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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review: Whispers in the Reading Room (The Chicago World's Fair Mystery Series Book 3) by Shelley Gray

I loved this warm, gentle novel that tells of characters seeking acceptance.
Whispers in the Reading Room
(The Chicago World's Fair Mystery Series Book 3)
by Shelley Gray

File Size: 1873 KB
Print Length: 346 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (November 10, 2015)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Genre: Inspirational, Mystery
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0

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.

Lydia loves her job at the reading room. The library has become her world. When she is not exploring worlds in the books, she is watching the patrons. She is fascinated with a dark, mysterious, handsome man who spends time in the library reading but never checks out a book. Lydia doesn’t realize that the man has noted her observing him.

Sebastian has pulled himself from poverty to business ownership. He is a very wealthy man but makes his money from the operation of a saloon and gambling club. He doesn’t want to hang out with the working class but he doesn’t meet the requirements to be considered a true ‘gentleman’. So he is a man caught between worlds. He secretly finds Lydia intriguing as a lady who works and clearly loves reading.

Sebastian steps in to rescue Lydia from a situation during tea at the prestigious Hartman Hotel. Lydia ends up with a broken engagement but is glad to begin a friendship with her mysterious reader. When Lydia learns of Sebastian’s business she presses him to show her the club. He reluctantly agrees and the decision puts them all in conflict and danger. Lydia and Sebastian find themselves as ‘parties of interest’, if not suspects, in a murder outside the club doors while Lydia is in the club.

Initially the events draw Sebastian and Lydia closer and she becomes friends with the maid who Sebastian employs to help her at home. But Sebastian fears he is dragging her into danger. Lydia never believed that Sebastian was the murderer but he murders her dreams when he pushes her away and leaves her stumbling to straighten out her life.

There is darkness in the seedy side of the city and the rough dwellers yet the tone of the novel, in writing style and plot, is “gentle”. I loved that Ms. Gray was able to show the many facets of Sebastian’s personality, but particularly the gentleness. The two secondary characters, Bridget, a maid with a history, and Vincent, Sebastian’s right hand manager, add depth and interest. They too are looking for acceptance but not always in the right way. There is a light, inspirational message shared through the struggles of all of the characters. Gray also provides good historical background of the Chicago World’s Fair and the surrounding city with its divided classes.

Some books just “click” or resonate with a reader – this one did for me. I enjoyed it from beginning to the end and I will be glad to read more by Ms. Gray. I recommend that readers who enjoy a gentle, historical romance, with a touch of danger and mystery, treat themselves to this gem.

I received this through NetGalley. I am so glad I selected this and it adds to my NetGalley challenge.


  1. Great review! This is a new author to me, but her story sounds like something that I would enjoy.

  2. Wow , thank you for the review, I know that I would love reading this book.


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