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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review - A Curious Beginning

New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, Deanna Raybourn, has a new series.  I can't wait to share it with you.

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Copyright: Sept 2015 (NAL) 352 pgs

Series: 1st in Veronica Speedwell Mystery series

Sensuality: Adult topics discussed, occasional swear word

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Veronica Speedwell, an amatuer entomologist raised by aunts - now alone in the world

Setting: 1887 London

Obtained Through: Library 

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. 

Veronica is larger-than-life and there aren't many female characters you can say that about.  Incredibly ahead of her time, stuborn, brainy with a sharp tongue and wit.  Undoubtedly, she won't be everyone's cup-of-tea.  Stoker (Mr. Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane) is cranky and reclusive who must face Veronica thrown into his life.  He has scars on his face from a disastrous expedition in the Amazon. He now makes a living as a taxidermist.  The chemistry between them culminates in stellar dialog as they bicker.  There are some side characters from the traveling circus they hide in for a few weeks and then friends of Stokers in London society. Mornaday starts in the Circus but ends up with a larger role as the story develops.  The little street urchin Badger is the best of the minor characters.

The Circus and even the London house are well utilized.  The plot is running from an unknown danger to Veronica, which her significance and the reason why she is in danger is revealed by the end.  The pacing is bolstered when they aren't in peril with the slowly developing relationship between them.  

The climax was quite suspenseful, even harrowing.  The wrapup left the door open for more adventures with Veronica and Stoker.

I could easily rave about this novel since I was thoroughly entertained.  I realize Veronica isn't strictly a character conforming to the norms of women's role in that era, and she may even be a little over-the-top.  But I found myself chuckling through the book.  Give her a try.

Rating: Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

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