel placed especially for those who've read the other stories, but I personally haven't read any of the previous books and I had no trouble jumping right in to this one.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the story, though I do feel it lost some momentum towards the end and unfortunately it never really recovered. The "separation" that always comes near the end of romances seemed a bit forced and didn't really fit the tone that the book had already established. Still, I did mostly enjoy the book and it makes me curious to try some of the author's other works.

My Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to the publisher (Zondervan) for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.

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