So many disjointed things to say about this book. First from the synopsis:
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.
When I started reading this, it was so good, I didn't want to stop. At work yesterday I planned out my race home and worked the cooking and de-spidering of the front hall (don't ask) around getting as much of this book read as possible first. Then, I hit a wall of sorts.
This is a Christian mystery. I don't like reading Christian anything. I am Christian, but my faith is a quiet, private thing I don't feel the need to work into every thought and conversation I have. The way I see it, my faith in God doesn't require a constant reminder. But don't let me get started; the point is, I don't want to read about characters gushing on about God and how he'll take care of everything, or put them on the right path, or whatever it is they think he'll do (two words: free will).
On top of this, it isn't even a Christian mystery; yes, there are dead bodies, and yes, they are suspected of the murder of one of them. But the four main characters never investigate anything; they're too busy courting each other and worrying about reputations and whether or not they're going to go to jail. This is a Christian romance wearing a murder mystery feather in its hatband.
Bridgett, one of the main secondary characters, SEES the murdered man's pocket watch in someone else's waistcoat on the same night of the murder. Does she TELL anyone?!? They are all suspected of murder, she lays eyes on the murderer not 5 minutes after being questioned and she decides that, no. She'll keep it to herself. BAH!
Having said all of that, the book was still very, very readable. The faith in God stuff was only really 4, maybe 5?, short paragraphs interspersed throughout the story, so it was never preachy. Much. Nobody was getting saved, anyway. I'd have been able to ignore it, but Sebastian and Lydia each had to mire me in their internal monologues of "I'm not worthy! I'm not good enough! I don't deserve good things" and in light of the whole Christian angle, the redemption theme became way too heavy-handed, as we went from honest introspection, to wallowing, to drowning in their shortcomings pretty quickly. These issues combined brought my rating down a star. The last half-star was knocked off for lack of any really compelling mystery.
This is the third book of a 3 book series, but each features different characters that only make minor appearances in other books. I was easily able to read this one first and felt no need to play catch-up with previous events.
I doubt I'll buy either of the other books new, but I'd be tempted if I came across them at used book prices. Christian fiction just isn't my thing, but if any of my BL friends enjoys the sub-genre, I can highly recommend this one. Gray is a good writer, and she sucked me right into her characters' lives.