Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: A Curious Beginning

Deanna Raybourn
A Curious Beginning
By Deanna Raybourn
NAL, September 2015

About the Book

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

My Review

In this first installment of the Veronica Speedwell mystery series, we meet Veronica, a foundling raised by two elderly aunts, the last of which has recently died, leaving her alone in the world. A passionate naturalist with an enthusiasm for butterflies, Veronica has traveled the globe in search of prized specimens and steamy romantic entanglements, according to her own strict terms.

Independent, tart, bold, non-traditional, and terribly unapologetic, Veronica sets out to start her own life just before Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, when a German baron warns Veronica that her life is in danger. He takes her to London and puts her in the care of his friend, a reclusive malcontent named Stoker, but before the baron can explain things further, he is murdered. Stoker and Veronica, at first reluctant allies, must work together to learn who killed the baron and why they are now targeting Veronica. Of course, Stoker has his own secrets to keep, and as their anonymous enemies close in, Veronica and Stoker must stay steps ahead of people who very much want them dead.

Filled with sparkling wit, witty repartee, and palpable romantic tension, this book is a delight from beginning to end. There is only one (slight) complaint I have with the ending, but I can’t reveal it here, as it would spoil it for others. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to revisiting Veronica and Stoker in the next installment.

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