A Curious Beginning
(Veronica Speedwell Mystery Series Book 1)
by Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell is an English spinster of about 25 who makes her living as a lepidopterist, a collector of butterflies. When she has the money, she takes expeditions to different parts of the world to gather her specimens which she sells to collectors for money to go on her next expedition.
The book opens with Veronica at the funeral of her last remaining aunt. The two older ladies raised her from infancy and she believes she is a foundling. But strange events begin with the funeral and lead to her being whisked away to London by a German baron who tells her she’s in danger and claims to have known her mother.
In London, he leaves her with a grumpy natural historian who goes by the name of Mr. Stoker. (Not his real name.) After the baron is killed, the two of them go on the road and things get curiouser and curiouser. And more dangerous.
The book takes place in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne, but Veronica is not your typical Victorian lady. Like the butterflies she loves and kills, she’s a free spirit, though she keeps her more unconventional behaviors, like indulging in sexual liaisons with foreign gentlemen, to her travels.
Stoker is a man with a past, and it’s a while until we find out how he received the scar on his face and even longer until we learn his internal wounds. Veronica is a good match for him. She’s not the least sentimental and keeps him in line with her sharp tongue.
Along the way we visit behind the scenes of a traveling carnival with a group of odd and sometimes dangerous characters. The writing is often amusing, esp. Veronica and Stoker’s banter. They push each others’ buttons, but are able to work together as an effective team. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to more of their adventures.
Click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.
Fascinating premise. I like interesting pairs with lively banter…:)
Veronica gets pretty acerbic at times, and he is often sarcastic. It’s a fun read.
We have a lot of reviews of historical novels this month! So weird how patterns like that crop up. A Curious Beginning has elements I love: a female protagonist who doesn’t follow convention, British history, mystery. 🙂 Thank you for reviewing!
You’d probably enjoy the book, then, Barrie. I love historical fiction of all kinds.
Since the Crown aired we’ve been watching lots of things about England. My ancestors (one one side) came from there. I love science and novels with a believable premise, so this sound interesting to me. – Margy
I’ve missed The Crown, I’m afraid. Have to catch up one day on Netflix. Everyone says how good it is.
This sounds wonderful! I love a good historical fiction with a plucky female character and some element of mystery. I think I have this on my Kindle, so I might have to move it up my to-read list a bit. It sounds like the perfect book for a day outside in the summer. 🙂
A great choice for a beach read, for sure, Tanya!
I did not know that there was a word for a butterfly collector! You learn so much from good historical fiction.
That’s one of the things I like about historical fiction, too. Learning something.
Ooh, Ooh, a mystery series! Great find!
This is a fun mystery series.