London, 1887. At the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task--saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Ramsforth, accused of the brutal murder of his mistress, Artemisia, will face the hangman's noose in a week's time if the real killer is not found.
But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural-historian colleague, Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer. From a Bohemian artists' colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed....
Well, I am disappointed that this author has withdrawn from the writers’ conference in my city in August. I enjoyed this second book in the Veronica Speedwell series almost as much as the first! I do hope that she will attend When Words Collide in the future.
I came into this series a bit suspicious, as I have my reservations about the whole Victorian-lady-detective set-up. I know, I know, it’s popular right now to re-write Victorian society to give it larger, more interesting female roles—and I’m theoretically in favour of that. Thankfully this series has convinced me that the concept can be done and done well.
I love the sassy Veronica and her foil, the cranky Stoker. At this point, they are BFFs and coworkers and their relationship is comfortable, if sometimes complicated. During the first book, we learned about Veronica’s family—this installment educates us about Stoker’s upbringing. They know just enough about one another to provide good advice, whether it is always appreciated or not.
The banter between the two is highly entertaining and I had to assume that at some point they will give in to romance, but I hope that Raybourn doesn’t rush it. Like all the TV shows that use this device, once they become a couple there is the danger that the story will lose all its tension. However, authors like Ilona Andrews have convinced me that there can still be life after the hook-up, so I will travel hopefully into the third book.
London, 1887. Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb. 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 the baron is murdered before he can reveal her secrets. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker must flee from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.
I can hardly wait to meet this author in August at the When Words Collide conference here in my city! I really enjoyed this novel and have already requested book two from my public library.
I appreciated the main character, Veronica Speedwell, a great deal. It’s very much the trend now, to rewrite female characters during the Victorian era, giving them bigger ideas and more autonomy. I think of The Lie Tree and Jane Steele, both of which I have also enjoyed a great deal. I’m also reminded of the Amelia Peacock character in Elizabeth Peters’ series, about a feminist female archaeologist in the Victorian era (this series began in 1975, so it could probably be considered the grandmother to this current batch of novels). Veronica is determined to remain single and support herself through providing natural history specimens to collectors. She is also enamoured with foreign men, enjoying dalliances while abroad to collect those specimens.
Stoker is a very attractive love interest for Miss Speedwell, despite the fact that she has decided against marriage and has rules about not getting involved with Englishmen. (Actually, her pursuit of sexual liaisons while abroad seemed the most unlikely part of this novel, for me, there being no reliable birth control during that period). He is bad tempered, less than cleanly, and often surprised by Veronica’s sass. He also sports tattoos that make him a little too 21st century to be entirely believable, but I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt because I enjoy his character. Plus, he has great potential to clean up well.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, but I don’t think I am alone in thinking that the very slow-burn romance between Veronica and Stoker is the best aspect of the book.
Wow, how is it Thursday again already? I've actually felt like doing some houseworky type things this week and haven't read as much as usual.
So I'm circling back to read some library books that I've had out for a while: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Lion in the Valley, and A Curious Beginning.
Then, I plan to have some fun with Turn Coat. Two more books for my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading List--Beggars in Spain and A Fire Upon the Deep. Plus one of this year's reading challenge books, Bog Child, which is a posthumously published work.
On Sunday, my friend & I are going to see Much Ado About Nothing, presented by the Shakespeare Company here in Calgary. It will be my 18th Shakespearean play.
We've got a long weekend coming up, with Monday being Victoria Day and finally it looks like we'll have nice weather all weekend! A trip to the garden centre for some plants to put in my balcony pots will also be in order.
Happy reading, friends!