Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Secrets of Sloane House" Review

Rosalind Perry came to Chicago to be a housemaid at the lavish Sloane House, home to one of the most influential families in all of Chicago. But what the Sloanes don’t know is that Rosalind has another reason for being there – to determine what happened to her sister, who was also employed at Sloane House but who seems to have vanished into thin air.

Reid Armstrong is the only son of an up-and-coming family among Chicago’s elite. Since his family is not from “old” money, Reid is expected to marry up. Veronica Sloane should fit the bill just fine, but Reid suspects that not all is as it seems at Sloane House, and he is curiously attracted to one of the Sloane House maids – Rosalind Perry.

When Reid discovers the real reason that Rosalind is at Sloane House, the two begin to work together to discover the truth. But the secrets of Sloane House may be more frightening than either of them could ever have imagined.

With a backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, Secrets of Sloane House explores the lives of both the sophisticated elite and those who are there to serve them.

Shelley Gray is a new author to me, and I was interested to read another book based around the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After a bit of a slow and repetitive start, I was able to become more interested in the story as Rosalind became more accustomed to her surroundings and began to work with Reid a bit more to search for the truth about what happened to her sister.

The best part of this story was how Rosalind grew over the course of the novel. Even though at times this growth seemed to leap ahead rather quickly, it was still substantial and really added to the story overall. When she first comes to Sloane House, she is scared of her own shadow, but as the story moves on, she becomes so much stronger and more self-reliant. She really gains a confidence that was nice to see in a housemaid during this time period.

Unfortunately, the other parts of the story were not quite as cohesive. The search for Rosalind’s sister is pretty much the only story being told, and any other bits thrown in didn’t always seem to fit or were not explored deeply enough. Reid and his family come across as contradictory, and the romance between Rosalind and Reid was fairly flat. They didn’t seem to spend much time together to really get to know each other before their thoughts were turning to love.

As for the mystery element to this novel, it was fairly convincing. Wondering what happened to Rosalind’s sister was definitely the thing that kept me reading to the end of the book. It was also interesting to read about the different classes – the “elite” and the “help” – and I thought this novel clearly portrayed those relationships, however cruel they might have been.

While Rosalind does experience growth over the course of this novel, the spiritual aspect still felt a bit lacking. Rosalind credits her growth and strength to God, but I didn’t feel any passion behind her thoughts on this matter. The overall spiritual aspect could have gone much deeper, especially considering all of the things the characters encountered.

Some of the secondary characters in the novel were actually quite interesting, but they didn’t always seem to be explored deeply enough either. There was a jolting shift in point of view three-quarters of the way through the book to a minor character that actually ending up being one of the most interesting parts of the book. Fortunately, this character is the main character in the next novel in the series, which does pique my interest in continuing the series.

I will give Secrets of Sloane House ... 3 BookWorms.

Secrets of Sloane House
by Shelley Gray
"Chicago World's Fair Mystery" #1
Zondervan Publishers
Publication date: July 8, 2014

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is 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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