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.
The third book in Shelley Gray’s Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series—coming after Secretsof Sloane House and Deception on Sable Hill—Whispers in the Reading Room is a captivating mystery, wonderful romance, and my favorite of them all. I really, really enjoyed the previous novels in the series, so I knew I would love this one; however, I didn’t realize it would make me melt quite as much as it did. I melted my way through Sebastian and Lydia’s story; I could barely put it down, and I found it to be such a unique plotline! I love it when books aren’t too similar to others I have read, and this one was most certainly not, in a good way of course. I never could have imagined the twists and turns this story would take, but I loved every one of them.
Lydia Bancroft is by far one of the smartest historical women I have ever met (I know, read is the correct term, but I truly do meet all the characters I read about), but if I’m honest with you, she is also one of the most naïve. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her for it, but it definitely makes for some interesting situations as she becomes friends with Sebastian. Mainly, though, I feel sorry for her and her terrible situations with her finances and her mother. I cannot imagine ever having a mother who cared so little about my own welfare, and I hate that Lydia had to endure that day in and day out. Still, she was able to use it for good, because I believe it made her all that much stronger. And, it gave Sebastian all the more reason to rescue her.
Sebastian Marks. Can you hear my sigh as I say that? I never could have imagined him any more perfect if I had written about him myself. Despite the fact that he may be a little rough on the edges, Sebastian has a true heart of gold beating strongly on the inside, and I think that’s immediately what Lydia sees in him. Even though he is probably the most feared man in Chicago’s alleyways, he is more than that. He sees something in Lydia that no one else does, and that man, the one who is able to put aside his roughness—though it still comes out every once and a while—so that he can take care of and comfort a woman that so many others had forgotten, is the character that I fell in love with. This story would have been wonderful even if he hadn’t been such a wonderful man, but it is so much better because he is.
As you can see, I REALLY loved this book. The mystery was completely unexpected; I never would have guessed its resolution, and the romance was one of the sweetest I have ever encountered, possibly because of its uniqueness. Since this story was captivating, heartwarming, and extremely well-written, I cannot help but give it all five bookshelves, and a place on my all-time-favorites list. Shelley could not have done a better job with this novel; it was the perfect way to conclude the series, and I hope she writes many more historical mysteries in the future!
I received a copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review.
To see where I’m linking-up, check out my Where I Party page.
All credit for the wonderful photo goes to my sister Allie, whose blog you can visit here.
All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Shelley Gray and Zondervan Publishing.