Book Talk: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

Book Talk: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna RaybournA Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Berkley on January 16, 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.

His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.

Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

Book blogging this year has gotten so weird, you guys. Since I’m only reviewing the stuff that I really loved or thought was good and have serious things to say about, I’m mostly just reviewing backlist titles obsessively. See: the full backlist of Christina Lauren, Sarah Dessen, and the Westcott novels of Mary Balogh. Review books: what be those? My newest obsession, CLEARLY, is Veronica Speedwell, and, honey, she is fabulous (can you tell I’ve been watching too much ANTM?)! I instaloved on this series so hard, and I’m nowhere close to falling out of love. A Treacherous Curse has my ship of ships of course and a totally awesome whackadoodle mystery.

One point I want to make about this series before I get down to business (or is it pleasure?) is that Raybourn does quick little recaps in each of the subsequent books so that, if you skipped (WHY WOULD YOU?) or if you had a wait between books and a garbage memory like mine, you can hop into a later book without feeling lost. I really wish more authors would do this. They’re generally not more than a couple of paragraphs at a time, so it’s not like you get a chapter of repeating the previous book. It’s nice.

Stoker and Veronica aka StoVe are one of my OTPs. Yes, I do know it means ONE True Pairing, but that’s like asking me to have a favorite book, and I do not roll that way. They fight constantly but in this way where they really fucking respect each other and they both enjoy the shit out of it, which is my kind of romance. The tension is consistently off the charts, and omg the ending of this book about wrecked me. Ship SHIP

Usually I discuss shippy stuff last, because idk that seems like a great place for nonsensical flailing, but I wanted to lead with it today, because the ship drives the plot here. Not that it is the catalyst for the plot but I think the plot serves as a vehicle for some important ship set up.

In this installment, Veronica and Stoker are set to amateur detective-ing by Sir Hugo, the chief of the special branch of the police. They’ve been at odds with him in the past, and I love the detente of sorts they have going. This is a great example of why I love this series so much, because the characters themselves are dynamic and exciting but so to are the relationships between each and every one of these characters.

So, anyway, Sir Hugo warns them about the disappearance of this man coming back from a “cursed” archeological dig in Egypt. He apparently has stolen the unearthed princess’ diadem and, coincidentally, he used to be Stoker’s bestie and stole Stoker’s wife. AW SNAP.

Though the plotting does feel slightly artificial at times just in the sheer convenience of it being Stoker’s ex-wife and friend, I am so absolutely stoked (pun very much intended) about diving into Stoker’s past. He has been frustratingly reticent up to now, but we finally learn what went down. Stoker’s character development is a little bit strange but also so perfect at the same time; it really explains why he’s such a mopey dude and shows what a big softie romantic he is at heart, which I obviously knew but it’s great to have that officially confirmed.

The one thing I didn’t love so much was the portrayal of Stoker’s ex-wife. She’s pretty much just a garbage woman from top to bottom, classic mean girl sort of stuff, and I expected more nuance out of Raybourn. That said, I don’t judge the book too harshly for that, simply because this is such an exception to her character building. She can get away from painting one woman as merely a using bitch because there are so many strong women in all shapes, sizes, and races in this series.

I love how, when Veronica meets a new woman, she kind of can’t help sizing her up. Actually, that’s true of everyone she meets, but with women it’s competitive and with men it’s usually thirsty. Veronica’s been fairly isolated, and she’s such an introvert, so she always assumes she’ll dislike people. But most every time she meets a new female character, she’s surprised about how much she likes the woman and thinks they could be friends. She even has kind thoughts about a whore plying her wares on the street.

It would be easy to dismiss Veronica as a woman-hater, but it’s more that she doesn’t really like people at all as a general rule; she’s very fair about people once she gets to know them a bit. Also, Lady Wellingtonia is fierce and needs to be played by Judi Dench in a film or TV adaptation JUST SAYING. So many series highlight a powerful woman who looks down on others and is the exception, but it’s constantly shown that Veronica isn’t the only amazing badass woman.

The plot takes a while to really get off the ground, but around page 100, shit gets cray. The pacing of the rest of it is frenetic in the best way, with Veronica and Stoker running everywhere following leads left and right. There’s very much a comedic feel to much of the ending, with a notable exception that makes the not especially twisty ending feel surprising.

Raybourn has such a deft hand for wit, darkness, and above all characterization. I love it so much. Seriously, why are you here, go read these right now!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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