Book Title: A Curious Beginning
Author: Deanna Raybourn
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub Date: 07/12/16
London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
It is a rare day that I pick up historical fiction of any kind; I have nothing against the genre, but I feel as though all the flashy, contemporary books shove my good intentions out of the way and I never get around to reading those golden oldies I claim I’ll dive into. Lucky for me, Berkley offered the opportunity to review all three books that currently make up the Veronica Speedwell series and am I glad they did. These books are amazing! I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to read them, as they have come highly recommended time and again, but better late than never I suppose. If you, like me, shy away from books labeled as historical fiction, please don’t overlook this exquisite book. Give me a chance to win you over, please?
“I am quite determined to be mistress of my own fate, Mrs. Clutterthorpe, but I do sympathize with how strange it must sound to you. It is not your fault that you are entirely devoid of imagination. I blame your education.”
So our heroine, Veronica Speedwell is a little firecracker; if people were to be related to animals then she would be the love child of a butterfly and a pit viper. She is a lady (almost) completely to the core, yet she is incredibly feisty and will strike out physically, or intellectually, if provoked. The first few chapters may seem a bit confusing and may cause you to wonder just what all these seemingly unrelated tangents could possibly have to do with each other, but I assure you that in time it all becomes clear. The fact that we are reading a mystery novel set in Victorian England, with a protagonist who is a progressive female with the determination to live her life on her terms gives this series a feel that bridges the gap of time. Here we have a nice blend of escaping to (and learning about) another time while also envisioning a world not so different from our own, one where women have to fight tooth and nail just to be considered of equal value to the opposite gender.
He sat back in his chair, his mouth now slack with disbelief. “I could smother you with that tea cozy and no one would blame me,” he said in a voice thick with emotion.
“Why ever should you want to?”
“Because you daft, impossible woman, you have been concealing a possible motive from me for the whole of the time we have been together!”
The witty banter between Mr. Stoker and Veronica isn’t the only reason to love this series, but it sure does shoot to the very top of the list. Yes, these books have quite a few little shocking twists and exciting action scenes, but the developing relationship between these two characters are what makes this book a standout in a sea of other, similar books. I adore that we aren’t given all the answers to Stoker’s backstory in this installment, as well as seemingly not all the answers in Veronica’s life as well. Just enough was provided to give us closure, but enough was left hanging to make me crave the next book. I was able to buddy read this alongside my sister Irina and we both were blown away by how taken we were with this book, so much so that she’s grabbed the sequel from the library so that we can read it together as well! I mean, we have to know what happens next! Highly, HIGHLY recommended to those looking for a true Victorian mystery full of class, humor, and intrigue!
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.