Review: A Curious Beginning / by Madeleine

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Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with an advanced copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

A Curious Beginning is the first in a new series featuring Veronica Speedwell, who just happens to have made it onto my ever-growing list of favorite cheeky heroines. In this, we are introduced not to a demure and proper young lady, rather, we are met with a woman who is outspoken, highly intelligent, and audacious. That is, she is outrageously out of place for the tight-lipped and easily shocked society of London in the late 19th century. Though I do enjoy reading more traditional historical fiction, Veronica hooked me with her fearlessness; she had no problem causing a scandal and was easy to connect with as she navigated society's expectations and her own desires. Veronica is a lepidopterist, a collector of butterflies, and known by her clients as a lady unafraid to travel to the most dangerous of places to secure the rarest specimens.

 At the start of the story, Veronica is left with a choice to make after the death of her beloved aunt: accept the suitable match presented by concerned members of her town, or take off on a new adventure? It's not hard to guess which one frightens Veronica more, but just as she's about to flee town, danger comes to her. She is rescued from an abductor by a kind old Baron, who claims to know the secrets of her past and promises to tell her in good time. The Baron deposits her with a friend, and from there Veronica embarks on an adventure greater than any of her most far-flung travels. She is forced to throw in her lot with an unlikely companion-- a reclusive man by the name of Stoker-- and while the two of them work to unveil the plot against Veronica they also must face truths about themselves and the secrets of both their pasts-- all while being chased by more than one potentially dangerous opponent! What I loved most about Veronica through the whole process of solving the mystery was her calm and collected manner. I loved the way that Stoker and Veronica played off each other, and boy was there some tension simmering there throughout the story.

Not only were Veronica and Stoker both excellently crafted, but the other characters in the story were excellent as well, each character unique in revealing that there's more behind the mask of polite society than one might think. I'm always drawn to female-led historical fiction, and often the mystery aspect is of second concern to me, but I have to say that when the mystery is finally unveiled, my reaction was one of total surprise. I did not see that coming! And I loved the way that it was resolved, leaving me anxious for the next in the series! In fact, I was so wound up after finishing the book that I tweeted at the author, Deanna Raybourn (whose twitter is actually hilarious -- I can see how her humor translated into Veronica's personality) and she replied that she's turning in the manuscript for the second installment at the end of this month! I will be anxiously awaiting news on that one. In the meantime, though, if you're a fan of brazen heroines and fast-paced mysteries, pick up A Curious Beginning, which will make its debut on September 1st!

This title will be published on September 1, 2015

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5


  • Title: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1)
  • Author: Deanna Raybourn
  • Publisher: NAL/Penguin, 2015
  • Price: $10 on Amazon
  • ISBN: 0451476018
  • Format: E-Book
  • Source: Advanced Review Copy provided by Net Galley