I received an online copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not change how I feel about this book.
I actually have a relatively short review of this book, just because I couldn’t think of anything to say! It left me speechless. A Curious Beginning is an absolute delight of a novel, with a plot that grasps you like a crime drama, yet the background of a detailed historical fiction retelling. There is mystery, suspense, science, a traveling circus, taxidermy, murder in cold blood, secrets, royalty, and a stunning museum of artifacts – yes, I know it sounds all over the place, but my gods does it come together so well! I couldn’t put it down for a second. Just writing this down makes me want to pick it up all over again.
In her thrilling new series, Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.
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.
My summary of Veronica Speedwell: Lady Alexia Macon meets Dr. Temperance Brennan with a healthy dose of the modern British woman. I am in love with her character, for her blunt, straightforward attitude as well as her crafty, clever wickedness, and her seriously remarkable talent and scientific background that truly make this woman a force to be reckoned with – especially in 1887, as literally every male character surmises immediately upon her opening her mouth. My personal favorite thing about her is how she almost refuses to be contained into a measly 368 pages, as she simply owns the space between each word in this book, and you cannot help but be drawn into her magnetic personality. As everyone who meets her finds out, there is so much more to Veronica Speedwell than a spinster title and a butterfly net.
I honestly originally thought this was a Young Adult novel, because I typically receive YA books from NetGalley publishers, but it’s definitely solidly in the Adult Fiction genre – regardless, a book I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend any reviewer who loves a good historical fiction tale of mystery and suspense. This is not something you’ll be able to let go of easily. Truly, I want to write pages and pages about how fabulous and fantastic this book was; I would if I could, believe me. At best, I can say it is as enigmatic as it is original, and my own simple words put this masterpiece of a novel to shame. Please, if you have a chance, pick it up. I know for sure it is at the very top of my bookshelf wishlist.