Format: E-Galley, 352 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Historical, Mystery
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.
Set in 1887 Victorian Era England, A Curious Beginning is the first installment in the Veronica Speedwell Mystery Trilogy. Protagonist Veronica Speedwell is a natural historian with a specialty in lepidoptery (butterflies). Basically means she's a butterfly hunter who travels the world looking for exotic new species. She is known to have the occasional dalliances with foreign men, while avoiding her fellow Englishmen. What Veronica isn't, however, is a Victorian Romance novels leading lady who bows down to the desires of the male dominated world, while having hot steamy sex on every other page.
She could care less about finding marriage, especially to a man who has six children. She is inquisitive, independent, passionate about her calling, fearless in her travels to places that are far from friendly, and feisty to a fault. Upon her Aunt's death, Veronica chooses to set out on her own once again to find yet another exotic destination, and maybe a hot blooded Italian to ravish. OK, I am totally making that last part up but not about the desired booty call! It's too bad that fate, and an unwanted destiny rise up and block her plans. From finding an intruder in her cottage; to running into and leaving with a Baron who knew Veronica's mother; to finding him bludgeoned to death shortly after, Veronica's story has just begun.
What this story is NOT, is a romance novel. It is a mystery novel with historical aspects, including Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration. Raybourn sticks to telling her mystery by adding a fellow scientist named Stoker (no, not that Stoker!) who is a reclusive natural historian with a deep dark past. Veronica and Stoker find themselves partnered up against unknown enemies that are on polar opposites. One side wants her dead, the other wants to use her for political advantages. Veronica's very existence may be the deep, dark secret that tears apart Empires all across Europe.
I dare say that I wasn't at all unhappy with the lack of romance in this story. One could argue that Veronica has a mind all her own, and yes, people, there were actually women in the 19th century who didn't believe in marriage before sex. (See Marriage and Women in the 19th Century). I loved the banter and fun that Veronica and Stoker have at each others expense. I love that the story kept moving at a pretty brisk pace. I loved that there are still mysteries unresolved, which means more for the next book!
**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**