Wednesday, September 2, 2015

ARC Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Series: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery (Book 1)
Publication: NAL (September 1, 2015)

Description: In her thrilling new series, 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. 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 Thoughts: Move over, Amelia Peabody, there is a new Victorian eccentric in town. Veronica Speedwell loves to go on adventures hunting butterflies and attractive foreign men. Now that her aunt has passed away, she has no ties keeping her in England. But when she returns to her aunt's cottage after the funeral, she surprises an intruder who is searching the place and who attempts to kidnap her. She is rescued by Baron Maximillian von Stauffenbach who offers her a ride to London and answers to her questions. He is convinced that she is in deadly danger and deposits her with an old friend of his Stoker.

Stoker is grouchy, disheveled and living in a warehouse down by the river surrounded by his natural history specimens. He isn't eager to be a refuge for Veronica but owes Max and thus agrees. Veronica and Stoker clash for a number of reasons. She questions the accuracy of his labels on some of his specimens and, worst of all, cleans the place up because she prefers a tidy organized environment. When the baron is murdered, Veronica and Stoker want to solve the crime but the police have decided that Stoker is a suspect in the crime. The two wind up fleeing the city.

On their way out of town, Veronica is approached by Edmund de Clare who offers to save her from Stoker. And while they are in hiding at a traveling curiosity show, a groom with suspiciously soft hands and refined speech named Mornaday also offers to rescue her from Stoker. Veronica wonders why she is suddenly drawing so much attention.

Orphaned, illegitimate Veronica has a secret past of her own. Those secrets are very threatening to some people who would either like her dead or who would like to control her. Veronica has to find a way to neutralize the situation to save both Stoker and herself.

Veronica is a wonderful character. She is a free thinker. She seems oblivious to the danger she is in. In fact, she acts likes she's ten feet tall and bullet-proof. She has a confidence that borders on arrogance and absolutely no tact. She is quite smart and has no need or desire to be under any man's protection. She is anything but a typical Victorian woman of the gentility.

I loved the relationship between Veronica and Stoker. Their arguments and other conversations were filled with wonderful dialogue. I liked the way he came to treat her as an equal partner and I liked the struggle between them until he did. Stoker is a man with secrets that Veronica would love to probe but she is giving him time to share them.

I can't wait to read more books in this new series to find out how their relationship grows and find out what new mysteries they solve.

Favorite Quote:
"I mean that we have been so busy running hither and yon we have not considered the baron's murder properly. Murder is an act of chaos. It lies with us to bring order and method to the solution of the deed. We are scientists," I reminded him.

"I am a scientist. You are a dilettante," he returned with as much hauteur as a man in a bath sheet could manage.
I got this ARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

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