Love between bibliophiles is the delightful theme squarely at the center of Shelley Gray’s Whispers in the Reading Room.
Librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself riveted by a patron who defines the words tall, dark and handsome but it is not his pleasing features that capture her attention; it’s the expression they convey that wins her interest:
She still remembered the expression on his face last week when he’d finished and closed the last tome. He’d looked pleased and just a bit melancholy. She knew those dual feelings well – the satisfaction of completing a well-written piece of literature while also coming to terms with the fact that those few moments of pure bliss would soon be replaced with a longing for more.
For his part, Sebastian Marks has noticed certain things about Lydia as well:
Only when he was alone again did Sebastian dare to let his mind drift back to Miss Lydia Bancroft. The way she rarely chattered on like most females of his acquaintance. The way she shelved books like they were old friends. How she seemed to be more at ease with a room full of books than with people.
Sebastian’s life as a gambling den owner has made him tough and cynical. To him, the reading room is a place of sanctuary:
The lending library gave him some solace. For a few hours’ time he was able to be the man he had wished to become – back before he realized his life in the slums wasn’t about being smarter than the bullies on the street but about being stronger.