Title: Deanna Raybourn A Curious Beginning (Sept 2015)Publisher: Penguin NAL: Signet Romance 352 pp
Genre: mystery, historical mystery, fiction, Victorian suspense
Deanna Raybourn is well known for her Lady Julia Grey series, beginning with Silent in the Grave (2007), which have been nominated for and won numerous awards. It was recently (April 2015) optioned for UK television series. (There are 6 books and several novellas). She has several other stand alone novels which are entertaining and richly detailed. A Curious Beginning features Miss Veronica Speedwell and is the start of a new series (the second is already at the editors). Raybourn also writes an interesting blog and is now on tour.
Veronica Speedwell has a passion for lepidoptery (not moths!), and created an unusual career capitalizing on the Victorian obsession with collecting specimens. With the death of her guardian she is thrown into a mystery that appears to involve her unknown parents. Orphaned at a few months, she was cared for by two maiden aunts who themselves carried secrets. Break ins and murder find her in 1887 London where she puts her intelligence and talents into solving these crimes. She shares this adventure with the rather mysterious natural historian, explorer and scholar Stoker, aka the Honourable Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane.
Speedwell is a rather modern female Sherlock Holmes but is modeled after Victorian female explorers who were independent and foreword thinking. As is Stoker. There is clever, witty dialogue and black humour which create a fast paced fun story. Charming descriptions, a hint of romance, never a dull moment with attempted abductions, robbery, murder, secrets, general mayhem, contribute to a neat read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as all her other books, and look forward to the next installment.
To the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (still one of the best!)
To Mary Russell series (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) by Laurie R King
To Lady Jane Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
I stared into the open grave and wished I could summon a tear.
…a figure at the lych-gate, tall and beautifully erect, with the sort of posture a gentleman of aristocratic breeding or enthusiastic besting at excellent schools.
…in every village no matter how peaceful and pretty, there was always someone to wag a tongue and pass judgement.
Overtime, I developed a set of rules from which I never deviated. Although I permitted myself dalliances during my travels, I never engaged in flirtations in England…foreign bachelors were my trophies, collected for their charm and good looks as well as their attentive manners. They were holiday romances, light and insubstantial.
There ought to have been a frisson of foreknowledge, a shiver of precognition that the choice to accompany the baron would prove the single most significant decision of my entire life.
Miss Speedwell, I have hiked the length of the Amazon River. I have been accosted by native tribes and shot twice. I have nearly met my death by quicksand and snakebite, poisoned arrow and one particularly fiendish jaguar. And I have never, until this moment, been quite so surprised by anything as I am by you.
Are you familiar with the intrepid lady travelers? Women like Isabella Bird and Marianne North?
In my experience Americans were very friendly and very fond of their firearms.
You cannot discount a theory simply because it does not suit your prejudices, he reminded me. That is bad science.
I could sooner influence the sun to set in the east, Sir Hugo. She is entirely her own woman.
Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!
Veronica (common name Speedwell) is the largest plant genus in the family Plantaginaceae (500 sp). It is edible and nutritious, used as tea for asthma. You might know it as the weed which out competes lawn grass.