I’m putting all four cover images on here right from the get go because I would be lying if I tried to say that I didn’t start this series because of the cover art. I totally did start this series because of the cover art. It is fabulous and, even better, it is a perfect match for the stories contained inside.
In A Curious Beginning we meet Veronica Speedwell. Veronica is a woman of science. She is a lepidopterist of skill and renown and she has no time for any of the Victorian era fiddle-faddle that tells her that a lady should not be any of the things that she, well, is. She is brash, independent, intelligent, more than a little stubborn and has no fears about speaking her mind. She is also an orphan. She has only the vaguest memories of her mother, none of her father. She was raised by her two aunts, the stern and uncompromising Aunt Nell, and the kind and encouraging Aunt Lucy. They loved and cared for her as well as they were able, even though life forced them to pick up and move on a regular basis.
At Aunt Nell’s funeral a mysterious German Barron shows up and tells Veronica she is in grave danger and must flee immediately. Having no better plans, Veronica agrees to go with him, along the way meeting his associate Stoker, a gruff, antagonizing natural historian-cum-taxidermist. When the Barron is murdered under highly mysterious circumstances Veronica and Stoker need to find the killer before the police decide to charge the two of them with the crime. Along the way they learn more about each other and even more about Veronica’s parentage, which turns out to be very surprising and not without it’s complications.
A Perilous Undertaking follows Veronica as she and Stoker try to help their friend in saving a local art patron from hanging. He has been convicted of killing his wife, but as Veronica and Stoker race against the clock ticking down on poor Miles Ramsforth they are drawn into a darker part of London High Society.
In A Treacherous Curse it is Stoker’s turn to have his past come back to haunt him as a former colleague is charged with stealing a rare Egyptian artifact right before he is killed. There are several people insinuating that Stoker himself had more than enough motive to be the murderer himself, as this is the same colleague that ran of with Stoker’s wife many years previous. This look into Stoker’s early life also causes Veronica to consider what Stoker really means to her, and if they really are just business associates.
A Dangerous Collaboration is a family affair, as Stoker’s brother, a Lord of not inconsequential power, arranges for Veronica and Stoker to join him on the island owned by his childhood friend, Malcolm Romilly. Lord Templeton-Vane uses the lure of extremely rare butterflies to get Veronica onto the island, but once there they find themselves helping to solve the decades old disappearance of Romilly’s bride Rosaline.
This series is really a lot of fun. I pretty much flew through all four books as fast as the library could get them to me. They are all told memoir-style from Veronica’s perspective and there is just enough “dear reader, let me tell you something…” to it to give it a lot of character. I also do like that the author really leans in to Veronica’s personality in her narration. She is really quite stubborn, and a little full of herself and it comes through in how she tells the story. It makes me like her that much more, because she is skilled and smart and fun, but she is also far from perfect and doesn’t always see her own flaws, even in hindsight. Those flaws, though, are normal people flaws. She is really a very likeable person.
I also enjoy reading about her butterfly hunting exploits and the little tricks of her trade that she’s developed. It’s not a small part of her personality, but it isn’t always a main part of the plot, but I like that it’s a solid through line. Veronica knows her butterflies, and those butterflies are a big part of why she’s as happy and independant a person as she is.
Stoker starts off as a bit of an enigma, but as we get to know him there is a lot of depth to his character as well. He’s undoubtedly handsome, strong, and smart. He’s trying to recover from the crap cards he was dealt by life and by those he thought he could trust and it’s a realistic journey. Their banter and repartee is fun and their Sam and Diane “will they or won’t they” back and forth is fun rather than frustrating. Even the “not so great” people, like his brother, Lord Templeton Vane and the ambitious Scotland Yard detective they keep running afoul of are fun, well rounded people. There are very few mustache-twirling full on dastardly villains here.
The only small critique I do have about the series is that, once we learn the secret of Veronica’s parentage it really does start to be a bit too much of a THING. There are times when it feels kind of shoehorned into situations that it really isn’t relevant to and that starts to get a bit tiring. But really, that is a quibble.
So, yeah, if you want a fun, quick mystery series with characters that you probably would like to grab a drink with in real life, this would not be a bad choice.
A Curious Beginning as my And So It Begins Square
A Perilous Undertaking as my History Schmistory square
A Treacherous Curse as my Reader’s Choice square in place of Two Heads are Better Than One.