First off, I love, love, love the entire Veronica Speedwell series, so this is probably going to be a long review.
I randomly discovered this series in 2018 when trying to find something one night to read, and it was a suggestion on Overdrive from a recent book I had read. I added it to my TBR list based on the synopsis, but little did I know how good the story it contained would be.
Since my first read of this book in 2018, I’ve read the entire series 4 times through and will likely continue to reread it. On each reread, my appreciation for these stories and characters grows so much.
Deanna Raybourn has done an exquisite job crafting these complex characters that have so many layers to them. Every time I reread, I notice something new and pick up on little hints to the character’s backstories that I missed beforehand.
The story is told from Veronica Speedwell’s perspective and the writing style is amazing – it feels like Veronica is narrating a memoir of her life but you also it feels like she doesn’t know what will happen next so we’re living in the moment with it. Veronica’s voice is also so unique – she’s such an amazingly complex character and you get to know her really well as we spend so much time in her head through the narration. I love how unafraid she is to speak her mind and to be herself, even when everything she knows about who she is gets turned on her head. Veronica’s also incredibly smart and logical – her life passion is lepidoptery and I love that we get to see her embrace it in a time when women weren’t generally accepted in the sciences or for their brain. I love how as a scientist, she’s always thinking in logical ways which makes her a natural detective. Veronica’s also fiercely independent and I love watching her open up and let Stoker into her life over this novel. Seeing them come to trust each other slowly over the course of this first book is amazing – they really are two sides of the same coin.
And Stoker, oh Stoker. In this book, we’re introduced to him for the first time and he’s so withdrawn and a shell of the man he comes to be. He has so many layers to him and we only scratch the surface of his background in this book, but Raybourn does such a good job teasing some of the things in his past that have made him the closed-off man he is when Veronica meets him. I love that she’s able to get under his skin and able to push his buttons and bring him out of his shell. The partnership they begin to form really is based on common ground and friendship – they’re able to bring out the best in each other.
Stoker and Veronica’s relationship is so central to these books – it’s hard to think of where Veronica would be without Stoker. The slow burn in this series is also amazing. We get the hints of attraction and that this can be something more between them in A Curious Beginning, but both Stoker and Veronica are not willing to act on the attraction for various reasons. Instead, they form a strong friendship, despite the fact that Stoker really doesn’t wish to let Veronica in at the beginning. Watching them go from strangers to partners in this book is one of my favorite things.
In terms of the plot, this book really is laying the groundwork for the series. It centers on Veronica’s identity and the murder of Baron von Stauffenbach. Veronica does not know who her parents are having been raised by her two spinster Aunts. When her aunts die, Veronica is free to go out on her own adventures but runs into the Baron who indicates he knew her mother and that Veronica is in danger. After the Baron is murder, Veronica and Stoker unexpectedly get wrapped up in unraveling the mystery of his death which takes them everywhere, from a traveling circus to ships on the Thames. I love how Veronica and Stoker don’t set out to be detectives but end up stumbling into investigations and adventure. As they unravel the plot of the Baron’s murder, we also learn the truth of Veronica’s parentage, and boy what a reveal that is that has far reaching consequences for the series.
A Curious Beginning is such a fitting name for the start of this series and what a beginning it is. It’s such a strong start to the Veronica Speedwell series and lays so much groundwork for the future books that you don’t even realize it on first read.
I honestly cannot recommend this book and series enough to people! It’s a series that took me by surprise and holds a special place in my heart. Every time a new book comes out I cannot wait to see what adventures Stoker and Veronica get into next and know these characters are going to stay with me for years to come.