Veronica Speedwell, foundling, unmarried, and raised by her two aunts, Nell and Lucy, finds herself alone following her Aunt Nell’s death since Aunt Lucy had died a few years before. After Aunt Nell’s burial, Vicar and Mrs. Clutterthorpe invite Veronica to the vicarage for refreshments. Mrs. Clutterthorpe tells Veronica that she has made arrangements for Veronica’s future by indicating she should marry a local widowed farmer and be mother to his six children. Veronica’s reply is indicative of her forthright manner: “I tilted my head and regarded her thoughtfully as I considered my reply. In the end, I chose unvarnished truth. ‘Mrs. Clutterthorpe, I can hardly think of any fate worse than becoming the mother of six. Unless perhaps it were plague, and even then I am persuaded a few disfiguring buboes and possible death would be preferable to motherhood’.”
Thus begins A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn featuring Veronica Speedwell and her adventures into the world. Since I don’t plan to give anything away, this review will be short and to the point. Veronica is a woman, well ahead of her time. She is a lepidopterist, a serious collector of butterflies and student of their lives. Even during her aunts’ lifetimes, she has been on expeditions to foreign countries in search of butterflies. Now, she plans to spend her life taking such trips all over the world.
Upon her return to her rented cottage after the incident at the vicarage, Veronica finds someone has not only ransacked her home, tearing up cushions and flinging things about, but the culprit is still in her home. She confronts the huge villain and means to drive him out when she is interrupted by the arrival of another man, a stranger to her. The villain does flee. Veronica learns the newly arrived man is Baron Maximallian von Stauffenbach.
The Baron tells Veronica that she is in grave danger and asks her to come with him to London. She agrees because going in his carriage will save her the cost of a train ticket. On the trip, Veronica learns that the Baron knows who Veronica’s mother was and he says he will tell her the whole story of her birth and parentage in good time. Meanwhile, he leaves her in the capable hands of his friend Stoker, telling Stoker that Veronica is in danger and Stoker must guard her safety.
Stoker is also a scientist and collector of animals. Veronica and Stoker find themselves at odds almost at once. This relationship continues throughout the story. Sadly, before the Baron can tell Veronica about her parents, he is murdered. The story unfolds from there as Veronica and Stoker both encounter danger while they try to figure out why anyone wants to harm Veronica.
A Curious Beginning is suspenseful, funny, and witty. Readers will want to know why Veronica is in danger and the answers will be quite surprising. Readers may expect a relationship to develop between Veronica and Stoker, but they will have to read A Curious Beginning to discover what happens. Suffice it to say, that anyone who picks up A Curious Beginning is in for a treat. The story is also excellent on audio.