Review: A Sinister Revenge

Review: A Sinister RevengeA Sinister Revenge (Veronica Speedwell, #8) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #8
Published by Berkley on March 7, 2023
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I tore through this book. Launching from the conclusion of the prior book, this book brings together so many elements of what I love about this series: the relationship between Veronica and Stoker, a good mystery, and plenty of supporting characters that have their own stories. Loved this one.

THE STORY: After being apart from her partner/lover Stoker for several months, Veronica arrives in Bavaria with Stoker’s brother Tiberius to seek Stoker’s help. Tiberius has received death threats over something that happened years ago amongst the “Seven Sinners,” his group of friends. Now two of his friends have been killed, and the message sender suggests that Tiberius might be next. Not knowing why he and his friends have been targeted, Tiberius intends to assemble a reunion and include Veronica and Stoker to help reveal the killer. The only task is to find Stoker (who has been out on his own since discovering Veronica’s “husband” in AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER) and convince him to join the hunt.

OPINION: I enjoyed this book so much after the tension of the prior book. Where that book was so hard on Veronica, this one felt flirty and fun even though Veronica and Stoker were dealing with their relationship for most of the book. That’s what I loved about this book. I knew that things would work out, so I just enjoyed the ride.

Another enjoyable portion of this book is learning more about Tiberius and seeing the relationship between him and Stoker develop. We also get to see more of the youngest brother Merryweather. I love the dynamic that is developing where Veronica is bringing this broken set of brothers together.

The mystery here is fun with lots of suspects. It reminded me somewhat of some of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries — lots of suspects involving social events and plenty of deaths.

This is one of my favorites already, and I look forward to more in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book resolves the conflict which ended AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A SINISTER REVENGE is the eighth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus this book can be read as a standalone. However, this book’s overarching relationship plot flows directly from the prior book in the series, and this series is much better to read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: An Impossible Imposter

Review: An Impossible ImposterAn Impossible Impostor (Veronica Speedwell #7) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #7
Published by Berkley on February 15, 2022
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 334
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a challenging book to read because the expectations I had were disturbed. I enjoyed that the author refuses to fall into an expected template of what these books should be. Readers might be disturbed from their comfortable expectations, but that makes the series more exciting to me.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell and her lover/partner Stoker are asked by Sir Hugo, head of the Special Branch, to investigate whether a long-lost relative of his goddaughter is a fraud. Jonathan Hathaway was believed dead after the eruption of Krakatoa. Sir Hugo has come to Veronica and Stoker because she knew Jonathan so he hopes that she will know whether the newly reappeared Jonathan is an imposter or not. Complicating the matter is that the man has no memory of his identity and has been injured, but meets the description of Jonathan. Veronica and Stoker go to the family estate to confront the possible imposter, but she also has to confront secrets from her past.

OPINION: This is a difficult book to review without giving spoilers because all the significant parts of the book depend upon the information that is revealed during the book. Because of this, I decided to just write a list of what I loved about this book:

*Veronica is personally challenged in this book as never depicted before.

*A new villain is born.

*This mystery has plenty of drama and twists and turns.

*Stoker and Veronica have some great relationship moments here — not all of them are good.

*I was surprised as my opinions of different characters changed and evolved throughout the book. The complexity of the characters in this book was well done.

*This book bothered me in many ways which I enjoyed as the author is challenging the readers’ expectations.

WORTH MENTIONING: Upon finishing this book, I immediately wanted to read the next. The book doesn’t end on a true cliffhanger, but the overarching storyline is at a significant point.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTER is the seventh book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery here is self-contained, and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, overarching character development depends upon the continuing relationship between Stoker and Veronica, and this book is so much better if read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: An Unexpected Peril

Review: An Unexpected PerilAn Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell, #6) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #6
Published by Berkley on March 2, 2021
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 346
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A very “drawing room” mystery where most of the drama involves lots of events and talking with people. I enjoyed this one just a bit less than others because Veronica and Stoker feel constrained — something that they recognize themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t think this was a great addition to the series. The mystery is good and I always love Veronica and Stoker.

THE STORY: The Curiosity Club, a social club for women who dare, is honoring Alice Baker-Greene, a mountain climber who recently died in an accident. At the exhibit, Veronica Speedwell and her partner and lover, Stoker, discover that Alice’s death might not have been an accident. Veronica attempts to get Princess Gisela of Alpenwald to investigate the death which occurred in her country. The evidence disappears, and so does the princess.

OPINION: This book has a different feel than the others in the series because the events take place where Veronica must be more constrained than normal in her investigations. For that reason, the story ends up being a bit less “big adventure” than others in the series.

The mystery is well-done, and I don’t have any complaints other than some boredom on my part by all the social and political meetings.

So what about what I really read these books for Veronica and Stoker’s relationship? I loved how these two are developing their relationship. There are adjustment issues as they try and feel out how to define their relationship. What the limits are. What the expectations are of one another.

Veronica is very skittish because she fears the loss of her independence. She has never had a real relationship and keeps men at a distance by taking control. But her relationship with Stoker requires a commitment that she is unsure how to make. I loved how their relationship issues are interwoven with the mystery. Things are not completely settled between these two, and I love it!

WORTH MENTIONING: I liked seeing Veronica and Stoker working through their new relationship after the events of the prior books.

CONNECTED BOOKS: AN UNEXPECTED PERIL is the sixth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but for me, the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is the main reason I read the series so I recommend reading in order to follow the overarching storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Killers of a Certain Age

Review: Killers of a Certain AgeKillers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Berkley on September 6, 2022
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 365
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really wanted to like this book, but it felt muddy, and the pacing was much slower than I wanted. Instead, I got bored just about the time things should have been getting exciting. Ultimately the book was okay but not up to a great premise.

THE STORY: After working for a secret network of assassins for forty years, four women are sent on a vacation to celebrate their retirement. During the trip, they are targeted for assassination themselves. Now Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have to work together to discover who wants them dead and to uncover the plot against them.

OPINION: The premise of this book is amazing, and the beginning had much promise. The problem is that there are just too many characters, too many stories, and not enough depth to any character. Instead, they always remain just out of reach, which made me lose interest about halfway through the book.

I’m glad I pressed through because the ending of the book was better, although I had figured out the twist. Because the book was unique, I think some people will really enjoy the story, but it wasn’t the book for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: The women here are in their sixties, and this is not a romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS: KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: A Murderous Relation

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Review: A Murderous RelationA Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell, #5) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #5
Published by Berkley on March 10, 2020
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book I have definitely been waiting for in this series. Funny and romantic and a great mystery.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell and her partner in crime Stoker are asked to retrieve a jewel that can link the prince to a notorious private club. Veronica and Stoker end up having to go undercover at the brothel where they run across a murder victim whose murder threatens the royal family. At the same time, it is 1888 and Jack the Ripper is haunting the streets of London.

OPINION: Smart and funny. I loved this book. This is the book that fans of the series have been waiting for. The book has mystery and thrilling adventure and romance and humor and emotion. I couldn’t put in down from page one and I was cheering by the end of the book.

As with the other books in this series, I love how Veronica and Stoker use their intelligence and daring to solve the case. There is more going on than it appears in teh beginning and the multiple threads of the stories are woven together so well by the end.

The book is entertaining and the connection between Veronica and Stoker just keeps getting better. This series is not a romance but rather a historical mystery with strong romance parts, but I just love the story here. These two are perfect together — both as partners in their investigations and as love interests.

I don’t want to give away anything as to the mystery…but it is good as well.

WORTH MENTIONING: Good news that the series will continue.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A MURDEROUS RELATION is the fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. Each book has a self-contained mystery story. There are, however, overarching stories related to the characters which makes this series better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own. I also purchased a hardcover copy of the book after its release.

five-stars

Review: A Dangerous Collaboration

Review: A Dangerous CollaborationA Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #4
Published by Berkley on March 12, 2019
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: An exciting mystery and tons of romantic tension, this is an amazing addition to the Veronica Speedwell series.

THE STORY: Veronica agrees to travel to an island off Cornwall in the company of her colleague Stoker’s older brother, Tiberius. And circumstances being what they are, Veronica agrees to pretend to be Tiberius’s fiancee. But when they arrive on the island, it is clear that something is wrong. Those in attendance have varying connections to the disappearance of their host’s wife three years ago. Veronica and Stoker are thus thrust into an investigation of ghostly appearances and the mystery of what happened three years ago.

OPINION: This might be my favorite of the series so far. I loved the interaction between Veronica and Stoker in this one. Angst filled and dramatic with a mystery that kept me guessing until the end. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who read these books for the mysteries, but I will be honest and say that while I enjoy the mysteries, I primarily want to know more about the continuing character stories in the book.

This book managed to not disappoint in either account. The cast of characters involved in the mystery was intriguing. I really felt that each character was well defined and interesting. The setting felt like an Agatha Christie novel. It was atmospheric and almost Gothic in its flavor. The haunting by the missing bride had so many interesting aspects and questions. I really liked how personal the entire episode felt even though Veronica and Stoker were not directly involved in the mystery itself. Here, they operate more as the independent investigators, although their own views and prejudices are evident here.

The relationship between Veronica and Stoker is a favorite for me. The story is nuanced and based upon the events in the prior novel, the two are in a different place which is not always comfortable or happy. I loved how the two circle around one another here. The emotional tone is raised high. I continue to love Veronica who has walls and is difficult at times. Veronica and Stoker have a special relationship that is uneasy and yet the two make such a perfect pair.

We also get to know more about Stoker’s brother, Tiberious. I also found him an interesting character and I liked seeing his interaction with Veronica and Stoker. He stirs up a lot with these characters and thus is a welcome addition. (I hope we get to see more of him in future books).

WORTH MENTIONING: Originally a five book series, the author has indicated that there might be more books contracted by the publisher. Yay!

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION is the fourth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. Each book has a self-contained mystery and thus is a standalone. However, there are character developments and relationships which develop through the series and thus the books are better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: A Treacherous Curse

Review: A Treacherous CurseA Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell, #3) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3
Published by Berkley on January 16th 2018
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very enjoyable entry into the series. The highlights were the Egyptology aspects and the reveal about Stoker’s past. The characters are further developed and their relationship moves forward in small but significant ways.

THE STORY: The utterly unique Veronica Speedwell and Stoker, her partner in museum organization and crime solving, become entwined in the disappearance of Stoker’s former expedition partner and ex-friend. He also happens to be the man who married Stoker’s ex-wife. The man disappeared under suspicious circumstances along with a priceless artifact from an Egyptian expedition but Stoker is a prime suspect. Ancient curses and appearances of the Egyptian god Anubis abound as Veronica and Stoker attempt to locate his ex-partner and clear Stoker’s reputation.

OPINION: Historical mystery and romance, this book continues the series of crimes that butterfly collector Veronica and naturalist Stoker get involved in solving. Here there is a personal aspect as Stoker might become the prime suspect if the disappearance is not solved.

Once again the highlight of this book is the interaction between Veronica and Stoker. While the two are not engaged in a romance in the traditional sense, they are certainly involved in a relationship — it’s just the seriously slow burn type. As the two investigate, the truth about Stoker’s relationship with his ex-wife is revealed.

This series is a fun read as Veronica and Stoker make an unusual couple with lots of witty repartee between them. These are unusual people who obviously fit so well together even as they argue and fight and at times hurt one another. While the series is content with the intensely slow burn of their romance, there is no reason to rush along as these two people develop a partnership, a friendship and a even a “romance” unlike any other they have experienced.

The mystery in this book was intriguing as the story exposes the Egyptian craze of the Victorian era. There are plenty of suspects and motivations for the disappearance and the solution (while not one that is “solvable” by the reader) works as a dramatic story.

I enjoyed this book because of its unique characters and voice. What keeps me coming back to this series, however, is the promise of the relationship between Veronica and Stoker.  And on that this book did not disappoint.

WORTH MENTIONING: Veronica and Stoker are such an amusing pair.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A TREACHEROUS CURSE is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The book has a self-contained mystery and could be read on its own for that reason. However, a big part of the attraction of this series to me is the relationship between Veronica and Stoker and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order as their relationship develops.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Perilous Undertaking

Review: A Perilous UndertakingA Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #2
Published by Berkley Books on January 10th 2017
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 338
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Very strong followup to the first book in the series. The integration of the personal relationship and the mystery is better done here and the emotional intensity of the characters’ story is a highlight.

THE STORY: Veronica is asked to prove the innocence of an art patron who is set to hang for the murder of his mistress. But there are a lot of secrets involved in this case. From the identity of the person asking for Veronica’s help to hidden reasons why the condemned won’t defend himself, Veronica and her partner Stoker are steeped in secrets as they race to find the real killer.

OPINION: After the first book in the series, this one feels like it has hit a groove. The combination of the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker is well balanced and compelling all the way through.

Readers of the first book will recall that Veronica is an independent woman ahead of her time. She is opinionated, has made a career for herself, unapologetically takes foreign lovers, and is sarcastic and at times caustic in her tone. She is also clever and observant and a scientist. Even as Veronica remains true to her character, there is clearly a connection between her and Stoker. And I love the relationship between her and Stoker. There is simmering passion, but also real respect and annoyance with one another that is not based on passion at all.

Here, more is revealed about Stoker’s relationship with his family and Veronica continues to deal with the fallout of her family connection revealed in A CURIOUS BEGINNING. I liked that the mystery was developed throughout the book and at the same time the characters remain the focus of the book.

This book reminds me of the some of the best slow simmering man/woman mystery couples. There is an attraction but also verbal jousting and respect and at times bubbling resentment. These two are not going to quickly indulge in some quick passion because what is between them is too dangerous to treat lightly.

This book is funny and quite enjoyable. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Opium indulgence results in some interesting advancements.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series. The mystery in this book is completely self-contained and thus the book can be read as a standalone. However, I recommend reading the series in order for the continuing personal storylines.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: A Curious Beginning

Review: A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Series: Veronica Speedwell #1
Published by Berkley Books on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A mystery where most of the book it taken up with the developing relationship between Veronica and Stoker. There is no overt romance at this point, but it seems likely that these two who develop a investigative partnership might have some slow burn romance in the future.

THE STORY: Veronica Speedwell is on her own after the death of her aunt. She is now free to pursue her interests out of the country. Veronica is a butterfly hunter and a woman with the taste for foreign affairs (with men). Just at that moment, a man breaks into her cottage and she ends up traveling to London with a German baron who claims that he is going to protect her by delivering her into the hands of his friend Stoker. Stoker is also a natural historian and has many secrets. When the German baron is killed Veronica and Stoker are forced to solve the murder before Stoker is arrested as the prime suspect.

OPINION: The highlight of this book is without a doubt the characters of Veronica and Stoker and their burgeoning relationship. The two are both misfits in the world and thus have a commonality that is interesting.

Veronica is an independent and forward thinking woman in a time where women’s roles are beginning to change but still constrained by convention. Veronica is opinionated and outspoken. She believes in free love. She believes in women’s education and self determination. She isn’t ashamed by any of her oddities.

Stoker is a haunted man. We learn some of his history here and despite his attempts, he is fascinated and frustrated by Veronica. He is a grumpy scientist and adventurer who has been broken and this adventure begins a sort of healing for him.

The tension and sexual interest between these two is high in this book, but the story is satisfied with the slow burn and getting to know one another. For these characters, that is perfect and demonstrates that this relationship (whether it is sexual or not) is going to be important to both of them. Neither fits in the box that they expect.

For me, the mystery was satisfying, but secondary to the introduction of these characters and the development of their partnership. I did expect some of the mystery surprises, but I thought that the entire book was well done. I don’t want to give away spoilers so I will leave the mystery at that.

WORTH MENTIONING: Interested in running away to the circus?

CONNECTED BOOKS: A CURIOUS BEGINNING is the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars