ARC Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Guys this book is by Deanna Raybourn, so you already know how much I love it, right?? I don't even need to write out what I thought of it all because I can just tell you all that you need this in your life and you'll go buy it, yes? I can all count on you to just trust me. No? Really, you need a reason? Well fine, I can give you a ton, but by the end you'll just be wanting to buy the book anyways, so...here we go.
I've been a Raybourn fan since I first read her Lady Julia series, and when that series ended I had a good mental cry about it. And then all of the sudden I saw that she had a new book and series coming out, and I cheered for ages. I was beyond ecstatic when my request got accepted on EW, and even more ecstatic when I started reading the book and it was so like Lady Julia in some aspects, but so different in others - I raced through this one like there was no tomorrow, and I finally finished the novel amid a storm of tears and laughter. This book, you guys. It's beautiful.
Being a fan of Raybourn and possibly a bigger fan of one of her old characters, Nicholas Brisbane, I'll admit it was hard to stop myself from comparing him to Stoker, the male lead in the this book. It was actually really surprising to realize how different the two are. They're both societal outcasts, but in different ways. Their base personalities are relatively distinct, and yet what do you know, I love them both. Stoker is half roguish pirate and half gentleman, and I loved seeing the relationship grow between him and Veronica without them even realizing it. It was a really well done slow burn, and I can't wait to see where it will go. But like always, the romance isn't the major aspect of the story - nope, that was the mystery.
Raybourn’s novels always combine a just right amount of romance and mystery (to my immense pleasure), and her latest story is no different. The author has a special skill in the art of writing mysteries, so if you're a fan of the genre, you really want to check her out. The mystery in this novel was enthralling, and my cup of tea especially since it involved the queen, an illegitimate birth, etc. etc. While the conclusion to this mystery wasn't quite as hard to guess as maybe some of her other books, it was very enthralling, and didn't hinder the surprise factor in any way. In fact, when I finally got to the mystery's conclusion, I'm pretty sure there was this large grin stuck on my face that just wouldn't go away, but that may have been because I was watching Stoker be all protective-like.
The main character Veronica is so different from many characters in the time period. Veronica screams feminism and isn’t afraid of facing anything, which makes her story all the more interesting. She’s very forthright and confident, and I loved reading about her adventures/time abroad. Seeing her clashing with Stoker's more gentlemanly behavior was a blast. At the same time, she clearly knew how to take care of herself. Not only was she a bit of a neat freak, she went and solved a few legs of the mystery on her own, much to Stoker's ire. She's a very independent person, and watching her develop new relationships was wonderful. Oh, and did I mention her witty banter, because it was nothing short of beautiful.
I particularly liked that some of the mysteries were left unsolved - I can’t wait to see what will be solved and how many more questions will appear in the second novel. I also love where Raybourn left Stoker and Veronica off at the end of this novel. I won't tell you what happens, but where they are in their "friendship" by the end of book one is not where I imagined they would be (I'll leave that cryptic sentence to speak for itself). If you're already a fan of the author or regularly read mysteries and/or adult romance, or even if you don't, I definitely recommend giving this a try.
Book Synopsis: 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.
Source: A copy was received from the publisher for review.