A Curious Beginning, a historical mystery, is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series. This is a fast, light read perfect for airplanes and beaches. Veronica, the protagonist, is an unconventional nineteenth century sexually-liberated feminist and lepidopterist. Veronica is not concerned with lady-like behavior and speaks her mind directly and bluntly. While this is a popular caricature for this type of novel, the author doesn’t quite pull it off in the first part of the book. Veronica comes off as slightly demeaning, condescending, prideful, and rude bordering on cruel–which is probably not what the author was shooting for. However, at about halfway through the novel the pugnaciousness is toned down and Veronica becomes more likeable. In contrast, the male interest, Stoker, is fantastic from introduction to conclusion.
Like Veronica’s like-able-ness quotient, the plot struggles a bit in the first half of the book; it is rapid fire but requires the reader to suspend their disbelief a little more than usual regarding a couple of catalytic decisions on the protagonist’s part–plus a side trip to a traveling carnival which doesn’t do a lot for the plot progression but a great deal for the relationship of Stoker and Veronica.
Nevertheless, this is a fun piece of escapist fiction that goes down easy. Recommended for mystery lovers and historical fiction lovers. There are three more books already written in the series.
Profanity/Language: 48 religious exclamations; 25 mild obscenities; 1 religious profanity; 2 derogatory names.
Violence/Gore: Scene ~ 2 pages involving an intruder, swordstick, grabbing and twisting, biting, drawn revolver, cut/mention of blood and attempted abduction; report/statement of perils faced in past such as snakebite, poison arrow, nearly shot, etc.; report of performing an amputation w/o permission; newspaper report character was found murdered; verbal threat; accidental poking of character with pins, mention of blood; attempt to kick another; character faints and is accidentally injured by knife, mention of blood; report of how character received scars; admission that a character killed/murdered another in the past; extended fight scene w/rebengues resulting in severe injuries, broken bones, blood, unconsciousness; characters are pursued and shot at; brief scene of abduction w/ threat w/ revolver, sticking another with a hatpin; struggle in which a fire is started resulting in destruction of property and unconfirmed death of another; character digs nails in hands causing them to bleed.
Sex/Nudity: Reference to being illegitimate; report of kissing; report/accusation that character “behaved immorally”; character admits to having romances/dalliances/affairs with foreigners while abroad; character secretly admires a man who is working shirtless; report an individual has a mistress; sexual reference to teat; reference to females having passion of the flesh like males; upon multiple occasions characters looks at another with physical interest/desire; it is said that someone had a carnal relationship; character says a man is passionate when roused and that they had a relationship; reference to decolletage; couple of instances where characters are physically close with sexual tension almost resulting in a kiss; character overhears encounter where a woman is apparently grouping a man in an attempt to seduce; to goad a man a character gives him permission to be with another; references to harlot, prostitutes; characters pretend to be lovers by entwining against wall while police pass by; passing reference to disturbing male lovers; character implies that she might bestow favors (implication, sexual) to a handsome character; character tries to have a conversation with another character about how they manage their unfulfilled sexual needs; reference to affairs; reference to marrying someone off to breed.
Mature Subject Matter:
Murder, sexual dalliances (reported only), gender discrimination, bigamy, politics.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Adult characters drink various forms of alcohol upon several occasions; character gets drunk; characters smoke cigars and cigarillos; reference to opium; character says she tried opium in the past.