Tag: Deanna Raybourn

Review – An Impossible Impostor

Posted January 12, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – An Impossible Impostor

The Impossible Impostor

by Deanna Raybourn

Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 336
Series: Veronica Speedwell #7
Rating: two-stars

London, 1889. Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian beau Stoker are summoned by Sir Hugo Montgomerie, head of Special Branch. He has a personal request on behalf of his goddaughter, Euphemia Hathaway. After years of traveling the world, her eldest brother, Jonathan, heir to Hathaway Hall, was believed to have been killed in the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa a few years before.

But now a man matching Jonathan's description and carrying his possessions has arrived at Hathaway Hall with no memory of his identity or where he has been. Could this man truly be Jonathan, back from the dead? Or is he a devious impostor, determined to gain ownership over the family's most valuable possessions--a legendary parure of priceless Rajasthani jewels? It's a delicate situation, and Veronica is Sir Hugo's only hope.

Veronica and Stoker agree to go to Hathaway Hall to covertly investigate the mysterious amnesiac. Veronica is soon shocked to find herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. To help Sir Hugo discover the truth, she must open doors to her own history that she long believed to be shut for good.

I normally race through Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell books, but The Impossible Impostor threw me for a loop. It makes sense that a means was needed to keep Stoker and Veronica’s relationship off-balance, rather than have them settle into anything too blissful… but I wish it wasn’t done via lack of communication and, well, all of this.

It’s not that it’s too surprising that Veronica’s past includes a guy like Spenlove, or that she might even have ended up in that particular sort of relationship with him (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here). But the total lack of communication with Stoker — knowing the cost if the details come out — just… argh. And I didn’t feel that Stoker’s responses to it were entirely consistent.

Anyway, I ended up half-skimming this one, so I would be aware of plot points and important conversations, without being too invested in it. That way, I can give the next book (which someone else has assured me they like better) a try.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – An Unexpected Peril

Posted September 8, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of An Unexpected Peril by Deanna RaybournAn Unexpected Peril, Deanna Raybourn

If this was just any book, I might rate it a little higher, given that I tore through it in three sittings, and would eagerly have done so in one. But because it’s a book in this series, I have to compare it in my mind to the other mysteries, and I don’t think it quite matched up.

The thing that bothered me, really, was that Stoker really doesn’t want to be dragged into the mystery, and yet Veronica insists she knows what’s good for him, dragging him into danger again and again. That’s been the case for a while now, but in this book he genuinely didn’t seem that intrigued or happy to be dragged into a mystery. His worries about Veronica and her need for adventure rang very true, while Veronica just steamed ahead pulling him with her into any mess she could conceivably manage to traipse through.

However, the danger didn’t seem nearly as real in the other books, and the way they stumble out of the final danger just felt so unbelievably convenient and contrived. It took the whole book to get there, and they’re barely in trouble for a chapter before it’s all fixed up — and most of the time they are in trouble, they spend it having a lovers’ tiff.

This all sounds very critical, but I gulped this book down. The pace starts a little slow, but the mysteries are tantalising enough to drag you into it — and there is some genuine pathos and a little character development, mostly toward the end. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s good fun; it’s just not the best.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – A Murderous Relation

Posted June 8, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of A Murderous Relation by Deanna RaybournMurderous Relation, Deanna Raybourn

This review is inevitably spoilery for certain things, so look away now if you want to be unspoiled — I couldn’t think of a way to comment on some of this book without spoilers.

I was wondering what Raybourn would do now that the will-they-won’t-they potential should, in theory, be over with after the ending of the last book. Turns out, it’s actually “go straight into another book with very little time difference, meaning they haven’t had chance to consummate their relationship… and they’ll dither for another book about whether they’re going to do it or not”. Granted, that does give her chance for a good payoff scene near the end which is everything you need for the couple getting together; anything else might have felt a bit flat.

In the meantime, the plot goes ahead and entangles Veronica further with the Royal Family and even Jack the Ripper (of course, given the era). It barrels along at a cracking pace, of course, with some anxious moments for certain characters, and the inevitable emotional complexities of Veronica’s every interaction with any member of her family. I enjoyed it a lot, and raced through the book.

I don’t know if maybe the shine isn’t wearing off a little on this series for me, though. Not because the main characters are together, but just because it’s ever more unrealistic for Veronica to be this deeply entangled in the Royal Family’s affairs, and this trusted to untangle them without question… without much payoff, on her part. I kind of want her and Stoker to tell ’em to sod off, and ride off into the sunset. Somewhere that Veronica can catch butterflies and also screw Stoker silly on the regular, since that’s what she really wants.

Not that I’m stopping reading the series in the least — it’s highly entertaining. but I hope Veronica gets some payoff for her tireless efforts on the behalf of a family who regard her existence as an embarrassment and will never give her any official recognition whatsoever.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted May 6, 2021 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Well, folks, it’s been a while! I’m still really tired and not quite sure about what I want out of blogging and reviewing, but I am working on sorting out my review backlog and trying again. I seem to say this all the time, though.

How’s it going?

In any case, I thought I’d do the weekly reading update this week, since I’ve written it up for Pillowfort!

Cover of Snowball in a Blizzard by Steven HatchWhat are you currently reading?

Non-fiction: The Invention of Murder, by Judith Flanders, and A Snowball in a Blizzard, by Steve Hatch. The former is a discussion of how murder stories in all branches of entertainment (tabloid newspapers, ballads, novels, plays, poems, etc) developed during the Victorian period, and is fairly dense but enjoyable. The latter is a discussion of uncertainty in medicine and how important it is to understand that most things in modern medicine are not certainties but are instead what we hope for based on the balance of the evidence — for example, digging into the fact that screening mammography actually probably does more harm than good in a large demographic.

Fiction: A Murderous Relation, by Deanna Raybourn, and The Library of the Death, by T.L. Huchu. The former is ticking along great: maybe a bit less compulsive and attention-grabbing for me than some of the previous books in the series, but fun. The latter… I’m not yet clicking with the narrative voice, but I’m not very far in and haven’t got a good feel for the setting yet (e.g. how magic is viewed within the story).

Cover of White Bread by Aaron Bobrow-StrainWhat have you recently finished reading?

I’m having trouble calling to mind what the last fiction book I read was, which is not a great sign for whatever book it was, but I think it’s mostly that I’m kind of in a non-fiction mood. The last non-fiction book I finished was White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, which was actually recommended for me by someone else on Pillowfort who likes this kind of non-fiction, and which I really enjoyed. I’d love to read a blog post or review that relates the themes surrounding white/brown bread in the US to the situation in the UK, which I’m sure shares many similarities and some differences. It’s amazing how the stuff we take for granted can open up huge topics — not just healthy eating but racism and issues of class. I love it.

Cover of What it Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka ArimahWhat will you be reading next?

As usual, I don’t have a very strong idea. Next month’s choice for the book club I run on Habitica is What it Means When A Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, so I should probably pick that up… or I’m being very tempted by the third book in Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, or a few potential rereads, or… there are so many options.

What are you currently reading?

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Review – A Dangerous Collaboration

Posted August 30, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna RaybournA Dangerous Collaboration, Deanna Raybourn

A Dangerous Collaboration is the fourth outing in the Veronica Speedwell series, and is much like the other books: a quick, fun, fairly anachronistic read which somehow still manages to sink its claws into me and make me desperate to read more. Veronica and Stoker continue to be absolute soulmates, and the obvious romantic arc continues beautifully here… though we also get to see more of Stoker’s elder brother, Tiberius, and what really moves him.

(The bit about their obvious romantic arc is not to say that I don’t wish they could’ve remained platonic. Reading Veronica as aromantic would make a lot of sense with some of her previous statements and dalliances, and it’s always kind of cool to read something where a man and a woman can just be friends. That said, Deanna Raybourn was obviously going to go there, so it’s misplaced to fret about wishing it’d steer away from the romance!)

The setting is fun as well, being relatively constrained. No dashing about London here, but instead an exploration of an old castle on an island, and the old mystery of a young bride who disappeared on her wedding day a few years before. I’ll admit I kind of called it, for no reason other than a kneejerk reaction, because I immediately suspected a character so ubiquitous and *nice* sounding.

It’ll be interesting to see how the events at the end of the book impact the next. I’m hoping it isn’t bloody Jack the Ripper, though. That would be a cliché too far for me, most likely… though who knows? I practically eat these books up with a spoon; it’ll take something egregious to shake me.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 26, 2020 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

Keeping it quiet for another week and just posting here and not going round other blogs in the link roundup… but looking forward to hearing what blog regulars are reading!

Cover of A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna RaybournWhat are you currently reading?

I decided I wanted something light and fun, so I’m reading Deanna Raybourn’s A Dangerous Collaboration. I normally tear through these because I can read great big chunks at a time, and so it is proving this time.

Mind you, Skyrim is really distracting, or I’d probably have finished it already…

Cover of The Secret Life of Bones by Brian SwitekWhat have you recently finished reading?

Last thing I read was Brian Switek’s The Secret Life of Bones. He’s primarily known for his enthusiasm about dinosaurs, but this is actually largely about human bones. Other species come into it for illustrative purposes, and a good broad sweep of evolutionary history is discussed to explain how bones in general developed… but mostly it is about human bone. I enjoyed it.

What will you be reading next?

I’m gonna go with “goodness knows”, again. I just spent a birthday cheque from my grandma on a couple more birthday books… and there’s some library books… and books I fancy rereading. So I’ll just go “as my Whimsy takes me”, as ever.

What are you reading?

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Review – A Treacherous Curse

Posted April 25, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna RaybournA Treacherous Curse, Deanna Raybourn

In their third outing, Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (better known simply as Stoker) have to unravel the mystery of a mummy’s curse, to salvage what’s left of Stoker’s reputation. That means hunting for the man who stole Stoker’s wife, dealing with said wife (who turns out to be a real piece of work, the clues about which I felt like I’d missed), and figuring out what exactly is going wrong with the exhibition of the funerary goods of an Egyptian princess. As with the previous two books, it’s a lot of fun, and I read it almost in one go.

The main draw for me is Veronica and Stoker’s relationship. They’re delightfully volatile, and yet you know it’s because they’re alike and are good for one another. Veronica’s unbelievable, of course, but taking that as read I just relax into it. Of course she can do more or less anything, and faces very little censure. Why not? Anyway, now these books are very much about the will-they-won’t-they for me, and I can’t say they made as much progress as I hoped — though at least more of Stoker’s past has been revealed!

The mystery was fun enough; I can’t resist a bit of Egyptological jiggery-pokery, I have to confess. I did work things out ahead of the reveals, in most cases, but it still worked for me. It’s not about the result, but how you get there, and Veronica and Stoker do it in style.

Rating: 4/5

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