Book Review | Secrets of Sloane House

Secrets of Sloane House
Chicago World's Fair Mystery #1
Shelley Gray

Publisher:  Zondervan
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Christian, Romance
Released:  July 2014

One 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.

WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
Rosalind is a young, naive country girl from Wisconsin who sets out to do the impossible: travel to the big city of Chicago and learn the secrets behind her older sister's disappearance.  Where her sister Miranda is strong and confident, Rosalind is frightened of most everything, but pushes through her comfortable boundaries to do what needs done.  Towards the end, she realizes how much she has grown and the true friends she's gathered along the way, and presses all the more to her end goal.  The truth must be known.

Though Rosalind doesn't put much store in herself, she does whatever she can to uncover the truth about her sister's disappearance.  Even putting herself at risk in doing so.  She is warned numerous times to let well enough alone, but she's made a promise to her family, who put full faith into her, and she'll not let them down.

From low society classes (housemaids and below) to the highest (nobles, wealthy, etc), each person knows his/her place, but there are some who see past the rankings and see it's on the inside that counts.  Definitely not the outside appearances with all the frills and plastic faces, but the heart, be it harsh and cold, or compassionate and generous.

As mentioned above, the various classes of society was vastly important during the late 1800's, in which era this little novel takes place.  The Sloane family, in particular, never hesitate to let one know where they stand.  They see their servants as merely servants, not actually human beings.  And while there is a degree of kindness, they care not what happens, only in keeping the family name pure and untainted.

Men make lewd suggestions to Rosalind, and/or other women.  A maid runs off with a peddler.  Another becomes pregnant and is given funds to leave.

Deception runs rampant.

{Spiritual Content}
This is a Christian fiction novel, and Rosalind is faithful in calling upon her God in need or thanks.  Even at her lowest point in the most difficult of situations, when she feels the most alone, she realizes God is--and will always be--with her.

Reid Armstrong is a Christian and states so (as is his sweet family).  He, too, prays, often, and attends choir practice at a local church, despite his rank in society.

One minor point I dislike to see in novels such as this (and it's trivial, I know, but. . .), when God is mentioned by use of pronoun, etc. (i.e. He, His, Him), it's not capitalized.  And I believe it should be.  (Actually, this was also an issue--in my opinion--in the book Plenilune. . .)

Murder is involved (This is a mystery, guys.  Remember?).  Women disappear, usually without a trace or word.  A brawl breaks out in a street, starting with two men, then escalating to include a dozen.

A girl's hand is cut deeply by shards of porcelain, requiring stitches.  Another is seen, after a willing encounter with a certain man, as having swollen eyes (from crying) and lips, tousled hair and rumpled clothes.

A woman is assaulted.  We hear she was hit, and bruises are found on her arms and neck.  [SPOILER] Another is struck on the head (killing her) and dumped into the lake.

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
No language.

Brandy is mentioned as being used for medical purposes.  A man pours himself a shot of alcohol (wine? scotch?) and downs it.  Other such stuff is present at parties, etc.

{Love-y Content}
As a maid, Rosalind, can't allow feelings for a man of the upper class.  But despite that, she can't help falling in love with the man who befriends her and helps in her sleuthing.  (And [SPOILER] of course, he finds he loves her as well.)  They embrace a time or two.  He cradles her head after she faints.  He kisses the nape of her neck and runs his fingertips down her arms, but stops himself before going too far.  He desires to kiss her at other times, but remembers his place and kinda gets a nudge from God not to go down that road just yet.  :]

[SPOILER]  He proposes! And they kiss (for the first time).  I love their relationship; it's so sweet.

Ok, I gave this FIVE stars, people!  I love a good mystery and this was a good one.  At times, I couldn't put it down, I had to figure out what happened.  And while the action, itself, is not super intense, there is still a level of the thrill you like to find in mysteries.  And this one is pretty clean! regarding language and such.  But due to the sensual content, I still recommend for ages at least 16 and up.

If you are looking for a good, clean mystery laced with Faith, here's one for you!

Recommended ages:  16+

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I was provided a copy of this book thanks to
in exchange for my honest review.

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To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, and a book of rules,
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.