Monday, 10 May 2021
#CBR13 Book 12: "An Unexpected Peril" by Deanna Raybourn
Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Spoiler warning! This is book 6 in an ongoing series. There will be minor spoilers for earlier books in the series. You can read these without having any background, but it's always best to start at the beginning, which happens to be A Curious Beginning.
Intrepid lepidopterist and sometime crime solver Veronica Speedwell and her grouchy partner and now lover Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (goes by Stoker) are working on preparing a memorial exhibition at the Curiosity Club for one of its recently deceased members, pioneer mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene. Veronica finds evidence that suggests the woman was sabotaged and her accidental death while climbing in the tiny European principality of Alpenwald was, in fact, murder. While Stoker strongly opposes them getting embroiled in yet another potentially dangerous investigation, Veronica feels she must bring her findings to the attention of the exhibit's patron, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald. The royal chancellor of Alpenwald doesn't seem to think that there is much to investigate, but is soon forced to approach Veronica on a sensitive matter of state.
Shortly before the opening of the memorial exhibition, princess Gisela has disappeared without a trace. This is apparently something she does on occasion, but her current disappearance comes at a critical time. As well as opening the exhibit, meant to highlight the beauty and mountaineering opportunities in Alpenwald, the royal delegation was in London to sign a secret peace treaty. It's essential that Princess Gisela is seen publically at a number of important functions, and coincidentally, Veronica looks enough like the princess to act as her double with the right jewelry, outfits, and makeup. Sensing a chance to continue her investigation, Veronica agrees to masquerade as the princess and help the peace treaty become a reality. Naturally, as Veronica and Stoker seem to be magnets for danger and complications, the mission isn't exactly as simple and straightforward as it seems, and our brave protagonists find themselves in danger more than once before they are able to unmask Miss Baker-Greene's murderer.
I'm not going to lie, I'm delighted that Stoker and Veronica are now romantic as well as investigative partners. Of course, while they have now both declared their feelings for one another and acted on them, it's not necessarily smooth sailing in all aspects of their relationship, especially because Veronica has no wishes of ever getting married and fears being trapped. This could present a big problem for the couple, if Stoker wasn't so very observant and aware of all things Veronica. Considering his ugly and public divorce, it's not like her reputation would be noticeably more tarnished if they continue to live in sin, rather than tie the knot at a future date.
Stoker, however, would really prefer it if they stay out of the danger that investigating possible murders always brings. Veronica needs to work diligently to prove to him that there even is a case to investigate, but once they are both persuaded that a murder has taken place, they're not going to stop until justice has been served.
I don't exactly think this book did anything new, but if you're already a fan of Raybourn's brand of historical mystery with a romantic twist, you're going to get exactly what you want from this book. I was amused by all the moustaches adorning the Alpenwald contingent, and the fake one that Stoker was made to wear when out and about in disguise.
Judging a book by its cover: This series always has lovely woodcut-inspired covers and this one is particularly pretty. The blue colour is inspired by the official sky blue of the fictional principality of Alpenwald from the novel. The same with the delicate white flowers, which I'm assuming is supposed to be the St. Othild's wort flowers. I'm sad there aren't any otters, really. I get why the little Veronica silhouette is still sporting her trusty butterfly net, but she really hasn't done a lot of lepidoptery for quite a few books now, so I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate anymore.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.