Thursday, March 11, 2021

SERIES REVIEW - Veronica Speedwell


In this combined series review, I will be reviewing the first six books in the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. These books were all published by Berkley and read much like a cozy mystery series, set in the late 1800s. 


YouTube video review 


Title
:   A Curious Beginning
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   339
Date of Publication:   July 12, 2016
My Rating:   4 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth. 


MY THOUGHTS:

Veronica Speedwell is a lepidopterist - a butterfly hunter. She has traveled to many countries in search of rare butterflies to study and collect. Although it is 1887, in many ways Veronica is a modern woman. For example, she has no problems enjoying carnal pleasures whenever she meets the right man. However, these are mere dalliances for her, because she plans to never marry, and cannot imagine ever stop traveling. As  Veronica is readying herself for an extended trip, she barely escapes an abduction attempt.

A stranger, a German Baron, comes to her rescue. He shares certain tidbits of information with  Veronica, thus making her feel comfortable enough to trust him, and offers her protection in the form of his friend Stoker, a natural historian who all but lives the life of a recluse. Having no idea why someone would attempt to kidnap her, Veronica takes a long train ride with him to London to the mysterious Stoker. Living in all but dilapidated conditions - but clearly incredibly talented and devoted to his work - Stoker reluctantly agrees to protect Veronica.

When the baron is found murdered, Stoker is furious. He feels Veronica must have had something to do with the murder, so he insists she travel with him, no matter how far, to discover who killed the baron and why. Thus, Veronica and Stoker become travel companions and detectives of a sort. 

The question at hand is whether or not Veronica's previous near abduction and the murder of the baron are connected. From the outset Veronica and Stoker knock heads. The matter of trust becomes an important factor in their relationship, one that will no doubt experience test after test. We begin to learn about who Veronica and Stoker are. Regarding Veronica, she was orphaned as a child and was raised by spinster aunts. Stoker comes from nobility, but his past is something that remains hidden from Veronica for some time. 

In this exciting book by Deanna Raybourn I was treated to my very first read by her. In fact, I binge read the entire six books that have been released in this series thus far. I adore Veronica. I love her independence, her sharp wit, her unabashed straightforwardness, even her view of her previous dalliances. Stoker was a mystery to me and I loved his character slowly unraveled in this book and in each book in this delightful series. I also loved the fact that the pair did not get along and how that began to change. They had a witty repertoire that was quite enjoyable.

I had the pleasure of listening to the first five books in this series via audiobook, and had the sixth book as a Kindle ARC. Angela Masters was the narrator and she did an exceptional job with the various voices - whether Veronica's, Stoker's, and other characters in the story.  Her pacing was stellar, thus lending even more to an already enjoyable story.


- - - - - 


Title
:   A Perilous Undertaking
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   338
Date of Publication:   January 10, 2017
My Rating:   4 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

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.... 



MY THOUGHTS:

Veronica Speedwell, a butterfly hunter, and natural historian Stoker have proved to be an intrepid pair that have met every previous challenge with aplomb. How will they now measure up when Lady Sundridge, who runs a ladies-only establishment called the Curiosity Club, asks Veronica to save a man destined to be hung? Miles Ramsforth is a patron that had been having a dalliance with a former club member found murdered. Ramsforth was found holding the body of his then-pregnant lover, and has been found guilty of his murder. The hanging is to take place in about a week, thus giving Veronica, and of course Stoker, very little time to unearth the truth.

Just like Veronica had to deal with secrets about her past, secrets that were revealed in the first book of this series, A Curious Beginning, Lady Sundridge has own own secrets. Will Veronica and Stoker be able to unravel the web of confusing facts before them in time to save Ramsforth? In this fun foray into an exclusive artists' colony, Veronica and Stoker each take on a role that will bring them deep into a community well hid by most. 

Needless to say, I am quite keen on Veronica and Stoker, and this second book in a most delightful series by Deanna Raybourn definitely proved as enjoyable a read as the first book. I loved the plot, the characters, the pacing, and the sometimes ludicrous behavior of our primary protagonists as they dig deep and leave no stone unturned in order to reveal the truth.

All while the pair work together, one thing proves true. That is the sexual tension that continues to develop in this book. Also, the way the stories are being developed in this series that I have binge read, they each could do well as standalones. However, I am a series fanatic so I loved reading each book one after another. This lends itself well to wonderful continuity and character growth. Also, I have listened to the first five books as audiobooks. Angela Masters was the narrator and she did an exceptional job for all the characters, even when an American popped in on the scene.

- - - - - 


Title
:   A Treacherous Curse
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   308
Date of Publication:   January 16, 2018
My Rating:   4 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

London, 1888. 

As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.

His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.

Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .



MY THOUGHTS:

For readers like me who have read all of the books in this series thus far, we have come to know Veronica Speedwell, a butterfly hunter and expert, and also Stoker, a natural historian. By the time this third book of the series has come along, both Veronica's and Stoker's pasts have been revealed. In this book, the attention goes towards Stoker because his former expedition partner has vanished. The fact that a precious diadem has also disappeared just might prove to cause the ruin of an exhibition being arranged.

Just like we have learned much about Veronica in the first two books of this series (which can be read as standalones, but I encourage the avid reader to read them in order), this book really delves into Stoker's past, even unearthing enemies he has acquired along the way. By now Veronica and Stoker have established a remarkable friendship, a strong sense of duty and thus unresolved growing feelings for one another. The dangers they have faced in previous situations pale in existence to what they must cope with now.

On a personal note: I love cozy mysteries. I love Victorian novels. I love a pair of characters destined to be together despite huge obstacles. I love intriguing stories. I love the mix of real history within the pages of fiction. So, with all of that, what's not to love in this delightful book by Deanna Raybourn?


- - - - - 

Title
:   A Dangerous Collaboration
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   336
Date of Publication:   March 12, 2019
My Rating:   5 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

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...



MY THOUGHTS:

Veronica Speedwell agrees to accompany Stoker's brother Tiberius to a house party at on the remote island of Cornwall. The host in Lord Malcolm Romilly and a friend that Tiberius has not seen in several years. For propriety's sake, Tiberius asks Veronica to pose as his fiancée since they will be traveling together. What about Stoker? He would pretty much do anything to keep Tiberius and Veronica apart, and surprisingly, also shows up at Romilly's home.

As things turn out, Romilly has invited specific people to his house party in order to once and for all, discover what happened to his wife, who disappeared on their wedding day three years previously. This book, the fourth in the Veronica Speedwell series has a truly Victorian flare. This book has eccentric characters, ghostly music, a huge castle, even a séance. Will Romilly find out what happened to his wife?  

There is quite a bit at stake here, and actually, secrets of the past that just might be revealed. Along the way, Veronica attracts often unwanted attention, all the while feeling closer and closer to Stoker. His feelings come at play at a particularly tense part of the story. The build up to that was enough for me to give this book five stars!

I truly loved this book as I have the other books in this series. The characters are fun, Victoria is sassy, Stoker is the ideal brooding hero, Tiberius is an unrepentant flirt, and  the secondary characters in the book made for quite an enjoyable read. With an intriguing plot, fabulous characters, excellent pacing and a wonderful conclusion A Dangerous Collaboration was a wonderful read. As previously mentioned, the narration of this audiobook by Angela Masters was flawless. 


- - - - - 

Title
:   A Murderous Relation
Format:  Audiobook
No. of Pages:   320
Date of Publication:   March 10, 2020
My Rating:   4 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l'Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper--and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore's high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family--and it's up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it's too late for all of them. 


MY THOUGHTS:

Veronica Speedwell and her dear friend and most definitely romantic interest Stoker are asked to help retrieve a jewel that could tie Prince Albert Victor to a private club. If this jewel ends up in the wrong hands, then an incredible scandal could result and the monarchy could be threatened. As if that is not enough for Veronica and Stoker to deal with, Jack the Ripper is roaming about in the background, making the streets quite dangerous. 

This case is a bit too close to home for Veronica. Prince Albert is actually her half brother, something that was made clear in earlier books in this series. Even if the reader of this fifth book in the series is reading this as a standalone, Veronica's past her connection to the royal family are explained. In order to  prevent yet another scandal Veronica and Stoker must find a way to break into an exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l'Etoile, to retrieve a gift the prince gave to a club member. If this jewel is not found it could be connected to the prince.

Veronica and Stoker go undercover. However, the club is actually a brothel, so going undercover is something neither wants to do. However, Veronica feels like she must step in and help so the pair forge forward. What is a cozy mystery without a body or two? Well, never fear, because danger and much more are at every turn for Veronica and Stoker yet again.


- - - - - 

Title
:   An Unexpected Peril
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   Kindle ARC
Date of Publication:   March 2, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars
DESCRIPTION:

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela's chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica's resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica's own family—the royalty who has never claimed her. 



MY THOUGHTS:

Veronica Speedwell is a butterfly collector, a lepidopterist to be exact. For the past two years, her partner has been Stoker, a natural historian. In the previous books of this series, proof of Veronica's background and family relations has been made clear. However, as far as Veronica is concerned, she wants nothing to do with any of that, and has gone to great lengths to prove that very fact. However, a princess has gone missing and Veronica is called to task to impersonate the princess as a peace treaty is soon to be signed.

Veronica had previously accepted an offer to join a ladies-only club. As she is putting together an exhibition to honor a mountain climber named Alice Baker-Greene , her attention becomes divided. How will she discover what happened to Princess Gisela of Alpenwald and discover what actually caused the fall that killed Alice?

As usual for Veronica and Stoker, they find themselves embroiled in one dangerous situation after another. In fact, Stoker has been after Veronica to slow down, to focus on the work offered them previously, to avoid life threatening situations. I had the pleasure of roving about in the Victorian era with Veronica and Stoker for a couple of days. I have seen them bicker, contrive, fight for their lives, save each other, and fall in love. I have enjoyed the wit and sarcasm that they each have. What is more is their byplay is a true delight. But what really warmed my heart in this book was Stoker's expressions. His feelings get more and more transparent as the series developed. No one can wax poetic like Stoker.

Can you judge a book by the cover? When I saw this book on NetGalley, the cover was so striking that it grabbed my attention. I had not heard of Deanna Raybourn. But, I clicked the cover, only to discover that it is the sixth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. As per the norm for me, I immediately looked this book up, got my hands on the first five books in the series and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them as audiobooks. This book, An Unexpected Peril, was an electronic ARC and I thoroughly enjoyed this book as well.  

Many thanks to Berkley and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion..


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel, and after three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time. Fourteen years and many, many rejections after her first novel, she signed two three-book deals with MIRA Books.

Deanna’s debut novel, Silent in the Grave, published in January 2007. The first in the Silent series, the book introduces Lady Julia Grey, an aristocrat bent on investigating the mysterious death of her husband with the help of the enigmatic private enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. From the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to a Gypsy camp on Hampstead Heath, Silent in the Grave deftly captures the lush ambience of Victorian London.

The series continues with the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary (January 2008), a classic English country house murder mystery with a few twists and turns for Brisbane and Lady Julia along the way. Silent on the Moor (March 2009), set in a grim manor house on the Yorkshire moors, is the third adventure for Lady Julia and the mysterious Brisbane.

March 2010 saw a departure from the series with the release of The Dead Travel Fast, a mid-Victorian Gothic thriller that features novelist Theodora Lestrange as she leaves the safety and security of her Edinburgh home for the dark woods and haunted castles of Transylvania. Deanna turns once more to Lady Julia and her companions with Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 2010) which features an exotic setting in the foothills of the Himalayas and the introduction of an arch-villain. The fifth book in the series, The Dark Enquiry, follows the return of Lady Julia and Brisbane to London for their most puzzling adventure yet. The Dark Enquiry hit the New York Times Bestseller list the week before its official release in July 2011. The digital exclusive novella Silent Night, published in November 2012, is a bright Christmas adventure set in Julia’s ancestral home in the Sussex countryside.

Deanna’s next release, A Spear of Summer Grass (May 2013), chronicles the adventures of a scandalous flapper heroine in Africa and the lives she changes along the way. It is listed as one of Goodreads’ most highly anticipated books of 2013 and was preceded by Far in the Wilds, an exclusive digital prequel novella (March 2013). A Spear of Summer Grass received a starred review from Library Journal. Deanna carried on the theme of 1920s adventure with City of Jasmine (2014) and Night of a Thousand Stars (2014), but is delighted to return to Victorian London with the September 2015 hardcover release of A Curious Beginning, the first mystery featuring butterfly-hunting sleuth, Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian sidekick, Stoker. Veronica returned in 2017’s A Perilous Undertaking, and A Treacherous Curse, 2018. A Dangerous Collaboration was released in 2019, and book five, A Murderous Relation, is a March 2020 release.

Deanna’s novel Silent in the Grave won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery. The Lady Julia Grey series has been nominated for several other awards, including an Agatha, a Last Laugh, and two Dilys Winns. Dark Road to Darjeeling was also a finalist for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery as well as a Romantic Reviews’ finalist for Best Book of 2010. A Treacherous Curse, the third Veronica Speedwell Mystery, was nominated for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel.



7 comments:

  1. I like the sounds of this series. Great looking covers too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not familiar with the series but I do like the sound of the books and those covers are enticing. Lovely reviews.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are so good at these and continue to entice me to add to my bulging TBR.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the cover and your review. I am so glad that you enjoy it so much.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow those covers are beautiful! I must have them!

    ReplyDelete
  6. The covers immediately drew me in. I love that these were all 4 or 5 stars for you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great review and a lovely blog post!

    ReplyDelete