A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning

by Deanna Raybourn
Book 1 of 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.

This book was fantastic!

I went into A Curious Beginning with a bit of wariness if only because the Julia Grey series had been a little less than what I'd been expecting.  While the writing was beautiful, the atmosphere excellent, and Julia a wonderfully witty and fun heroine, I found each of the books a little draggy, and the romance less than desirable.

Deanna Raybourn has the tendency to overdo the set-up a little bit, and it showed in the Julia Grey series.  While she set the atmosphere of each book wonderfully, a lot of times you don't even get to the main conflict until about halfway into the book.

In A Curious Beginning, there was also some drag at the beginning when our main characters find themselves running away to go into hiding with a group of traveling performers.  And to be honest, I didn't really even notice that not much was really happening until a few chapters later when their main conflict, the baron's death and Stoker's being accused of as the murderer, was mentioned very briefly.  Then we resume life in hiding with the traveling circus for some time more until that niggling feeling in the back of my head prompted me to wonder aloud, "Wait.  Is this it?  Just hiding?  What about investigating or something?"

Fortunately, it seems like I spoke too soon, because almost immediately after I asked myself those questions, the story progresses forward and we get into the real heart of the story, with  our amateur non-detectives investigating the baron's death, if only to help prove that Stoker had nothing to do with the murder.  On the aside, there is also mention of Veronica's mother being known by the deceased baron, which kind of guides her own curiosity in finding out why the older man was killed.

Granted, when the truth finally comes out, I had feelings of deja vu, because I feel like we've done this particular secret reveal before, somewhere... in like, twenty other books.  It was handled well; however, and I found myself more interested in seeing how Veronica and Stoker would get themselves out of THAT mess rather than the actual backstory of said mess, because that stuff kind of bored me a little.

I'm going to be totally honest though:  I really just loved Veronica and Stoker so much that I found myself unable to justify letting any of the little flaws deter me from loving the entire book.  Yes, there were things that didn't work well for me at some point.  Yes, there were parts of the book I kind of glossed over.  And yes, I understand that Veronica's behavior and personality were probably way too modern for the time period she lives in.

But, so help me, I couldn't help but be delighted by her very presence in this book because she just exudes all form of strong, independent, level-headed, and wittily sarcastic woman that I love following in any and all entertainment media.  Beats having a meek little girl who let's a little thing like society or historical facts get in the way of adventure and the occasional romantic dalliance.

And yes, I love that she's so open about her sex life and past romantic relationships.  I love that she's got a quick, sharp tongue about her and isn't concerned about being blunt and to-the-point.  I love that her reputation is the last thing on her mind, and so she just throws propriety out the window.  And I love that she doesn't let a little thing like a good-looking man distract her from the priorities.

Which is one of the reasons why I really loved the partnership between Veronica and Stoker.  There is no romance in this first book, though there were certainly some special moments between the two.  But in the end, they seem to have settled on being just friends, albeit very close friends, for the time being.  I have a feeling once their love starts blossoming, it will be well worth the wait.

And speaking of Stoker... I really didn't know what to think about him at first.  He seemed no different than every other broody, moody, easily tempered alpha hero in any other romance.  But as the story progressed, I started seeing little details here and there of Stoker's that just really endeared him to me.  He was flustered by Veronica's unconcerned state of undress in one scene, he was quite obvious about his ogling of her breasts in another, and he exhibits these little boyish tendencies that I found to be kind of sweet.  In one scene he's sulking about his lost sweet candies in the Thames river, but then happily amuses himself by taking apart some honeycomb candies that Veronica digs out of some random tins for him.  In another scene, while Veronica helps him treat a small wound caused by sewing pins, he amuses himself by going through her little bag of bottled medicinal supplies.

These little things just make him feel more human, as opposed to those other alpha males who are always so uptight and put together, with carefully controlled actions and dialogue.  I really liked these brief, random moments, because they counterbalance his other, more broody moments quite well.

And I especially love that he doesn't waste any time on trying to control Veronica, or even pretending that he has a say in any of her decisions whenever others are requesting that he keep her contained.  He's all like, "Yeah, right.  Why don't you try?"

The rest of the book was equally as fabulous, once the action and the conflict starts moving the story forward.  The mystery felt a little lame, but in light of how much I loved just following Veronica on her journey, I'm not really complaining all that much.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/09/thoughts-curious-beginning.html