I received this e-Arc from Edelweiss and NAL/Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Synopsis: 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 own 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.
Deanna Raybourn makes a welcome return with her first Victorian era mystery since she concluded her Lady Julia series. Featuring the same type of quirky characters that she’s known for, A Curious Beginning does not disappoint.
Like Lady Julia and her true love Nicholas Brisbane, Veronica and Stoker don’t exactly hit it off in the beginning. Actually, throughout much of the story Stoker is highly suspicious of Veronica’s role in his friend’s murder. This is a man who was once highly respected in his field and now makes his living as a taxidermist. His backstory is just as intriguing as Victoria’s and left me wanting to know even more, particularly in regards to his brother and his dysfunctional family.
Victoria is a confident, outspoken, and occasionally audacious woman, before her time, as Deanna’s heroines tend to be. She is constantly looking forward to her next adventure which explains why she so willingly accompanies first the mysterious baron, and then Stoker, neither whom she knows very much about. She’s fully capable of taking care of herself and is absolutely lethal with a hatpin! She also hangs on to a small velvet mouse named Chester from her childhood which adds an endearing quality to her.
This first book in the Veronica Speedwell series doesn’t offer much in the way of actual romance, but it has plenty of sexual tension between it’s two main characters. Their witty dialogue is one of the most enjoyable parts of the story and it’s going to be interesting to see how their relationship develops in subsequent books.
The plot is fast moving and the only thing I found lacking was how long it took for the mystery to truly get going. Despite a strong beginning, once the baron is murdered Veronica and Stoker spend the first half of the book as fugitives hiding out with a travelling circus. During this time, they’re not doing any real investigating. Instead, this seems more of a device to develop their relationship and I confess I was a little frustrated. Once they leave the circus though, things get really interesting, and when the full conspiracy is revealed, it comes as a big surprise! I truly did not see it coming.
Deanna Raybourn is a master of leaving her readers craving more and A Curious Beginning is a fine example of this. Intriguing and clever, it sets up the series perfectly. If you enjoy historical mysteries with eccentric characters and plenty of action, I highly recommend this. I’m looking forward to Deanna’s next novel featuring these two stubborn yet likeable characters.
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