A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

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A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn is the first book in the new Veronica Speedwell series by this acclaimed author of mysteries and romance in Victorian England. Raybourn is the author of the popular Lady Julia Grey mysteries and with A Curious Beginning ushers in a new and exciting young adventurous sleuth in the form of Veronica Speedwell.

It is 1887 and the city of London prepares itself for Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. For Veronica Speedwell the occasion is its own milestone as she buries her aunt, the orphaned Speedwell is now free to travel the world and indulge her scientific investigations as well as the occasional affair. Something she only allows herself to enjoy with foreign men when she is abroad as her own countrymen, the English are far too easily scandalized. But as she returns from the burial she finds her home burglarized and the culprit still there. There is an attempt to abduct her that is thwarted by an older German Baron who convinces her that her life is in danger and that she must follow him. He promises to reveal all to her but first must leave her in the hands of his friend Stoker for safety. The next morning, Veronica and Stoker learn that the Baron has been murdered and worse, his friend Stoker is being blamed for it.

Veronica and Stoker escape the city and go on the run. Hoping to come up with a plan to solve the murder of the Baron and in doing so, solve the mystery that is the past of Veronica Speedwell.

While interesting and fast paced, A Curious Beginning seems more of an exercise in the introduction to the readers of Deanna Raybourn, the two main characters of this new series. Veronica Speedwell and the rogue, scientific, adventurer Stoker. In fact there is even a time, while these two are traveling with what appears to be a sort of circus/carnival troupe, that the mystery of the murder of the Baron seems lost and forgotten. It is not until they return to the city that the story picks back up and you remember that there is more to this tale than the clever banter and underlying sexual tension between the two. Don’t misunderstand though, it never ever gets boring.

Veronica is a strong character, almost a millennial woman trapped in the Victorian era. Headstrong and opinionated, she will appeal to many of Raybourn’s readers. But she is out of place in this time and her thoughts and actions separate her from the other women in the story. Stoker on the other hand is a rough and rugged Dr. Watson type, not likely to give into the gentlemanly conventions of the time, he is the perfect foil for Speedwell. They are very well suited for one another.

When the mystery picks up again in the story, which I will try very hard not to give away at all, the pace quickens considerably and the fledgling friendship between the two is sorely tested. It is this mystery and the relationship between Stoker and Speedwell that make the story click.

Deanna Raybourn is a romance writer.
Deanna Raybourn is a mystery writer.

She is both and she is very good at blending the genres into one very good enjoyable read.

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