Published by NAL/Penguin on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery
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After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
“Mrs. Clutterthorpe, I can hardly think of any fate worse than becoming the mother of six. Unless perhaps it were plague, and even then I am persuaded a few disfiguring buboes and possible death would be preferable to motherhood.”
Review of a re-read! I actually read A Curious Beginning almost four years ago, when it first came out. I totally intended to buy the second as soon as it was available, but then it came out with a SHOCKINGLY mismatched cover and yes, I was that shallow. I’m really sad that I didn’t keep up with them (also, note: authors have no control over their book covers so it was really stupid of me to essentially “boycott” the second one just because of the cover, even though I totally meant to read it as soon as I could get over my dislike of the cover).
I recently got my hands on the next three (!!!) books in the series, and when I started the second one I realized that I remembered very, VERY little of the first book. So here we are! My enthusiasm for this book knows few bounds, as is best illustrated by HOW MANY TIMES I had to update my GoodReads status for it whilst reading.
The intrigue! The mystery! The secrets! The sexual tension! Ahem. Okay, I might be getting a little carried away. There aren’t really any punch-to-the-gut feelings that come along with this story, or at least I didn’t think so. It’s much more about the mystery surrounding Veronica, why so many people are suddenly interested in a young, unfashionably scientific woman. Stoker, with whom she is thrown together by chance, has a good many secrets that he is quite determined to keep hidden. He basically oozes bad-boy sexuality (in a Victorian sort of way), but actually has quite a soft heart.
“There are times when it is entirely safe to show one’s vulnerability, to roll over and reveal the soft underbelly beneath. But there are other times when pain must be borne without a murmur, when the pain is so consuming that if you give in to it, even in the slightest, you have lost everything.”
The banter is what really makes this book come alive. I laughed out loud SO many times – and not because the SITUATION itself was funny, or far-fetched. Veronica and Stoker just constantly throw one-liners at each other and it’s hysterical. The sexual tension grows and grows throughout the book and I was totally there for it! I was a bit non-plussed at the “ending,” but it made me all the more excited for the next installment. View Spoiler »They don’t actually get together! WHAT! They basically admit the attraction – because they are both scientific types who don’t believe in social niceties – but they just…let it…smolder…ACK! NEXT BOOK PLEASE! « Hide Spoiler
Since this is a mystery, it’s not possible to say MUCH without giving it away. But, it revolves around Veronica and the circumstances of her birth, and why people appear to be either trying to kill or kidnap her. The details aren’t ever especially gory, but it doesn’t quite feel like a cozy mystery to me, either. I’m vaguely reminded of the Amelia Peabody series, but with more sizzle.
Victorian England, with all the trappings that come along with that era. However, this is probably NOT the book or series for you if you are a stickler for details. The physical details seem fairly accurate, but Veronica is a very independent lady and quite the free-thinker, not just with regards to her whole-hearted pursuit of science but in her “dalliances.” I find it very hard to believe there would be someone in this setting who wasn’t completely ostracized from society…though perhaps I just haven’t studied the right history. I did thoroughly enjoy the scientific aspect of the book, and found myself Googling the scientific names of various butterflies to see what exactly she was looking at!
4.5/5 stars. Half a star reduction was for what I felt was a fairly common plot – not an unenjoyable one, but any means, but a twist could have been nice too. 😉
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