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A Perilous Undertaking

Deanna Raybourn

In A Perilous Undertaking, the second book in Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, Veronica and Stoker are called upon to investigate the murder of an artist. Having just read and loved A Curious Beginning, the first book in the series, I couldn’t wait to see what the pair were going to get up to next. And A Perilous Undertaking does not disappoint. Like its predecessor, this second installment is a highly enjoyable read with an intriguing mystery, two leads whose chemistry registers off the chart, and excellent writing that brings Victorian London vividly to life.  If you are a fan of historical mysteries with strong romantic elements and have yet to read A Curious Beginning, I urge you to stop reading this review and head to your nearest bookstore now. You will not want to miss the burgeoning relationship between Stoker and Veronica that takes place before the start of this book.

To better discuss Veronica’s character arc and motivations, I opted to include a couple of spoilers for A Curious Beginning in this review. You have been warned.

As A Perilous Undertaking opens, Veronica and Stoker have firmly ensconced themselves on Lord Rosemorran’s estate as curators for the museum he hopes to establish with his collection of natural history specimens. Working in such close proximity has caused Veronica and Stoker to be at each other’s throats all day. Therefore, when Lord Rosemorran’s sister Lady Cordelia invites Veronica to visit the Curiosity Club with her, Veronica gladly accepts.

Founded for the purpose of giving accomplished ladies a place to exchange ideas freely, the Curiosity Club has long been a place of, well, curiosity for Veronica. But it turns out that Lady Cordelia’s invitation to visit the club was not issued on a whim. While at the club, Veronica is introduced to a mysterious Lady Sundridge, who is actually none other than Princess Louise, a younger sister of the Prince of Wales. One of Princess Louise’s friends, Miles Ramsforth, has been found guilty of murdering his mistress Artemisia and is due to be executed in one week’s time. For reasons that Princess Louise is unwilling to get into, the princess believes Miles to be innocent. Since mounting an investigation on her own is out of the question – the resulting scandal to the Royal family will give the press a field day – Princess Louise wants Veronica to find the real murderer and exonerate Miles. Her refusal to comply or her failure to solve the case in time will resul, in the death of an innocent man.

In A Curious Beginning, we find out that Veronica is, in fact, the daughter of the Prince of Wales, which would make Princess Louise her aunt. Veronica being Veronica, this of course means that she could not pass up the chance to prove her mettle to the family that chose not to acknowledge her. So before long, Veronica and Stoker find themselves plunged neck deep in an investigation that will eventually lead them to a Victorian version of an underground sex club. The many quirky characters they meet during the course of their investigation, as well as the good-natured insults they lob at each other to mask a deeper attraction, makes this book a perfect blend of humor and suspense. There are some graphic depictions of violence and the overall tone of this book is darker – this is, after all, a book about murder – but it is a testament to the author’s skills that I didn’t find the proceedings too grim or overwhelming.

On the character building front, fans of Veronica and Stoker will be happy to know that in A Perilous Undertaking, more of Stoker’s past is revealed which leads to an intimate moment between him and Veronica. The book also ends on a heartfelt scene between the pair that shows just how much the bond and trust between them have strengthened. As far as actual romantic developments go, these two still have a long way to go and personal baggage to work through – we still don’t know, for instance, what happened to Stoker in South America – but they are making strides and when they are finally ready to take that next step, I have no doubt that it will be worth the wait.

So what kept this from being a Desert Isle Keeper for me? This may be a weird analogy to make for a historical mystery, but if A Curious Beginning can be considered an “origin” story of sorts for Stoker and Veronica’s partnership, A Perilous Undertaking can be said to suffer from the middle chapter syndrome. After the audacious revelation regarding Veronica’s antecedents and the budding of a deep and lasting friendship between Veronica and Stoker – a friendship that is formed, in part, through their shared experience at a circus no less – everything that happens in A Perilous Undertaking just seems smaller in scope by comparison. Then there is Veronica herself. While I like the fact that she’s unconventional, outspoken, and fearless, there are times when her constant need to fling the fact that she’s different in people’s faces and her rudeness to those she considers her emotional or intellectual inferiors pushes her firmly into the boastful braggart territory. At one point in the story, Stoker calls her a bully because she always has to have things her way, and through most of the book, I tended to agree with him.

The above quibbles aside, A Perilous Undertaking is a deftly-plotted, entertaining book that should please fans of the series. The dialogue between Veronica and Stoker sparkles with wit, and I for one cannot wait to see what Veronica’s ties to the Royal family may portend for this dynamic duo. Here’s to hoping that I won’t have to wait too long for Veronica and Stoker’s next adventure.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Sidney Young


Grade :     B+


Sensuality :      Kisses


Book Type :     


Review Tags :     


Recent Comments

11 Comments

  1. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann January 10, 2017 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I loved the first book & these characters. I listened to the audio book of A Curious Beginning & I’m not sure the narrator was quite my cup of tea. I’ll be curling up with this one & reading it – I just wish you told me the relationship between Stoker & Veronica got a bit more touchy feel-y! There’s slow burn and there’s ssslllooowww burn. 🙂

    • Sidney Young
      Sidney Young January 10, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Emily, I think you’ll be happy with the progress here. Without giving too much away, I am just going to point to the sensuality rating for this one and you can deduce from it what you will!

    • Caz Owens
      Caz Owens January 10, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      I listened to the audio as well – the narrator was good, but I think her voice was too strident to listen to for ten hours or so, even though it did fit Veronica’s character.

      As to the other… if you want spoiling, email me!

      • Em Wittmann
        Em Wittmann January 10, 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

        I want to be spoiled!
        I don’t want to be spoiled.
        I do.
        I don’t.
        I do.
        I don’t.
        I do.
        I don’t.
        I don’t.
        I don’t.

        🙂

  2. Tinabelle January 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    I pre-ordered so this downloaded to my Kindle @ midnight. If I wasn’t so tired I would have started to read; however, I knew if I did I wouldn’t be able to stop! I loved the first book and am glad to hear that you thought this second installment is so good. Thanks for the review.

    • Sidney Young
      Sidney Young January 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      I know exactly what you mean. I was able to read both books during my Christmas break, so I didn’t have to get up next morning and go to work bleary eyed. But yeah, A Curious Beginning had me stay way past my bed time. But those are the good kind of problems to have, aren’t they?

  3. Caz Owens
    Caz Owens January 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Great review – and I agree with your comments about middle-book-syndrome and about the issues you had with Veronica’s character. She’s getting dangerously close to Mary Sue territory (that’s if she’s not already there) and I got fed up with reading about her violet eyes and about how wonderful she was.

    • Sidney Young
      Sidney Young January 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      Yes. And all those men fawning over her! I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to English history or societal norms, so I wasn’t sure…is it realistic that with all of Veronica’s “quirks” and her refusal to conform to what is considered normal behavior, that she would still be received everywhere? For all that she takes pride in being so unconventional, if there is no consequences for her behavior, and I don’t believe we’ve seen any so far, then doesn’t that kind of negate any “points” she get for being so different?

      And that hint at the end about what she may or may not have done in her past – it’s enough that we have an intelligent and outspoken heroine. I do not need her to be superwoman too.

      • Caz Owens
        Caz Owens January 12, 2017 at 6:52 am - Reply

        I suspect she wouldn’t have been so well received everywhere, although the argument can be made in this book that an artists’ commune wasn’t exactly super respectable either so DR can get away with Veronica having no trouble there. But – she and Stoker are quite openly living together; we know it’s platonic (dammit!) but everyone else presumably thinks they’re at it like bunnies, so that would pose a huge problem in wider society, too, I’d imagine. If Ms. Raybourn keeps her stories away from the top tiers of society, she might get away with it though.

        And yes, I had to roll my eyes a bit at that final revelation. Maybe DR realised she’d given Stoker all the interesting back story and personality traits and thought she’d better give Veronica something to match.

  4. Blackjack January 10, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to reading it!

  5. LinnieGayl Kimmel
    LinnieGayl Kimmel January 11, 2017 at 9:08 am - Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed this as well and would probably also give it a B+; not quite a DIK but pretty close. And I so wish the next in the series was already out!

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