Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Gray

Deception on Sable Hill (Chicago World’s Fair Mystery #2) by Shelley Grey
Pub. Date: April 7, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Zondervan!!)
Summary: The 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.
Genre: Mystery, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Recommended for: readers who enjoy a light-hearted, predictable romance with a bit of mystery thrown in

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a pseudonym, but Shelley Gray is Shelley Shepard Gray, bestselling author of Amish fiction. It’s through those books that I came to be aware of her (Amish fiction is a massive seller where I work!) and while I haven’t read any of her work, I was extremely curious about this new series, a murder mystery set during the World’s Fair in Chicago!

Eloisa Carstairs, the It Girl of Chicago society, puts on a brave face as she attends ball after ball, party after party. Just a few short months ago she was assaulted by the heir of one of Chicago’s wealthiest families and since then, she’s been carrying that secret inside for fear of completely ruining her reputation.

With the Society Slasher (a man who’s been attacking high class debutantes) still on the loose – and still going after young ladies – the police force have focused their attention on protecting those who may be at risk. Sean is completely out of his element in this strange new world of gowns and elaborate dinners. Coming from a poor Irish family, Sean joined the police force early and quickly rose in the ranks, working his way up to Lieutenant Detective. Handling blood and crime is nothing, but Eloisa is another story. Even though Sean knows they’re leagues apart his growing affections for her are too strong to hide and he’s determined to stop at nothing to keep her safe – and finally track down this madman.

Whenever I read Christian fiction, I always know what I’m going to get, I always know what’s in store. I had an incredibly stressful week and needed something that I could easily sink into that would alleviate my worries. Enter Deception on Sable Hill. Admittedly, I have not read the first book. Secrets of Sloane House came out last year and although it’s definitely on my To Read list now, I went into Sable Hill completely blind…and I think it hurt a bit. In the beginning I was a little confused – characters hint and allude to events that took place in the first book, assuming the reader had already read it (whoops). Over the course of the story, however, the details were filled in so I guess it’s not required that you read this series in order, though I’m positive it helps. Actually, reading over the summary for Sloane House, it looks like that novel focuses on an entirely different cast of characters! I recognize the names from this novel (though they were more off-screen mentions), so I’m guessing Eloisa played a bit role in the first and now this novel is her story.

To be honest, halfway through the novel I expected the Society Slasher to turn out to be H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer (many of his murders were committed during the World’s Fair). Though I was a little disappointed when it turned out not to be him, I had an extremely fun time playing detective!

Probably my biggest guilty pleasure is a class different in romance. Sable Hill jumps right in with this: Eloisa’s family is one of the richest in Chicago while Sean grew up living in the slums. BE STILL, MY HEART! Not only do they find love (I don’t consider that much of a spoiler – the novel pretty much points it out from the start), but there’s another relationship, this time with the roles reversed. Sean’s partner Owen comes from a well-off family, earning him the nickname Gentleman Detective at the station. The moment he sets his eyes on Sean’s youngest sister Katie, he’s done for. Both relationships were super straightforward and sweet, no fuss at all.

While the constant hammering home lectures about being escorted around town grated on my nerves a bit, I was eventually able to look past it (the 1800s were a different time and there was a murderous madman on the loose, after all). With its no-nonsense romances and angle of mystery, I tore through Deception on Sable Hill and any initial confusion was entirely my fault (read the first novel, guys). Everything wraps up nicely here so I’m not completely sure whether or not this was meant to be a duology, but if Shelley Gray plans on writing more, I plan on reading them!