‘I abhorred weakness of any kind but most particularly in my tea.’
I first started reading Deanna Raybourn’s books when I was in University (back when Facebook wasn’t really a thing). I just happened to be in a Waterstones bookshop in the crime section (my love of crime goes way back, way, way back) and saw a book with an interesting cover and blurb. Since then I have read everything she has written but this, A Curious Beginning is the first in a brand new series and I was a little cautious. Could Victoria Speedwell be as dear to be as Lady Julia Grey has become? Would I enjoy’s Victoria’s adventures as much as I enjoyed Lady Julia’s?
The answer to both of them is a emphatic yes.
After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica Speedwell intends 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. 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. The baron offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can reveal his secrets, he is found murdered. Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run, wary partners in search of the villainous truth…
The first thing I have to say about Veronica is that propriety is not a thing for her and I loved that. She had had lovers in the past (very possibly more than the male protagonist), planned to have more in the future, and was completely unbothered by it. It was so refreshing to meet a Victorian character who was very happy to have and discuss sex. She was also very intelligent (something else I love in a female protagonist), physically capable, and very logical. When she meets Stoker he is as interesting as she and his past is drip fed to us throughout the story.
As a side note I haven’t laughed so much as I did when Veronica and Stoker were discussing how to relieve sexual tension.
The two of them are thrown together, for better or for worse and as the story progresses they both adapt and grow in each other’s company. I especially loved Stoker’s journey (for anyone who watches Strictly Come Dancing in the UK you know how important the j-word is) and the fact that he was willing to let Veronica be in control. This is a massive testament to Deanna Raybourn’s writing skills because not once did I find him patronising. His behaviour towards Veronica was so realistic and non-sexist. He was so likable, as was Veronica that I was constantly rooting for the two of them to win.
The plot was magnificent. Part adventure, part mystery I had absolutely no idea how it would go or how it would end up. Everything was fast paced and kept me hooked until the very end. There is so much room for a sequel and I can’t wait to read more about Victoria and Stoker and to learn more about the both of them and to see where their relationship goes.
A Curious Beginning was wonderful and I can’t wait to read what happens next. I recommend everything Deanna Raybourn writes especially this one: Veronica is epic.