WHISPERS IN THE READING ROOM
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.
Oh mercy -- if you are looking for a hero to swoon over, Sebastian Marks is your man. I melted into a puddle of goo a number of times while reading Whispers in the Reading Room. I mean who can resist a man who loves books and libraries? And the kicker is that Sebastian isn't your classic hero material. He runs a gambling hall for goodness sakes! And while his ability to drag himself up from the dregs of society is commendable, his methods of success are questionable.
But Gray makes it work -- largely because of the insights we glean from Sebastian's visits to the reading room. The contrast between the literary man who finds solace in the company of books and the rough and exacting taskmaster at his club is absolutely intriguing. Take a look at this description of Sebastian leaving the library to go back to the seedier side of town where he runs his business:
"It took Sebastian Marks almost four blocks to shake off the cool feeling of serenity he'd enjoyed at the library. As the number of people around him doubled, then tripled, he forced himself to push away everything about his time at the Lincoln Lending Library. A gent like him was liable to get himself killed otherwise. After another block, he added a swagger to his step and a bit more menace to his expression." (p. 4)
Is it any wonder that he catches Lydia's eye? He's not the usual run-of-the-mill library patron, that's for sure. Without ever saying a word to one another they manage to create an alluring intimacy of awareness from the very first page. Delicious toe-curling stuff. An unlikely friendship slowly develops. Sebastian is intrigued by Lydia's unusual mix of wide-eyed innocence and striking intelligence. She's lived most of her life in the pages of books and he suddenly appears offering her abundant real-life adventures.
Once again, Gray throws her characters into Chicago's darker underbelly. Something sinister is going on, there's mystery and murder afoot and Sebastian finds himself in the role of protector, Lydia the damsel in distress that needs rescuing. But soon lines become blurred and it's no longer clear who is rescuing whom. Because Lydia grabs hold of his heart and challenges him to believe in the kind of future he never dared dream of.
The third and final book in A Chicago's World Fair Mystery series. Reads wonderfully well as a standalone, but if you have read Sloane House and Deception on Sable Hill, you'll be thrilled to meet up with police detectives Sean Ryan and Owen Howard.
My thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group and Zondervan for providing me with a copy of this book.
If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Whispers in the Reading Room please leave a comment below or email me at kavluvstoreadATyahooDOTca. If you post a comment and add your email address, please use AT and DOT instead of @ and . in the address to protect yourself from spammers. If you enter the draw via email please remember to put the title in the subject line so that it's easy for me to spot your entry. Draw will be held and winner announced on Sunday December 13 2015. Offer open to international readers. Good luck!