A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

a-curious-beginningNets are essential for catching rare and expensive butterflies and I excel that it.  But I don’t need a net to catch him.

Plot Summary: In 1887, most young women of breeding in England are either searching for husband or engaged in an appropriate career for such young woman such as tending or teaching other people’s children.  But, not Veronica Speedwell.  An orphan raised by two spinster ‘aunts’ she has assumed a career as a freelance butterfly collector, traveling around the world and procuring for wealthy collectors rare and beautiful specimens for handsome prices.  This very satisfying existence became much more exciting when, following the funeral of her last surviving aunt, she is approached by a German Baron who tells her he knows who her parents were and that she is in danger.  An abortive kidnapping convinces her to take him at his word and proceed with him to London where he says he will reveal all.  But before he can, he leaves her with a friend of his – a man with similar scientific pursuits as Veronica – and is summarily murdered.  This leaves Veronica and her new found companion Stroker, to clear themselves of suspicion of the Barons murder and solve the mystery of Veronica’s past before it is too late.

Critical Evaluation:  Rarely does a writer of historical romance novels create a character as interesting and out-of-the-box as did Deanna Raybourn in the creation of Victoria Speedwell.  Not only is she a self-trained biologist specializing in butterflies but she is a woman unrestrained by the normal conventions of society.  She goes where she wants, does what she wants and on occasion is sexually adventurous with any attractive man she desires.  She is a 1960’s woman in an 1880’s body.  Historical mystery/romances walk a fine line between the two genres.  Some readers will like this book because of the romantic tension between the two characters, while others will like it because of the mystery they must solve.  I liked it because of the main character who is her own woman, a feat even woman today have trouble accomplishing.  The writing is straightforward and enjoyable, and the overall sense of the era is solid.  There were woman like Veronica during this period; woman who through accident or design were independent and willing to embrace pursuits not common to most woman, and were generally referred to as ‘bluestockings’.  Raybourn did a good job of exposing a little known aspect of women’s history in clever and entertaining story by means of a clever and entertaining woman.

Author’s Brief Bio:  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.  Retrieved from http://www.deannaraybourn.com/theauthor.html

Genre Designation:  Mystery

Bibliographic Information:  Publisher, Date: New American Library/Penguin-Random House, 2015.



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