Whispers in the Reading Room
By Shelley Gray
Published By: Zondervan
ISBN# 978-0310338499
352 Pages

Back Cover: 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. 
REVIEW: I was hooked to the story right from the start. I was instantly dropped into a library, hanging out with Lydia; a woman who is opinionated and adores books. There is a mysterious handsome nameless man who has frequented the reading room several times a week now for the past several months. He sits in his favorite chair and keeps his nose in a serious of books. This current one was about Lewis and Clark. “She noted the expression on his face when he read the last word in the book. He looked pleased and just a bit melancholy. She knew those dual feelings well – the satisfaction of completing a well-written piece of literature while also coming to terms with the fact that those few moments of pure bliss would soon be replaced with a longing for more.”

Sebastian the mystery man ponders something, “Only when he was along did his mind drift back to Miss Lydia Bancroft. The way she rarely chattered on like most females of his acquaintance. The way she shelved books like they were old friends. How she seemed to be more at ease with a room full of books than with people.”

Both of these characters had a love affair with the written word. Each eager to go on adventures and learn all they could from the characters they met. This author did an amazing job of dropping me into this reading room where I too love to spend my time. This love of books brought them together and made me love this novel even more. I instantly connected with these likable characters and found their situation and the times they lived in fascinating.

This is book three in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series (that reads as a standalone) the series is set in Chicago during the late 1890’s. I didn’t feel lost at all. Lydia learns this mysterious strangers name when he saves her from a dangerous situation inside the Hartman hotel. Their paths cross again in an unexpected way. Lydia seeks to have an adventure in real life not just experiencing those she reads in books. Sebastian and Lydia’s encounter is filled with twists and turns that change their life forever.

This story is skillfully written. It’s filled with mystery, fun and intrigue. I loved how this author had the character’s interact with word games and sometimes battles and banters that made me giggle. It seemed most of the characters in this story were hiding their inner selves from one another. Each hiding behind a confident show they put on for the world to see. In the process trying to discover who they truly were when no one was around leading them to what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. Each had their own tangled web to climb through filled with lies, deception to get through to who they wanted to be, discover friendships, faith and true love.

I enjoyed this story. It’s a great book to read for fun and would make a great book club pick. There are 9 thought provoking questions in the back to help generate lively discussion at your meeting.

About the Author: Shelley Shepard Gray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a finalist for the American Christian Fiction Writers prestigious Carol Award, and a two-time HOLT Medallion winner. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town's bike trail. Find Shelley on her website,, on Facebook: ShelleyShepardGray, and on Twitter @ShelleySGray 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booklook blog site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog
Book Fun Magazine


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