Review: Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series by Shelley Gray

December 12, 2015 Christian, historical, mystery/suspense, romance, Shelley Shepard Gray 5

I love Shelley Shepard Gray’s Amish novels… but I LOVE her mysteries! Which is why the Secrets of Crittenden County books remain my very favorite of her series, combining both genres so marvelously. That said, her Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series is right up there at the top of my favorites list now too.

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secrets of sloane houseOne woman’s search for the truth of her sister’s disappearance leads her to deceit and danger in 1893 Chicago.

Rosalind Perry has left her family’s rural farm in Wisconsin to work as a housemaid at Sloane House, one of the most elegant mansions in Gilded Age Chicago. However, Rosalind is not there just to earn a living and support her family-she’s at Sloane House determined to discover the truth about her sister’s mysterious disappearance.

Reid Armstrong is the handsome heir to a silver fortune. However, his family is on the periphery of Chicago’s elite because their wealth comes from “new money” obtained from successful mining. Marriage to Veronica Sloane would secure his family’s position in society-the lifelong dream of his ailing father.

When Reid begins to realize that Rosalind’s life may be in danger, he stops thinking of marriage prospects and concentrates on helping Rosalind. Dark things are afoot in Chicago and, he fears, in Sloane House. If he’s not vigilant, Rosalind could pay the price.

Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Gilded Age and the 1893 World’s Fair, Secrets of Sloane House takes us on a whirlwind journey of romance and mystery.

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my thoughtsWow! If you are fascinated by the upstairs-downstairs social divisions of the Gilded Age, you will find much to pique your interest between these pages. If you love a good suspense novel as well, then you will be as captivated as I was while reading Secrets of Sloane House, the first book in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series.  The treatment of the lower classes by the upper, the pressures to marry well, and two particularly heart-wrenching crimes will keep your emotions engaged – all of the above elements treated with exquisite grace and dignity by Ms. Gray, a fact which does not surprise me in the least.  Woven through the tragedies and social ire is the warmth I have come to expect in a Shelley Gray novel, and the suspense is truly top-notch.  A couple of plot twists even took this seasoned mystery reader by surprise!  The sweet romance that blossomed between two unlikely souls was icing on this already delicious cake.

My Rating: 5 stars / Fantastic!

KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion

(I purchased this book for my own collection.  This is, as always, only my honest review.)

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deception on sable hill.jpgThe World’s Fair is nearing its end, but the danger in Chicago lingers.

It’s mid-September of 1893 and Eloisa Carstairs is the reigning beauty of Gilded Age Chicago society. To outsiders she appears to have it all. But Eloisa is living with a dark secret. Several months ago, she endured a horrible assault at the hands of Douglass Sloane, heir to one of Chicago’s wealthiest families. Fearing the loss of her reputation, Eloisa confided in only one friend. That is, until she meets Detective Sean Ryan at a high-society ball.

Sean is on the outskirts of the wealthy Chicago lifestyle. Born into a poor Irish family, becoming a policeman was his best opportunity to ensure his future security. Despite society’s restrictions, he is enamored with Eloisa Carstairs. Sean seethes inside at what he knows happened to her, and he will do anything to keep her safe-even if he can never earn her affections.

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my thoughtsI only THOUGHT I was riveted by Secrets of Sloane House.  And then I read Deception on Sable Hill. Could not put it down! I was delighted to spend more time with Eloisa – I frankly needed to know she was okay after what happened to her in book 1.  Well, I am happy to report that Sean and his family (especially Katie!) and even Owen Howard were the perfect addition to Eloisa’s world – even if society begged to disagree. In fact, the portrait painted here of the vast division of the classes is even more vivid than in Secrets.  Sean and Eloisa have a lot to overcome if they are to continue being friends – not the least of which is the Society Slasher who is wreaking terror in the hearts of debutantes throughout the Windy City. What we have in common, though, should draw us together more tightly than whatever divides us, and one kiss in particular preached this sermon quite well!

My Rating: 5 stars / Couldn’t put it down!

KissingBook Level: 3.5 / May forget to breathe on occasion & may find oneself in need of a good fan toward the end.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)

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whispers in the reading room.jpgLydia’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.

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my thoughtsThis book was a bit different from the other two books in the series. It had less of a mystery, though still plenty of suspenseful moments to be had, and focused more on the relationships of the characters.  It also didn’t focus as much on the division of the classes, following instead two people who were “almost a lady” and “almost a gentleman”.  (Along those lines, Lydia’s indignant reply of, “I am not a lady, Lieutenant Howard. I am a librarian,” made me laugh out loud!)

Though Whispers in the Reading Room may have indeed (and not necessarily to its detriment) been the odd man out of the trilogy, poignantly enough so are its characters to society.  Sebastian and Lydia are both virtually friendless and claim no real rung on the ladder that climbs the social classes.  Nor do they belong below it.  They are two drifting souls who form an unlikely friendship based on their love of books.   Fellow bookworms, this is our book!! In fact, it reminded me in so many ways of that great love story for bookworms, Beauty & The Beast.  Sebastian, being of course the Beast. Who loves books. And can talk about Bronte and Austen along with Wilde and Stevenson. Are you swooning a little yet? Because I totally did.

I loved this book just as much as I did the first books in the series, maybe even more so when I started to see the hints toward Beauty & The Beast.  And readers of Deception on Sable Hill will want to pay close attention to the byline of the article snippet in the last chapter.

My Rating: 5 stars / All 5 stars awarded by my inner bookworm!

KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)

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Bottom Line for the Chicago World’s Fair series: Shelley Gray’s brilliantly crafted mystery trilogy is perfect for romantic suspense fans, especially those that lean toward the historical.  (Not the hysterical, mind you.  Let’s save our swooning for the kisses!)  The recurring theme of people being more than what they appear resonates through all 3 books and is most perfectly illustrated in the comparison to the buildings constructed for the World’s Fair. Characters whose lives seem “outwardly impressive” are proven to be “structurally unsound” while the reverse is also true just as frequently.  An entertaining and compelling reminder that, while we so often look no further than the outside, God sees our hearts.

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shelley gray.jpgAbout the Author:

Shelley Gray is the author of The Heart of a Hero series. Her Amish novel (written as Shelley Shepard Gray), The Protector, recently made the New York Times best seller list. A native of Texas, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Colorado and taught school for ten years. She and her husband have two children and live in Southern Ohio.

Connect with Shelley: website, Twitter, Facebook

Carrie

5 Responses to “Review: Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series by Shelley Gray”

  1. Mary

    I’ve only heard of the first book–I didn’t realize there were more books in the series that are already available! This just made my Monday so much better! 🙂

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