Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Curious Beginning, by Deanna Raybourn

NAL/Penguin, ISBN 9780451476012, September 2015

It's 1887, and in the English countryside, Veronica Speedwell has just buried her Aunt Nell, the second of two guardians to die. She's now alone in the world, but by the same token, free to set off on a long-planned expedition to the Far East in pursuit of her lepidoptory career. She has financed it through the sale of her butterfly specimens from previous expeditions, and is building a small reputation in the field.

It's rather a shock for her to return to her aunt's cottage and discover that no only has it been ransacked, but the housebreaker is still inside, working on the kitchen now. She successfully chases him out, but he then attempts to abduct her, and is prevented by the timely arrival of an older, armed gentleman, and he flees in a conveniently waiting carriage.

The older gentleman is Baron Max von Stauffenbach, and he tells her she's in great danger. He offers to take her to London in his carriage.

Veronica doesn't believe he is right, but she does believe he is trustworthy, and since she planned to leave for London anyway, this will save her the train fare.

Along the way, he tells her that he knew her parents, about whom she knows nothing, but that it's not his secret to tell.

Veronica is about to plunge into  a series of adventures, including some time in a traveling circus, hiding out in a mansion filled with beautifully preserved specimens of all species from all over the world, and a handsome young man with excellent character, excellent figure, and dubious reputation. She's a Victorian female adventurer, with intelligence, courage, and character, and with an excellent grasp of the Victorian maxim (not actually used anywhere in this book), "don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses."

This is a thoroughly enjoyable romp. Highly recommended if you're looking for a good, fun read.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

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