A Dangerous Collaboration
by Deanna Raybourn
Book 4 of Veronica Speedwell
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind.
As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...
I had fully intended to write a review for A Dangerous Collaboration, with more well-thought out stuff than I'd already written. But life got busy, and my mind is essentially a blank. So I'm basically just going to repeat what I'd already said in my Pre-Review Thoughts of this books... with a little bit more to say... and then drop a few quotes that I really, really liked. Because this book was fantastic and I really don't know what else to say outside of declaring my love for it, for Veronica, for Stoker, and for the partnership of Stoker and Veronica together.
And as I already stated, I've never loved Stoker more than I did in this book. And I already really loved Stoker. So I just doubled my love for Stoker. Meanwhile, my love for Veronica, and for Veronica and Stoker together still stands strong.
It's a wonderful feeling, finding a series and a pair of characters you love so much that you just want to stay in their world, with hopes that the whole story continues to go on forever. I would totally keep reading an ongoing historical mystery series featuring Veronica and Stoker. As far as I know, this series is contracted for five books, and we're on book number four already. I'm seriously going to drop into a massive Book Hangover abyss when the last book rolls out.
Meanwhile, rather than the "a little bit more to say" that I promised only two paragraphs ago, I'm just going to start dropping quotes.
As a natural historian, Stoker's lot was often the restoration of thoroughly foul specimens of the taxidermic arts. The backside of a water buffalo was far from the worst place I had seen Stoker's head.
"Veronica Speedwell," I reminded her.
"Yes, of course. I ought to have remembered because Mertensia mentioned how curious a name it is. You are called after plants, aren't you?" she asked, weaving a little.
I put an arm around her other side, helping Mrs. Trengrouse to keep her on her feet. "I am indeed," I said as we began walking her slowly towards her room. "No doubt you've seen speedwell. It's a prettyish little plant with purple flowers. Most unassuming."
Some cute introductions of our main characters, including a reference to Veronica's plant-based name.
We moved on through the kitchen proper, where Stoker collected a sandwich from the cook--not one of the dainties she usually cut for tea but an enormous affair stuffed with rare roast beef and good Cheddar and spread lavishly with mustard. He gave a little moan of satisfaction as he bit into it, and she beamed at him.
"I do like to see a gentleman with a healthy appetite," she said, urging another on him. "You're a fine figure of a man, you are. You need another."
I waved her off. "If he has another, he'll not keep that fine figure for long."
"I am, unlike the Romillys, a realist. I know too well what the world is like," she reminded me. "Hence my advice to you yesterday about securing the viscount while you have him. Although I think your inclinations lie elsewhere," she added with a flick of her gaze towards where Stoker stood at the fireplace, quietly making his way through a plate of cream buns.
Silence blanketed the room save the sound of the crackling fire and the rising wind and Stoker, munching happily at a slice of cake he had unearthed behind the sandwiches. I pulled a face at him, but I knew better than to remonstrate with him when he was indulging his sweet tooth.
I never cease to be amused by Stoker's love of food and sweets and find every one of his little moments of indulgence quite endearing. These moments, I've noticed are often sprinkled in with some rather serious revelations, such as the last quote above, which you can't really tell from just the one paragraph, but the moment in that particular scene was a rather tense one between the Romilly family, I think.
And yet, at the same time, our author is able to weave those little moments into the story so naturally, that rather than seeming inappropriate, or out of place, they just seem quite natural, and unassuming.
"Knives? Plural? I only gave you one, the little fellow to strap to your calf," he said, his expression startled.
"And I wear it," I promised. "But a lady likes to have options." I went to my carpetbag and lifted out the false bottom, revealing a compartment that Daisy the maid had not discovered. I began to extract my weapons, passing them to Stoker as they emerged. "Here is the hatpin I had made--a fine steel stiletto with a very sharp point. I warned you it was sharp," I said, handing Stoker a handkerchief to staunch the bright bead of blood that welled up on his thumb. "Here are the minuten for my cuffs," I added, handing over the packet of headless pins used by lepidopterists to secure specimens to pieces of card. I often threaded them through my cuffs when I desired a little extra protection. I removed a delicate violet silk corset from the compartment, holding it up as Stoker blushed furiously. "This is my favorite, I think. Each stay is actually a slim blade of excellent Italian steel," I told him, demonstrating how quickly I could remove one from the bodice.
"Anything else?" he asked. "A beehive to hide in your bustle? A poison ring full of arsenic to bung into someone's tea?"
I flapped a hand. "Don't be crude. Poison is a distinctly unoriginal method."
Ahh... a woman after my own heart. I feel like we all need little hidden weapons in our corsets before leaving the house each day. =D
"Is there any occasion for which you cannot find a poem from Keats?" I asked as we neared the Mermaid Inn.
"Of course not," he replied happily. "It was one of the greatest discoveries of my life when I learnt that Keats was a man for all seasons and all situations. There is not a person, a feeling, a moment, that Keats did not address."
I stopped to face him. "He has no poem to fit me," I challenged.
He grinned, a devilish expression that nearly robbed me of breath. "Of course he has. 'I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful--a faery's child, Her hair was long, her foot was light, And her eyes were wild.'"
"'La Belle Dame sans Merci'?" I demanded. "That is how you see me? A beautiful woman without mercy who kills her lovers?
He tipped his head with a thoughtful look. "'Tisn't so much that she kills them. I think it's more that she isn't terribly fussed when they die."
Anyway, as I was dropping quotes that I highlighted throughout the book, I realized that I had highlighted so many that this post could go on forever if I kept at it. And also, I might inadvertently give away a lot of the happenings in this book.
And so, I don't often beseech anyway without being asked for recommendations first, but if you've enjoyed the Veronica Speedwell series since the first book, I highly recommend getting to this fourth one. You will not regret it. The truth is, this one might be my favorite one so far.
Veronica's usual declarations of being a modern woman of the world by dropping references to her sex life is not harped upon as much in this book as it had been in previous books. The relationship between Stoker and Veronica is stronger than ever, and so much fun to read still. Stoker's personality seems much more open, and so rather than simply being broody with the occasional quip, he's now only 20% broody, and 80% fun quips.
And... wait for it, there are moments in the book where the prudish Revelstoke Templeton-Vane actually uses his sex appeal to mess with Veronica a bit, and it's kind of awesome. Especially since she's always used her openness to all things sexual to rile Stoker's conservative ideals. And especially when she's so determined to keep their relationship platonic while openly lusting after him.
Long review, not short at all: This is an awesome book, and this is an awesome series. And I hope it never ends.