Book Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Book Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna RaybournA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery & Detective
Pages: 337
Published by New American Library, Penguin on September 1, 2015
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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.
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I have not read many mystery novels. I have only recently made the foray into historical novels (that are non-YA). If you enjoy either, you absolutely MUST read A CURIOUS BEGINNING by Deanna Raybourn.

I was drawn in at first by the gorgeous cover that graces A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I really loved the colors and the clothes that Veronica is wearing on the front are romantic and lovely. I just felt entirely drawn to the whole artistic feel of the cover and I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Raybourn’s writing is both charming and descriptive, with enormously likable and fascinating characters, and a great mystery to solve. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time spent on character development; if you’ve read my reviews, you know how important it is for my enjoyment of a book to have an emphasis on character. There’s plenty of that here, especially with Stoker. Veronica is pretty much transparently Veronica from page one, a feisty, does what she wants when she wants heroine with a penchant for butterflies, but Stoker is a different matter entirely. When we meet him, he is gruff, quiet, coarse, and secretive. He does not care for Veronica and can hardly believe such a woman has fallen into his care. But as the two travel and unravel the mystery surrounding her family, he grows softer, kinder, and more humorous. Their relationship was certainly a high point of the book, and I’m quite dying to see where it leads in the next.

Humor is something that can be found in abundance in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. The dialogue is extremely clever and entertaining, especially between Stoker and Veronica. There are many quips and witty comebacks to enjoy as they fight their way across England. And indeed, it is an excellent supplement to their journey through the alleyways of London, traveling with a Curiosity Show, and escaping kidnappers by jumping overboard into the Thames.

Although we did not truly get to investigating the main mystery until over halfway through, I was not bothered. Before that we were given fascinating chapters with the Curiosity Show and evading would-be kidnappers. And then once the investigation began, following Veronica and Stoker’s musings was quite interesting and as always, entertaining. I’m an “in the moment” kind of reader, so I don’t spend much time working out mysteries, and therefore I really enjoyed the conclusion of the plot. I thought it was well foreshadowed in the first half and well explored in the second.

The only reason A CURIOUS BEGINNING does not receive 5 luminous stars from me is because of the romance. I’m a hopeless romantic. I rarely read books that have little to no romance in them. There is certainly romance in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. At least, there’s romantic tension. Buckets of it. Oodles. But to my everlasting frustration and disappointment, it was never resolved, not even minutely. I assume that will come with later books, and I do have a healthy appreciation for a slow building romance, but it was a bit torturous. For now I will take comfort in their tension laden friendship until the second book appears on my shelf.

So if you’re feeling at all hesitant about reading A CURIOUS BEGINNING, hesitate no more, for this is a gem that I will be promoting for a long time. I immediately went to the library the day after I finished it to pick up the first book in the Lady Julia Grey Series. I can’t wait to dive into more of Deanna Raybourn’s charming and witty work.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NAL/Penguin for the review copy!

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