A Victorian mystery series about “a natural historian with a specialty in lepidoptery which makes her a butterfly hunter and world traveler who is always up for adventure.”
Veronica Speedwell is a free-spirited lepidopterist (one who studies or collects butterflies) who always gets thrust into adventures with Stoker, a taxidermist ( one who preserves animal’s bodies).
First things first, I had to google a lot of words while reading this series. Well at least, my vocabulary has become more enriched because of this series!
The Strong Points
The books have all a Shelock Holmes vibe to them, with each book based on a different crime. There is a lot of initial mystery regarding Veronica and Stoker’s past life. Although much of it has been resolved, a few questions are yet to be answered. Veronica and Stoker are natural historians, but they might as well be detectives with how they easily get embroiled into solving criminal cases.
Veronica is an extraordinary heroine. She is quite advanced for her era, and abhors all things domestic, marriage and children. She’s intent on traveling the world and finding more adventures. a headstrong, straightforward intelligent and adventurous girl, quite advanced for the era. She is not afraid to admit about having had sex with men. She reminds me a lot of Brennan from Bones.
Stoker is reserved, broody, smart, impulsive and a slightly damaged. He has a scarred face from an encounter in the wild with a jaguar. The mental scars from his family and ex-wife, though, are the most damaging. He’s my kind of hero. His evolution from the recluse resigned to his fate, to the gentleman slowly finding his feet back in the society, over the series, was a delight to read!
We start off with Veronica and Stoker being reluctant companions, then see them develop into work partners, then to close friends and ultimately to something more. I loved both of them together. While they are quite similar in terms of their profession, intelligence, love for adventure and of course family secrets, they’re also very different. Veronica loves provoking and teasing Stoker who is an easy victim.
Stoker starts off as a disgruntled man, expecting Veronica to be disgusted by him. But she, being the mischievous and frank girl she is, has no qualms in expressing her attraction towards him. It’s him who blushes at her initiating talks of sexual encounters! Their teasing and bantering eventually turns into a defense mechanism whenever things too get intense between them. It was their relationship more than anything else that had me turning the pages.
Both Veronica and Stoker have deep secrets. We learn about Veronica’s birth secrets and family ties quite early in the series, but Stoker’s is a more complex story with many layers. He’s been burned in love. While Veronica has never been in love, she and Stoke share a kindred spirit. Each of them grew up thinking that it was them versus the world. It was amazing to see them slowly open up to each other about their scars and bond even more over it.
One thing that bothered me in the first book was the nonchalance of both Veronica and Stoker in taking lives of animals. But as the series went on, I was pleased to see a change in temperament for both of them. I went into this series for the mystery, but stayed because of the characters.
This series is supposed to have 5 books, with the final book being scheduled for next year. I’m already excited with the clues we have gotten about the next book. Hope it ends with a bang!
Below are my mini-reviews of the books with their ratings!
A Curious Beginning: ★★★★☆
I wasn’t very drawn towards the mystery in the first book and rather was more interested in Stoker and Veronica’s equation. The start was alright but it was the introduction of Stoker’s mysterious personality that won me over. There were circus hijinks and attempts at abduction. I liked the ending too.
A Perilous Undertaking: ★★★★★
I liked the second book the best in terms of a being satisfied with both the case and the progression of the overall. I think it’s my favorite because I liked the case and it was the strongest in terms of characters introduced in relation to the crime.
A Treacherous Curse: ★★★★☆
We finally got a case which gave us the answers to all our questions about Stoker’s past. This book would’ve been my favorite if not for the ending. I wasn’t satisfied with the explanations and resolution in the end.
A Dangerous Collaboration: ★★★★☆
This one had the weakest case in my opinion. But the progression of the relationship between Stoker and Veronica was the most satisfactory. We finally see a reversal with Stoker being the one playing games and provoking Veronica instead of the usual opposite.