Thursday, June 4

Book Review: Deception at Sable Hill: A Chicago World's Fair Mystery by Shelley Gray

Since several of the best books I've read as a BookLook Blogger have been historical romance, I decided to get back into that genre this month. Since one of my reading goals this years is to read more mysteries, Deception at Sable Hill was the perfect choice, especially considering that I've been a fan of the Victorian era since elementary school. Set in the fall of 1893 as the World's Fair comes to an end in Chicago, Deception at Sable Hill presents a likeable heroine in Eloisa Carstairs, who comes from a wealthy and well-connected family but seems determined to shatter her mother's dreams by not marrying any of the suitors she is constantly presented with - most of whom seem determined to lure her into shady corners. 

Eloisa's society friends are abuzz because a dangerous slasher is on the loose, seeming to target the most eligible debutantes in town. Detective Sean Ryan, having worked his way up through the ranks of the Chicago police despite his background in a poor Irish family and dangerous neighborhood, meets Eloisa when he is chosen to provide security at a fancy ball alongside his partner, Owen Howard. He discerns the dark secret she's haunted by - an assault she's convinced will ruin her reputation if anyone finds out - and convinces her that she is blameless. Soon, she feels more comfortable with Sean and in his world than at the society functions where attacks continue to occur, but even as they grow closer the two know that neither will be accepted in the other's sphere. As the fair's closure on Halloween draws near, Sean and Owen must find the Society Slasher before the attacker gets to Eloisa.

I enjoyed reading about Chicago at the end of the Gilded Age, and appreciated that Gray's female characters represented a diverse range of well-developed personalities - from Eloisa's protective, traditional mother, to her sweet maid Juliet and Sean's spunky sister Katie, who dreams of being a journalist à la Nellie Bly. Rather than a will-they-or-won't-they, Eloisa and Sean's romance is a compelling how-will-they, despite a little jealousy on Sean's part and some stubbornness on Eloisa's. Finally, the Society Slasher presents an intriguing mystery - just when I thought I'd solved the case, I realized that I'd been wrong all along. I hope that Shelley Gray will write more about these characters - I'd be interested to learn how they face the turn of the century, and their differences, together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. 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.”

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