Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for giving me a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
I picked up A Curious Beginning on a whim at my local library a few months ago. I wasn’t super sure about it as it wasn’t YA and it was a mystery, and I normally don’t grab those at all. However, it was also historical fiction set during Victorian England which happens to me one of my favorite time periods, so I was pleased when I finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. The second book in the Veronica Speedwell series is no different–I loved it.
Title: A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2)
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Expected release date: January 10, 2017 (tomorrow!)
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Length: 352 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) “Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman’s noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.
But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.
From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….”
Right, so we pick up only a few weeks after the first book left off. Veronica and Stoker are currently working on putting together a museum of sorts when Lady Cordelia, whom I can only label as their “landlady” in the loosest sense of the word, invites our heroine and butterfly enthusiast Veronica Speedwell on a trip to a lady’s club. There, Veronica meets Lady Sundridge. She explains in loose detail how she wishes for Veronica to uncover the truth behind the trial and verdict of her friend and fellow artist, Miles Ramsforth. Of course, if we’ve read the first book, we know the connection Veronica has with this particular lady.
Veronica agrees, albeit reluctantly, and finds herself, along with Stoker, diving into a niche of society that causes even earring-wearing, tattooed, darked-haired Stoker choking on his words. (However, Veronica finds it all a bit amusing though eclectic.) As Veronica and Stoker become more familiar with the Elysian Grotto in order to learn more about why exactly Miles Ramsforth was charged with murder, individually, they also must face a few parts of their past they’d rather leave forgotten.
What I love most about this series are the complex characters, lush writing, and lovely world building. Can I call it world building even if it’s in a real setting? I think I can. Raybourn’s style of writing in this series is impeccable. I felt as if I were walking the streets of Victorian London, going through Bishop’s Folly with Veronica and Stoker, and perhaps tripping over Patricia, the giant tortoise, a time or two as well. Writing like this harkens to my inner English literature lover.
Which also means I’ve enjoyed the new characters in here as well, especially Lady Wellia! I love how wry the old woman is! I also didn’t mind Stoker’s elder brother, Tiberius either as he seemed quite taken with Veronica, though I will say that discovering Stoker’s true heritage was actually quite a shock to me. I’ve never been one for family rifts so I’m hoping the two brothers will reconcile their differences. Tying to Stoker’s heritage, I get the feeling that he and Veronica understand one another a little better now as their situations are a bit similar. I like the two as friends though I’m highly convinced that they may end up more. (Well, at least I can hope, right?) I love their witty banter, Veronica’s internal admiration of Stoker’s fine figure, and
The mystery in this book left me guessing until the very end, and even then, I didn’t know “who dunnit” until it was finally revealed and I was surprised! I would have never suspected. But I suppose that’s the point.
My only complaint is how I’m finding little fault with Veronica. I suppose that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing but she’s managed to charm quite a few characters into liking her. Well, I suppose I should say that loosely if looking through the lens of that particular time period, Veronica was quite a free woman, not hindered by marriage or children like nearly all women during that time. That’s another thing that also makes her unique but they are also her choices.
I can’t wait to see what the next book (or more) brings to this series!