There is something to the phrase “never judge a book by its cover.” When I first saw the original cover of A Curious Beginning, my curiosity was piqued. The cover, pink and gilded, showed a woman in Victorian-ish dress running from something with her back to the reader. I wanted to read it. It took almost a year, and I’m so glad I did.
Since then, I’ve read all of the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. The axiom was true, the book wasn’t the high-tension mystery that type of cover usually means. Instead, it opened a delightful series that balances fun with serious political intrigue. Veronica, the lead, is a lepidopterist (butterfly collector) who travels the world searching for good specimens. An out-of-place woman who writes research papers in a period when women were expected to stay in the background, she has a commanding presence. Unfortunately, this results in murder and sets Veronica on the run, hiding out in the studio of a taxidermist. He thinks she’s the murderer too, so she has to convince him otherwise by solving the case, with or without his help.
Veronica is exactly the type of character I enjoy when I need a break from reality. She’s a scientist who studies everything, but she jumps into action once she has the smallest bit of information. This often leads to hilarious escapades.
I also appreciate the fact that the author does not make Victorian England out to be as white and straight as it has presented. Instead, Raybourn has based it on real research and real people, who were not all white and straight. Not only are the plots of the stories always good, but the characters are people I’d love to sit and chat with. I enjoy the political intrigue, which leans on the strict manners of the time while playing with them. The writing is descriptive, forming a strong image of Victorian England and the people there.
I recommend this series to anyone looking for a pleasant but grounded break from the present. You can find this book in our digital and physical collections.