Thursday 5 April 2018

#CBR10 Book 23: "A Perilous Undertaking" by Deanna Raybourn

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! This is the second book in the series, and the review will contain certain spoilers for the first book, A Curious Beginning. Therefore, if you're not all caught up and don't want the ending of that book and Veronica's background spoiled for you, skip this review until you're caught up.

Veronica Speedwell and her partner in mischief, Stoker (full name Revelstoke Templeton-Vane) were all set to go on an exciting expedition to the South Pacific when their employer, Lord Rosemorran, fell over his giant tortoise and broke his leg. Veronica's aunt, the Princess Louise, asks for help to clear the name of an acquaintance who has been convicted of murdering his pregnant mistress. Despite Stoker's misgivings, Veronica agrees to take the case, wanting to prove herself to her snooty relatives.

The case takes Veronica and Stoker to a rather unusual artists' colony, and the list of suspects keeps growing, at points involving the Princess Louise herself, as well as Stoker's estranged older brother, Lord Tempelton-Vane. Veronica has run-ins with all of Stoker's brothers over the course of the book and finds out more about why he really doesn't want anything to do with them. As in the first book, investigating leads both Veronica and Stoker into peril, and they both end up near death before they figure out the true murderer and are able to clear an innocent man's name.

I'm currently writing my book reviews either when my ever more awake and demanding infant is asleep (not often or long enough to my tastes) or in the brief moments when my husband is able to distract him with guitar playing, so the baby doesn't remember that what he really wants is to hang out on my lap, either being fed or just indulged. So I'm going to have to try to be more brief, so I can actually get some reviews finished at all.

While the first book introduced Veronica and Stoker, this is when I was really sold on the series. Veronica, while still independent and very sure of herself, is a lot less in your face about it. Her friendship with Stoker is pretty much what makes the story so good, there's absolutely mutual attraction and chemistry between them, but it takes second place to their more platonic feelings for one another (also, Stoker has a LOT of baggage). While Stoker is refusing to let Veronica investigate on her own, it's not because of any sexist belief that she can't handle herself, but rather that he doesn't want his friend to expose herself to danger without anyone covering her back. He even ends up volunteering to pose mostly naked for a sculpture so they have an excuse to keep going back to the artists' colony, leaving Veronica to snoop and question people by herself.

I'm still not overfond of the revelations about Veronica's family background, but it's pretty incidental to the bigger story. Stoker, who was pretty much a cranky, broody cipher in the first book is given more backstory here and we discover more about why he no longer has contact with his family and in fact goes out of his way to avoid them.

I don't know how many books Deanna Raybourn has planned for the series, but I'm firmly hooked now, and can't wait to see where their adventures take Veronica and Stoker next.

Judging a book by its cover: I really like these covers, even if they don't necessarily directly have anything to do with the plot of the novel. Having what looks like woodcuts as the covers of historical mysteries is a nice touch. They've given the lady silhouette a butterfly net, which is appropriate, but the moon, the fence and the swirling maple leaves don't really have anything to do with the story - and I highly doubt Veronica would be out hunting butterflies by moonlight. She doesn't really seem like a moth person.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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