Whispers in the Reading Room
by Shelley Bray
Page Count: 352
Release Date: November 10, 2015
How got: ARC copy from NetGalley
First attention getter: description
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.
Star Rating - 2
This book held promise for me with the premise and how the characters started. However, that promise quickly turned into ashy disappointment as characters fell into two-dimensional stereotypes and the story/plot petered into a steady march into mediocrity and boredom.
I initially really liked Sebastian and Lydia. I liked that Sebastian was a self-made man who pulled himself out of the slums to become a successful businessman, ala Mafia-style. His protective streak towards Lydia and his devotion to his staff was admirable, in the beginning.
Lydia could have been me in a different life. Shy, awkward with strangers, book-lover working in a library (my dream job!!), and completely inept when it comes to relationships, she was channeling me, I swear. So of course, that made her immediately relatable to me.
Yet, things went downhill real fast. Lydia lost any depth she had when she let her shy, retiring side keep control. She was a passive vessel for others to channel their emotions through and for the story to push around. And Sebastian’s protective side quickly became controlling, obsessive, and scary. I’d almost say “stalker” but not quite that far (no doorway lurking happened). It seemed like whenever Lydia was in the picture, the rest of the world was valued at nothing as the story got rolling, which is not healthy in any relationship.
The secondary characters also suffered a bit here. Hunt was just as bad as Sebastian in the over-protective, controlling aspect. His insistence on focusing on Bridget to the exclusion of most everything else was scary, to say the least. He was a Sebastian junior. Bridget I actually liked. She was such a strong and practical character. She took life as it fell on her head and came up with concrete plans with which to meet those challenges.
Unfortunately, the plot/story didn’t do much to save the book overall. It waited way too long before kicking in. It wasn’t until 51% through the story before the murder happened or anything for that matter, story-wise. Before that point, it was endless conversations, movement from place to place, or melodramatic confrontations (i.e. more conversations!!).
An intriguing premise and initially good characters weren’t enough to save this puppy. Characterizations went sour (though Bridget rocked!!) and the actual plot waited too long before making an appearance. If I hadn’t been reading this book for NetGalley, would I have finished it? Meh… Who knows… Either way, I’d pass on this title.
Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review (and boy was I honest!).