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Review | A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A new Victorian mystery series from Deanna Raybourn is no small treat. I was basically beside myself with joy when I found out she would be returning to my favorite of her settings with an all new intrepid protagonist and (word had it) a broody hero to boot. Nobody broods like Brisbane broods (say that five times fast), and I was eager to make the acquaintance of this Veronica Speedwell and this natural historian by the name of Stoker. I did love the original hardcover for the heroine's dress and the misty fog drifting up the cobblestones. But I have to say, I'm more partial to this lovely new trade paperback edition. The butterflies! The silhouette of Veronica with her net! The typeface! I love it all. When a copy arrived in the mail for review, I could not have been more pleased.

Veronica Speedwell is used to being on her own. She is used to striking out for locales unknown and obscure butterfly species heretofore undiscovered. What she is not used to is abduction attempts on her person. Particularly not after she has just buried her last remaining relative and is about to wash her hands of the ties that bind in general and embark on her next adventure. But foil an abduction she does, and it's off to London with a mysterious (but kindly) German baron and into the highly unexpected laboratory of one Stoker. Covered in tattoos and dripping with disdain, Stoker is not interested in a lepidopterist no matter how well-informed on the natural sciences she may be. But it seems solitude is not in the cards for either of them, as murder continues to dog Veronica's heels and the two mutually suspicious partners are drawn into a mystery involving Veronica's parents, Stoker's past, and one memorable traveling circus.
I stared down into the open grave and wished I could summon a tear. 
Deanna Raybourn always has me at hello. I've been quoting the first line of Silent in the Grave aloud regularly for going on eight years now, and the opening lines of A Curious Beginning continue the excellence. Veronica is a giant breath of fresh air from the word go, and I was more than content to follow her wherever her wandering soul led. Of course, once she and I fell into Stoker's looming warehouse of a laboratory, it was love at first sight. Stoker is every bit as wary and scarred and recalcitrant as I could hope for. Together, they are marvelously witty and biting and perfect. Veronica's parentage is one of the central mysteries of the novel, and the ever-present (if quiet) longing she feels to know where she comes from is palpable. Stoker's past is rife with pain and secrets as well, and the reader is privileged to accompany them as they traipse through their checkered histories in search of answers. The trip through Stoker's includes a very memorable stay with a traveling circus and its various and sundry denizens. I absolutely loved watching Veronica catch a glimpse of what makes him tick, and their banter throughout this section (and the entire novel) is off the charts enjoyable. I am a fan of the slow burn romance, and this one takes its time, developing in extremely endearing increments. Stoker, for all his ragged exterior, is honorable to the core. His rigid reluctance and decency is beautifully set off by Veronica's levity and refusal to be cowed or dictated to. They have a definite Holmes/Watson air about them as they unravel the threads of their tale. Veronica will always be (among other things) a bit of a gorgeous trial for Stoker. But I am convinced he will never let her fall. If you couldn't tell, I'm in love with them both and eagerly await their future adventures.

The trade paperback edition of A Curious Beginning is due out July 12th. Be sure to check back here tomorrow for an interview with the author and giveaway!

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Linkage
The Bookwyrm's Hoard - "The book has all the wit, melodramatic flavor, and precise diction of a good Victorian novel without the long-windedness."
The Midnight Garden - "The story is engaging, the historical detail is perfect, the characters are wonderful, and the romance is building to something truly special."
Miss Bates Reads Romance - "Miss Bates says of Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning (and it burns that Miss B. has to use her top-rating, but honesty and integrity above all for her dear readers), “you have bewitched me,” Pride and Prejudice."

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