The New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries returns once more to Victorian England and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell....
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.
Set in 1887, this sparkling first in a new Victorian series from bestseller Raybourn (The Dark Inquiry and four other Lady Julia Grey mysteries) introduces 25-year-old Veronica Speedwell, who as an illegitimate child lived an itinerant existence with two female guardians. After returning home from the funeral of the last of her guardians, Veronica foils an abduction attempt with the assistance of an elderly stranger, Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach, who remembers the mother Veronica knows nothing about. At the urging of the baron, who warns her that she's in mortal danger for reasons he can't yet reveal, she hides at the London home of reclusive natural historian Revelstoke "Stoker" Templeton-Vane. When the baron is murdered, Veronica and Stoker embark on a journey marked by present perils and past secrets. The intrepid Veronica's witty narration ("I abhorred weakness of any kind but most particularly in my tea") and the sexual tension she shares with the equally eccentric and articulate Stoker deliver a fun read with promises of more to come.
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One of those books you remember for years and wait patiently for the next book to be written.
Veronica was a wonderful character to get to know
Veronica Speedwell is an enigma, particularly for her time. Intelligent, occasionally brusque, self-confident and adventurous, she does take a bit to warm up to, but when you see how she thinks and moves through her life, she’ll grow on you. A lepidopterist (that’s the study of butterflies and moths), the recent death of her aunt has left her alone and free to pursue her own agenda by fueling her curious nature.
A dead German baron is the tipping point for a dual-pronged mystery, the man having introduced her to Stoker: a historian with a less than welcoming aura (think Capaldi’s Dr. Who). Stoker is an interesting choice, it doesn’t seem as if he will mesh well with Veronica, even as the obvious admiration of intelligence and logical thinking are present from the start. But Stoker grows on you and Veronica as the story moves on: while she first noticed his physique, it’s hard to see him as a romantic lead, but as they spend more time together, she sees that he (and perhaps few others) are not put off by her appearance and strange self-styled wardrobe, and that he listens. Their friendship builds and grows just as each character adds layers to develop into fully dimensional beings, and was certainly a highlight of the story.
The mysteries are a bit slow and occasionally seemed to drag out as moments between Veronica and Stoker take precedence, but the ride to the end is just pure fun. With historical moments, scenes and several secondary characters popping in for color and richness of scene and mystery, you can’t help but keep reading to see just what will happen next. With snips of court gossip, current scientific theories and questions around them, the varied settings and even the history the list to enjoy goes on and on.
While the possible romance is there, the relationship lands firmly on friendship grounds, with the two working together in a partnership that demands more adventure beyond this one. Yes, the mysteries are solved and feel as if those moments are concluded, but Veronica was a wonderful character to get to know, and I have hopes for these two in the future.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Veronica Speedwell is a young woman who has found herself recently orphaned. Escaping an attempt by an overzealous preacher’s wife to set her into an arranged marriage, Veronica finds herself on a whirl wind adventure and running for her life. Assisted by a stranger, that ends up being a German Baron, Veronica is placed in the care of his friend, Stoker, reclusive historian with a taxidermy predilection.
While Veronica is in Stoker’s care, the baron is murdered sending Stoker and Veronica on the run while trying to discover the secrets of Veronica’s past.
Veronica is smart and cunning with a specialty in butterflies.
I found A Curious Beginning a marvelously thrilling adventure. Veronica is everything a Victoria woman shouldn’t be but I loved her zest for life and pension for speaking her mind. She even avails herself with cohorts with likeminded female strengths or at the admiration for her strengths.
Loved it! Highly recommend this historical fiction to all those out there that love strong women, an exciting mystery and marvelous storytelling.
I received this copy of A Curious Beginning from Berkley Publishing Group-NAL in exchange for a honest review.