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review 2017-04-20 14:41
Thoughts: A Perilous Beginning
A Perilous Undertaking - Deanna Raybourn

A Perilous Beginning
by Deanna Raybourn

Book 2 of Veronica Speedwell

 

 

London, 1887 . . Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia s life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime.

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....



I'm going to admit, the excitement of this series kind of faded after a while, and that refreshing feel you get from a first book that starts off a series strong might have worn off.  Nonetheless, I still loved reading A Perilous Undertaking a lot, and continue to enjoy the interactions between Veronica and Stoker--these two create a really strong, intimate, yet not quite romantic relationship and partnership that feels, at times, even deeper than a lot of romantic couplings I've read before.

Admittedly, this second book didn't seem to carry the same "flashy new gift" feel you get from discovering a lovely new favorite book--the giddiness I felt for the previous book didn't rear its head.  After finishing the read, I'd say that I like the first book, A Curious Beginning (my review) more.  Although it doesn't escape my notice that the story set-up is much more to the point in this second book; in contrast to A Curious Beginning, this second book doesn't spend endless pages taking you on a side tangent that seems unnecessary in the long run.

I'm not sure how I feel about that, because it has long been one of the complaints I've had about Deanna Raybourn's work since the Lady Julia Grey series--the fact that she spends way too much time building each book's story, world, and introductory.

So I found myself pleasantly surprised at how quickly A Perilous Undertaking hopped right into the murder mystery, bringing Veronica and Stoker into the investigation without dawdling.

Coupled with Raybourn's beautiful writing style, and this book would be darn near perfect for me.


While the first book in this series seemed to focus on Veronica on a more personal level, it feels like this second book is a simple, typical murder mystery; and somehow Veronica and Stoker get entangled in the entire, convoluted twists.  In fact, I sort of got a "cozy mystery" vibe from it, though I suppose it wouldn't be far-fetched to label this book a 'Cozy.'

We still get to touch upon some of the family secrets surrounding Veronica and how she's been affected since the big reveal in the previous book.  And, just as well, we also get to touch upon some personal history of Stoker's--we even get to meet two more siblings in the Templeton-Vane family.

While the murder mystery seemed quite predictable, I can't say it wasn't outlined well.  The progression was great, and the red herrings were placed appropriately.  Related characters were colorful and intriguing in their own way.  I just also get a bit frustrated with characters who get all "I'm not telling you anything even if it could help an innocent man go free" for whatever strange reasons that I didn't really understand, to be honest.  Moving past that, the overall story was still lovely and I enjoyed following Veronica and Stoker in their investigations.

And, as always, I enjoy the character interactions a lot, especially between Veronica and others.  She's a very likable woman, with all the traits of a strong, independent heroine, which is why I love her so much.  She's also quite indifferent to how others perceive her, and pretty much just does as she pleases.  Her banter with Stoker is probably the best parts of the book.

If there was one thing I'd have to say I had trouble with, it would be that Veronica's character feels a lot more... deliberate in this book than the previous.  It feels like the author has taken many pains to make sure of the emphasis on Veronica's open independence in everything she says or does, from how she lives her life, to her unabashed love of sexual dalliances, to her indifferent, blasé feelings about how people view her.  In agreement with some other reviewers, there may not be much explicit sex in this book, but it certainly is mentioned A LOT, and by Veronica, no less.  I've read hardcore erotica where the characters don't even talk about sex this much.

But it's not just about Veronica's open views about sex that are deliberately emphasized.  It's her entire demeanor from her ideas about the heart, feelings, the way she interacts with other characters.  Even her stubbornness in always being right or always being in charge of everything--as Stoker DOES point out at some point, indirectly.  While I love that she's so confident in herself, and I love that she's not shy about it, I feel like the way it was presented just felt too calculated from the author's side--as if the readers aren't already aware that Veronica is so free with her life and thoughts, and we need to be reminded over and again with every action and dialogue, all of it kind of blatantly aggressively presented.

Veronica may not fit into the setting's time frame, and is probably way too forward thinking for the era she lives in to feel real.  And, truth be told, I love her straight forward, Devil May Care personality, just fine.  But she is sometimes, throughout the book, presented as way too perfect, even in spite of some of the flaws the author gives her.

I'm not sure I know how to describe it properly, honestly; but the "in your face" way that Veronica's attributes are presented... it can get a little eye-roll-inducing at times.

Nonetheless, A Perilous Undertaking is still an exceptionally enjoyable book.  And I loved it!  And I am definitely looking forward to the third book.


***

Booklikes-opoly


Roll #1:
This book is tagged as 'mystery.'

Page Count:  345
Case Award:  +$3.00

Current Bank:  $23.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2017/04/thoughts-perilous-undertaking.html
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review 2016-09-11 01:51
Thoughts: A Curious Beginning
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning

by Deanna Raybourn
Book 1 of Veronica Speedwell

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.



This book was fantastic!

I went into A Curious Beginning with a bit of wariness if only because the Julia Grey series had been a little less than what I'd been expecting.  While the writing was beautiful, the atmosphere excellent, and Julia a wonderfully witty and fun heroine, I found each of the books a little draggy, and the romance less than desirable.

Deanna Raybourn has the tendency to overdo the set-up a little bit, and it showed in the Julia Grey series.  While she set the atmosphere of each book wonderfully, a lot of times you don't even get to the main conflict until about halfway into the book.

In A Curious Beginning, there was also some drag at the beginning when our main characters find themselves running away to go into hiding with a group of traveling performers.  And to be honest, I didn't really even notice that not much was really happening until a few chapters later when their main conflict, the baron's death and Stoker's being accused of as the murderer, was mentioned very briefly.  Then we resume life in hiding with the traveling circus for some time more until that niggling feeling in the back of my head prompted me to wonder aloud, "Wait.  Is this it?  Just hiding?  What about investigating or something?"

Fortunately, it seems like I spoke too soon, because almost immediately after I asked myself those questions, the story progresses forward and we get into the real heart of the story, with  our amateur non-detectives investigating the baron's death, if only to help prove that Stoker had nothing to do with the murder.  On the aside, there is also mention of Veronica's mother being known by the deceased baron, which kind of guides her own curiosity in finding out why the older man was killed.

Granted, when the truth finally comes out, I had feelings of deja vu, because I feel like we've done this particular secret reveal before, somewhere... in like, twenty other books.  It was handled well; however, and I found myself more interested in seeing how Veronica and Stoker would get themselves out of THAT mess rather than the actual backstory of said mess, because that stuff kind of bored me a little.

I'm going to be totally honest though:  I really just loved Veronica and Stoker so much that I found myself unable to justify letting any of the little flaws deter me from loving the entire book.  Yes, there were things that didn't work well for me at some point.  Yes, there were parts of the book I kind of glossed over.  And yes, I understand that Veronica's behavior and personality were probably way too modern for the time period she lives in.

But, so help me, I couldn't help but be delighted by her very presence in this book because she just exudes all form of strong, independent, level-headed, and wittily sarcastic woman that I love following in any and all entertainment media.  Beats having a meek little girl who let's a little thing like society or historical facts get in the way of adventure and the occasional romantic dalliance.

And yes, I love that she's so open about her sex life and past romantic relationships.  I love that she's got a quick, sharp tongue about her and isn't concerned about being blunt and to-the-point.  I love that her reputation is the last thing on her mind, and so she just throws propriety out the window.  And I love that she doesn't let a little thing like a good-looking man distract her from the priorities.

Which is one of the reasons why I really loved the partnership between Veronica and Stoker.  There is no romance in this first book, though there were certainly some special moments between the two.  But in the end, they seem to have settled on being just friends, albeit very close friends, for the time being.  I have a feeling once their love starts blossoming, it will be well worth the wait.

And speaking of Stoker... I really didn't know what to think about him at first.  He seemed no different than every other broody, moody, easily tempered alpha hero in any other romance.  But as the story progressed, I started seeing little details here and there of Stoker's that just really endeared him to me.  He was flustered by Veronica's unconcerned state of undress in one scene, he was quite obvious about his ogling of her breasts in another, and he exhibits these little boyish tendencies that I found to be kind of sweet.  In one scene he's sulking about his lost sweet candies in the Thames river, but then happily amuses himself by taking apart some honeycomb candies that Veronica digs out of some random tins for him.  In another scene, while Veronica helps him treat a small wound caused by sewing pins, he amuses himself by going through her little bag of bottled medicinal supplies.

These little things just make him feel more human, as opposed to those other alpha males who are always so uptight and put together, with carefully controlled actions and dialogue.  I really liked these brief, random moments, because they counterbalance his other, more broody moments quite well.

And I especially love that he doesn't waste any time on trying to control Veronica, or even pretending that he has a say in any of her decisions whenever others are requesting that he keep her contained.  He's all like, "Yeah, right.  Why don't you try?"

The rest of the book was equally as fabulous, once the action and the conflict starts moving the story forward.  The mystery felt a little lame, but in light of how much I loved just following Veronica on her journey, I'm not really complaining all that much.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo


Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/09/thoughts-curious-beginning.html
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text 2016-09-05 09:19
A Curious Reading Update: Page 78 of 337
A Curious Beginning - Deanna Raybourn

"You will be my newly wedded bride whose family do not approve.  I will say we are in fear of being apprehended by your wicked guardian who was robbing you of your fortune and that we require a place of safety until we can secure the money for ourselves."

"That is a plot straight from a penny dreadful.  No one could possibly believe it.  More to the point, you and I could hardly masquerade as a couple joined in the harmonious state of matrimony.  We seem distinctly unsuited."


Is that a fake marriage/couple plot device I see?  O.O  I'm becoming even more intrigued than I have been since I started reading this book.

I'm much further into the book than I would like to call this a first impression, but to be honest, my impression has only grown fonder as the book progresses.  Veronica Speedwell is such a delight!  She's witty, sarcastic, and resourceful, and blatantly brash and unperturbed by just about anything.

And I love how she's so blunt!

The mysteries have already started off, and we jump into the conflict much more quickly than I had expected, having just recently finished the Julia Grey series, which, in contrast, spent a whole deal of a lot more time building up the setting and the atmosphere than progressing the story lines.

I'm pleasantly ecstatic at how much I'm loving this book so far.

And also:

"What is your Christian name?"

"Veronica," I said at last.

He gaped at me.  "You mean like the plant veronica?  The Plantiginales commonly known as speedwell?  You are joking."


And thus is the life of Veronica Speedwell, I suppose.  *snicker*

 


 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/09/a-curious-reading-update-page-78-of-337.html
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