A Curious Beginning

A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Review by Michele Bolay

Are you like me? Have you been missing the Amelia Peabody mysteries by the late, great Elizabeth Peters? Well, Raybourn’s newest mystery may just help fill that Peabody-shaped hole in your heart. Whip-smart, opinionated, forward-thinking, fearless heroine? Check. Irascible, worldly, talented, clever, sexy hero? Check. Victorian-era mystery enhanced by travel, adventure, science, danger, humor, and romantic tension? Check.

When Veronica Speedwell’s final living relative dies (or so she thinks), she doesn’t waste time or opportunity and sets out to travel the world pursuing her favorite hobby (collecting and classifying rare butterflies) and her second favorite hobby (no-strings-attached romantic dalliances). After someone ransacks her home, Veronica has a chance encounter — or is it? — with a mysterious but kindly baron, derailing her plans.

The meeting sets in motion a string of events. This sees Veronica thrown together with Stoker, a reclusive but intriguing scientist. Stoker is suspected when the baron is found murdered. He and Veronica must go on the run and join forces to clear his name and to solve the mysteries of her past.

A Perilous Undertaking, the second installment in the series,  set to be published next year. I can’t wait!

Check availability on A Curious Beginning

About the reviewer: A few years ago, Michele was lucky enough to attend a panel lecture with Deanna Raybourn and meet her. She is not only every bit as gorgeous as her author photo, she is also incredibly smart and funny. If you get the chance to hear her speak, take it!

Michele loves mysteries but, paradoxically, hates puzzles. Go figure.

A Reliable Wife

A Reliable WifeA Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

 

Review by Kate Boyle 

A fascinating, unexpected debut novel that examines the dark nature of humanity in the face of illness and loneliness. The book describes the rich landscape of 1907 Wisconsin and delves into how the harsh winters can affect the people of a small isolated town. Imagine Ralph Truitt’s surprise when Catherine Land steps off the train. Ralph, the wealthiest man in town, has placed an ad in the newspaper for “A Reliable Wife” and Catherine does not match the photograph she sent.

The book chronicles the uneasy start of Catherine and Ralph’s marriage. The reader comes to find that Catherine’s certainly not the pure, faithful woman she claims to be. Ralph, too, proves more than he appeared at first sight and encourages Catherine to help him locate his estranged son. The story escalates when Catherine begins to slowly poison her husband, allowing the reader to gain insight to the tortured thoughts of a conflicted woman. Continue reading

Book of Ages by Jill Lepore

book of agesReview by Abby Shelton

“Sorrows rolled upon Jane Franklin like waves of the sea. She left in their wake these gifts, her remains: needles and pens, letters and books, politics and opinions, this history, this archive, a quiet story of a quiet life of quiet sorry and quieter beauty.” (267)

In Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, historian Jill Lepore uses these items, mentioned above, to explore the life of Benjamin Franklin’s little-known younger sister, Jane. Although Jane’s effects are few, Lepore crafts an evocative and imaginative narrative of Jane’s life. Born the youngest of seventeen children in 1712, Jane learned to read and write from her brother Benjamin and would correspond with him for the rest of his life. She married a poor saddler at age fifteen and would have twelve children. She recorded these children’s birth and death dates in her small and homemade Book of Ages as a way of recording her lineage. Lepore explains that Jane lived a relatively ordinary life as a wife and mother and when she died in 1794. Jane left behind only a few effects. Continue reading