Book Talk: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

I received this book for free from Library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: A Curious Beginning by Deanna RaybournA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley on July 12, 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery
Pages: 340
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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London, 1887.

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.

I know a lot of readers really hate book cover redesigns for series, and I have a lot of sympathy for that struggle. However, if the cover goes from dud to stud, I have absolutely no issue with them redesigning, though sometimes I have an issue with my ugly hardcover. A Curious Beginning entered my radar solely because of the paperback redesign. My interest related wholly to the gorgeous cover. Of course, that meant I was both desperate and terrified to try the series because of how much I wanted to love these books merely so I could display them. So many beautiful covers are traps, and I end up hating them and having to ditch the beautiful book cover. Thankfully, A Curious Beginning is lovely inside and out.

The mystery plot line meanders quite a bit throughout A Curious Beginning, and it’s really difficult to get a real handle on where things are going until the big reveal towards the end. Were I here for mystery rather than characterization and historical elements, I might have been frustrated. In the end, the mystery is really cool, but sometimes it does feel like Veronica and Stoker kind of forget about it and go off on an unrelated tangent (more on that later). If I hadn’t been thoroughly in love with Veronica Speedwell from the outset, I might have been bored and confused.

But OMFG do I love Veronica Speedwell. She’s like a 19th century Miss Fisher, brilliant, sexually free, and outspoken. Like Miss Fisher, she also stumbles into a mystery and begins detective-work out of curiosity. Goddess, I really just love her. It means so fucking much to me that she doesn’t want children and is more logical than emotional. Heroines like her are hard to find, particularly in more romantic-oriented stories. If you’ve been looking for something to fill the <em>Miss Fisher’s</em> shaped hole in your heart, THIS THIS THIS.

Veronica’s an orphan, raised by two quirky old ladies, both of which have now passed. Veronica, though sad, also feels some relief, that now she may travel whenever she wills without as much tying her to England. She has her one small bag packed and is ready to set off for adventure when a man breaks into her house and then another man shows up and tells her she’s in danger and to come with him. As a reader, you’re like wuuuuut, because it’s so sudden, and also it’s a little strange that Veronica decides to set off with dude two, who then drops her off with a studly friend/taxidermist, promising to come back and tell her more. Only then dude two gets murdered. Whoops.

Though I loved Veronica’s voice immediately, the opening chapters were a bit much. Veronica’s decisions were a bit puzzling, as was the Baron’s dropping her off at Stoker’s. However, once she was bantering angrily with Stoker, lbr I did not care that the plotting was a bit choppy. They end up embarking on this one completely unnecessary and ill-thought-out side journey that ends up serving very little narrative purpose, but it’s super duper shippy so I don’t even care. I mean, hello fake marriage trope, I adore you.

Stoker and Veronica have that slow burn chemistry like whoa. Well, actually, “slow burn” is kind of a misnomer here, because the chemistry is basically immediately on fire, with Veronica constantly eye-fucking him and wishing he weren’t British so she could have her way with him without violating her eminently sensible rules for sexual liaisons. Stoker’s adorably into her, and she’s aware of it but also trying to follow her rules and not have feelings, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want his heart broken, so he’s trying not to start anything. The end result is that these two do the <em>Miss Fisher’s</em> thing where they are always close talking and a breath away from furiously making out. Gah, this ship, I cannot even.

Also, I love this book for not being about Veronica Speedwell, super special snowflake, not like other girls. Well, she does know she is not like most women, but she specifically addresses that, blaming the patriarchy and the lack of education women typically receive. She does not think herself better than other women but merely gifted greater opportunity and freedom through circumstances over which she had little control. Also, she makes another female friend who is super logical and loves math, and just <3. There are some amazing smash the patriarchy type quotes, and you’d best bet I have them all highlighted. Here’s one of my many favorite quotes, which is unfortunately still completely apt.

“Who else? It is men who have kept women downtrodden and poorly educated, so burdened by domesticity and babies they can scarcely raise their heads. You put us on pedestals and wrap us in cotton wool, cluck over us as being too precious and too fragile for any real labor of the mind, yet where is the concern for the Yorkshire woman working herself into an early grave in a coal mine? The factory girl who chokes herself to an untimely death on bad air? The wife so worn by repeated childbearing that she is dead at thirty? No, my dear Stoker, your sex has held the reins of power for too long. And I daresay you will not turn them loose without a fight.”

In case you couldn’t tell, I adored this book. I’m already pretty close to the scary place with this ship after just one book, and you’d best bet this pretty edition will be finding a home on my shelves.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Book Talk: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn”

  1. That cover really is fantastic! This sounds like such a good book and I feel like I’d love the MC. Great review!

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