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Publisher's Summary

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry - and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime. But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker - a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

©2015 Deanna Raybourn (P)2015 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

For fans of Elizabeth Peters and Gail Carriger

I won't address the plot here - others have done so. I do want to address the criticism that the heroine is unlikable. I can understand that her brusque demeanor might be off-putting. She is definitely of a type - a strong, independent woman exercising her own agency in an era when that was not the norm. Veronica Speedwell reminded me very much of Amelia Peabody or Alexia Tarabotti, women convinced of their superior judgment, seldom wrong but never in doubt.

I enjoyed the book immensely. It's character types and plot do fit neatly into tropes we've seen before (an exceptional independent woman aided by a rugged misanthrope with a secret or troubled past - eg Mr Rochester - faces sinister forces). If that sounds like the perfect cozy read for a rainy day or on the beach, then I heartily recommend A Curious Beginning.

For anyone worried that this is written by a Romance novelist, I can only say it is not remotely a bodice ripper. There is sexual tension and some suggestive dialogue, but I could probably give this to my Sunday School teacher mother to read without any concern of offending her.

The best news of all - especially for anyone who misses The Parasol Protectorate and Amelia Peabody series - is that the book seems set up as the first in a series. I'm eagerly anticipating the follow up!

122 of 124 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great listen!

Very different than the other Deanna Raybourn titles I have listened to but I loved it. Great character development and sometimes laugh out loud funny. Can't wait for the next installment in the series.

79 of 85 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A delightful and entertaining read!

One of Deanna Raybourn's best! This book is quite fun to listen to, the characters are witty and clever. I enjoyed the banter between the main characters. The plot is not predictable yet not to convoluted either. It is a perfect "cozy mystery." I hope this is the beginning of a series.

75 of 82 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Masterful reader, fluff book

This is an object lesson in how a reader can make or break a book: Angele Masters did an absolutely stunning job here - excellent pacing, great voices - I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I didn't realize it was a sort of romance novel when I bought it. It is very good for the genre, but, like many American authors writing British period pieces, Deanna Raybourn seems to have opted for the 'pip pip cheerio' style of "British dialogue". Also, for Victorian England her characters had some pretty glaring behavioral inconsistencies, as well as some rather unbelievable scenarios and procedural anomalies (the fire near the end was a scene very poorly written and why did undercover special branch policemen have blankets??)

All that being said, it was a very enjoyable listen with fun characters - who owe a great deal to Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody, by the way, books I would highly recommend if you like this.

49 of 55 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Delightful Story

I was fortunate to take a risk on a sale book, and thoroughly enjoyed this almost mythical tale. Heroine lepidopterist and rogue hero naturalist are thrown together when the mystery of the woman's birth puts them both in peril of several powerful forces, including special forces of Scotland Yard. The heroine is a most interesting character in that in the late 1800s, she values her independence above all else. Gratefully, she establishes an intellectual relationship with her fellow scientist, yet it's not without sexual tensions. However, this is most definitely NOT a romance novel. The banter between them is great fun. I will definitely give this story a second listen, and will look for other books by this author.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

delighted with new heroine..

Look forward to the next one. BTW: fantastic performance by Angele Masters. Her characterizations were spot on. Ms. Raybourn and Ms. Masters make a great team!

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An excellent diversion!

Throughly enjoyed this excellent mystery! The characters are well formed - smart and humorous, and the mystery has enough twists and turns to keep the reader intrigued. I look forward to more outings with Veronica and Stoker!

41 of 48 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Obnoxious Heroine

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Well from the reviews there are people who do, but it wasn't for me

What could Deanna Raybourn have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

For one thing, I find it hard to understand why a woman who is supposed to be a free thinker for her time must be portrayed as opinionated, obnoxious and rude. Somehow it would seem to me that a person who has self confidence would be calmer and more relaxed and self possessed.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The narrator may have been very good, but the main character is so strident and shrill that it was like fingernails on a blackboard to me.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment, mostly, because the reviews I read made it seem humorous and adventurous and did not mention it as a romance.

Any additional comments?

I tried to reserve my judgement and give it a chance, but as it went on it got more and more grating. Just couldn't finish it.

76 of 95 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Best narrator I've heard!

Fantastic story. Wonderful characters. Hated for the story to end. This is a must read or listen book

43 of 55 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved Deanna Raybourn's new heroine

I'm a bit sad the book is over but I can't wait for the next adventure with Veronica Speedwell! Deanna Raybourn delivers the wit, twists and turns and Victorian authenticity that you expect from her novels.

29 of 38 people found this review helpful