Book Review: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Shepard Gray

Book Review: Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Shepard GrayWhispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray
Published by Zondervan on November 10th 2015
Genres: Christian, Fiction, General, Historical, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 352
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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.

If you are reading my blog, you know I am flying through books like crazy lately. I belong to a few different reading groups and like to participate as much as I can but lately it seems I’ve been getting a bit bogged down, so instead of not providing readers with reviews of these books in a timely fashion, I’ve decided to enlist the services of my family.  You see, this reading thing comes very naturally to me – heck, mom, Gloria, loves to read and her sister, Barbara (aka my favorite aunt) loves to read, so I farmed a few of the books on my reading list out to them.  


Of course, I’m not the type to steal credit when credit is due someone else, so let me tell you right now that the following review of this book, Whispers in the Reading Room is my mother’s review:

“While both my daughter and I have read several of Shelley Shepard Gray’s Amish series books, we did not know she wrote other types of books as well. In fact, I was actually surprised to see this book, Whispers in the Reading Room, was written by the same author, but was happy to give it a try nonetheless.

The setting for this historic book is in the seedier part of Chicago where the crime rate is high shortly after the Chicago World Fair in 1893.   At once this story transported me to Chicago with its life in the back alleys and was part of the great division between the upper and middle class society. 

Whispers in the Reading Room is a story about middle class librarian, Lydia Bancroft, and the unlikely friendship she finds herself with a mysterious debonair gentleman patron of her library who never checks a book out.  Lydia herself was lonely, and as she is weighted down by the duty to secure a wealthy husband so she can meet her mother’s needs, she is very anxious.

At once you realize that Mr. Sebastian Marks is an elusive man with many secrets. She learns his name when their paths cross the night Lydia’s fiancé takes her to the Hartman Hotel and begins to rough handle her. Sebastian Marks intervenes in a tense situation in Lydia’s life and from that moment on Lydia’s new friend takes on the role of protector while showing her that her fiancé isn’t who she thinks he is.  Lydia discovers that Sebastian lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Sebastian himself is quite the mystery man pretending to be a gentleman, and Lydia is shocked to learn that he is the owner of a drinking and gambling establishment. Lydia insists on visiting the club one night and both she and Sebastian are suddenly suspects to a murder.  She must determine who can she really trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian (who everyone fears) is actually everything she thinks he is.

A mystery book is not the kind of book that I usually read, but once I started Whispers in the Reading Room I could not put it down.  Whispers in the Reading Room was an excellent mystery/murder/romance for curling up reading on a raining day by the fireplace.  Even though I hadn’t read the first two books in this series, I fell in love with all the characters in this story and looking forward to a follow-up story.  I will definitely have to go back and read the other Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series books – Book #1, Secrets of Sloane House and Book #2, Deception on Sable Hill too!”

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6593151 About the Author: “I grew up in Houston, Texas, went to Colorado for college, and after living in Arizona, Dallas, and Denver, we moved to southern Ohio about ten years ago. I’ve always thought of myself as a very hard worker, but not ‘great’ at anything. I’ve obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree…but I never was a gifted student. I took years of ballet and dance, but I never was anywhere near the star of any recital. I love to cook, but I’m certainly not close to being gourmet…and finally I love to write books, but I’ve certainly read far better authors.

Maybe you are a little bit like me. I’ve been married for almost twenty years and have raised two kids. I try to exercise but really should put on my tennis shoes a whole lot more. I’m not a great housekeeper, I hate to drive in the snow, and I don’t think I’ve ever won a Monopoly game. However, I am the best wife and mother I know how to be. Isn’t it wonderful to know that in God’s eyes that is okay? That from His point of view, we are all exceptional? I treasure that knowledge and am always so thankful for my faith. His faith in me makes me stand a little straighter, smile a little bit more, and be so very grateful for every gift He’s given me.

I started writing about the Amish because their way of life appealed to me. I wanted to write stories about regular, likeable people in extraordinary situations-and who just happened to be Amish. Getting the opportunity to write Inspirational novels is truly gratifying. With every book, I feel my faith grows stronger. And that makes me feel very special indeed.”

I received a paperback copy of this book without cost from the publisher through The Fiction Guild, a Thomas Nelson/Zondervan book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own – well, they are my mother’s and for that, I am responsible.

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