If you’ve finished the Lady Julia Grey series, you’ll be excited about this new series by Deanna Raybourn. Raybourn seems to have started three other series in the last few years (A Blade of Summer Grass, City of Jasmine, and Night of a Thousand Stars), so I’m not quite sure if this one will stick. But maybe those books were meant to be stand-alone novels.
Whatever the series, Raybourn is always fun to read. A Curious Beginning doesn’t exactly break new ground, but hero Stoker is sexy and dark and full of mystery and will remind you quite a bit of Nicholas Brisbane in the Julia Grey series. Main character Veronica Speedwell is the reason to read this book. She’s not just independent; she says whatever she thinks, travels the world, and has sex just because she wants to. She says several times that she’s an “open book” – and having a female character without angst and hidden agendas was a nice change! In fact, she’s contrasted nicely with Stoker, who’s quite the gentleman in comparison. He feels deeply, while Veronica wants only not to be attached.
The book takes place in 1887, while London is planning to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, which is the 50th anniversary of her accession (I had to look that up). Speedwell has just buried the spinster aunt who raised her, and is planning to return to her travels as a butterfly hunter. That is, until her cottage is ransacked and she meets a mysterious Baron who claims to have known the mother Veronica never knew. Veronica doesn’t believe she’s in any danger, but the Baron leaves her with Mr. Stoker, who swears to guard her with his life.
If you’ve read Raybourn’s other novels, you’ll know what to expect from this one. I enjoyed Veronica’s character. She’s stubborn and doesn’t listen to anyone, and she also seems to be wrong most of the time. She makes no apologies for her flaws. I was a little less engaged by the plot than by the characterization of Veronica and Stoker, but that’s okay. The story is a bit on the implausible side, especially the big secret at the heart of the book, but then plausibility isn’t why you read this kind of book. Veronica and Stoker’s stint in a traveling show is worth the read. The romance builds gradually but is kept in the background, which I also liked.
All in all, another fun read by Raybourn, and the start of a promising new series.
Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Edelweiss and publisher Penguin Random House. This book will be released September 1, 2015.