"I would never stop you from reading whatever you like. I like that you are smart, Lydia. That is one of the things I admire about you."
"You are the first person who has told me anything of the sort."
Another excellent installment in Shelley Gray's Chicago World's Fair Mysteries series, Whispers in the Reading Room delivers a fast-paced historical fiction/romance/mystery that succeeds on every level.
Lydia works at the library because she's passionate about books, but it also has the side benefit of the meager pay check that helps her support her mother and maintain a facade of wealth enough to find herself a suitor. She's prepared to marry a man she doesn't love, a man who isn't quite the man he appears, just to give her mother the comfortable lifestyle they shared when her father was alive.
She's resigned to her fate, but can't help but notice the handsome gentleman Sebastian Marks who frequents her library. Their shared love of reading, paired with a shared distaste for Lydia's fiance, Avondale, soon bring the two together in a way that neither was prepared for.
But Sebastian Marks has his secrets, too. Lydia has to come to terms with the face that he's a notorious club owner - a club full of illegal gambling. Absolutely no place for a lady, still she insists on visiting in an attempt to better know Mr. Marks. When a gentleman is murdered on the steps of the club, the recent violence streak in the area suddenly gets the police's attention. From Deception on Sable Hill, detectives Sean Ryan and Owen Howard are back - and this time Lydia and Sebastian are high on the list of suspects.
Lydia has an intense need to provide for her mother at any cost from the beginning, but as her character grows throughout the novel, she finally is making her own choices as an independent women. It's interesting to watch the women in this novel rebel against the standards of their time. They won't put up with a man trying to "own" them. Even Sebastian isn't everything a gentleman "should" be - he wants Lydia to experience the world, not shelter her.
The mystery is a good one, though it's not really at the forefront until much later in the book, though there are clips of newspaper articles throughout that let the reader know trouble is brewing. When the resolution finally comes, it feels too quick, but the journey there is full of suspense and intrigue. Definitely worth reading this one, as well as the second book in the series, Deception on Sable Hill. Now I need to go back and read the first one, since I haven't had the chance yet!
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Book Look for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.