Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Historical | Mystery
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.
I'm sure fans of Deanna Raybourn are excited to meet Veronica Speedwell, and I guarantee that y'all will fall in love with this new Victorian heroine just as much as I did, if not more. A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first of the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries and we're treated to reading the story from Veronica's perspective.
A CURIOUS BEGINNING has a double sided mystery and ultimately, it begs the question:
Just who is Veronica Speedwell?
- At the time of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, Veronica is 24 turning 25. She's an orphan, raised by two spinster sisters, and is named after a plant. She's also a lepedopterologist, a butterfly enthusiast and scientist for us laymen, and has been since she was 18, in an effort to travel the world and become an independent woman. Suffice to say Veronica is ahead of the curve in terms of feminism and all that.
- Reading A CURIOUS BEGINNING through Veronica's eyes is such a delight because the girl's whip smart, very observant, and extremely witty. I don't think Veronica knows what awkward means because she will drop the mic on you regardless if you're the vicar's wife or a member of the aristocracy. A shrinking violet, Veronical Speedwell isn't.
- A CURIOUS BEGINNING has a double sided mystery. Suddenly, Veronica's become a target, and the only person who could possibly know her real identity, a German Baron who's name is so long I did not care to memorize it, has been murdered days after he met Veronica and dropped her off the care of Mr. Stoker (not Bram).
And the mystery?
I love it when a story deals with layered puzzles that are interconnected. In this case, the Baron's murder is very damning to both Veronica and Stoker as either of them could easily be framed for it given their situation. It wasn't until the latter half of A CURIOUS BEGINNING that Veronica and Stoker started their own investigations, mainly to save their asses from being incarcerated. Like I said, it's all connected and it all boils down to Veronica's birth parents.
So who IS Veronica Speedwell? DRaybourn kept that secret until almost the end. And oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! What a bomb! The very idea of it! *trying hard not to spoil the deets for you*
As for the romantic elements, it's very light but tense filled. It's certainly a slow burn and such an interesting pairing. Stoker is a curious individual, he's also a scientist, an aristocrat, and learned in many ways. He's led an interesting life, but you won't get a sense of that from the first meeting because Stoker's eccentricities and total immersion to his taxidermy and other collection led to poor hygeine:
It means that if you come to bed smelling like something from a barnyard again, I will scrub you myself with rose soap and a firm hand,
Yeah, a little yucky, which made Stoker's eventual makeover awe inspiring. It's like watching an episode of Beauty and the Geek, and definitely not your over the counter bodice ripping hero. I still want to jump his bones though because I do love hot nerds!
Overall, A CURIOUS BEGINNING is a solid series debut, and I have no doubts that fans of Lady Julia Grey will love Veronica Speedwell. It has all the marks of a great historical mystery, the dialogue is impeccable and immdediately transported me to England 1887 (or at least how I imagined that era to be), and the budding partnership/romance between Veronica and Stoker is the hook for me. A CURIOUS BEGINNING is another guaranteed bestseller and I'm hoping NAL/Penguin will ask Ms. Raybourn to write more books than the original three contracted.