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.
Worldbuilding: As generally tend to do, I loved the Victorian setting, all the more for the defying attitude the MC had toward the set-in-stone role women played in it. But more on that a tinsy bit later. Considering the story, a lot of the story was set in indoorsy eccentric types of settings, including collections of specimens, taxidermy, the likes. I loved the peculiarity of all these settings, the quirkiness of the whole thing.
Characters: If I were to award the Perfect MC Award to a novel, it would be to A Curious Beginning for Veronica Speedwell. I don’t have a separate blow by blow section for each Flutter point, so A Curious Beginning will have to settle for my Bomy Award of Excellence. It’s the third one awarded this year. Veronica was the most intelligent, logical, witty, full of classy humor, daring, feminist, ambitious and enterprising female MC I’ve read about lately, if not this whole year and maybe including previous one too. Her resilience, love of adventure, solid opinions that she refused to be swayed from and approach to life in general made me love her so, so terribly much. This was a free, independent woman in a time when women were mostly expected to produce children and be obedient daughters and then wives. It was a particularly tasty point to me that she was equally as free sexually, not considering her sexuality a sin, a taboo, or a terrible character fault. Her scientific mind and methodical pursuit of truth only served to make me love her that much more. Veronica Speedwell is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. And I will follow her splendid adventures till their very end 🙂
Also loved Stoker, and there’s a to-follow-romance air about them which I loved. He was a fabulous supporting character, a stellar sidekick, beta hero if you will. I’ve read a somewhat like-minded setting in another Bomy Award of Excellence of 2015, and I’m starting to think I’m a closet fan of beta male heroes, lol 😀
Plot: The mystery arc was very interesting, eventful, active, and I loved the intrigue that was involved. It was not only well put together, well timed, and thoroughly exciting, but also highly plausible historically 😀 Much win.
Writing: First person, past tense narrative. Superb style, witty, elegant, clear but somewhat quirky and, of course, English-flavored. Yummy!
Curb Appeal: Awesome cover, hooking blurb, instant buy era/genre for me. Impulsive buy material.
I fully, wholeheartedly recommend A Curious Beginning, and I’m sure whatever Deanna Raybourn writes is well worth the read. I’m gonna read this series, and will most likely go for her other one too, the Julia Grey one.
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