I received A Treacherous Curse from Penguin’s First to Read program ages ago, and slacked on writing a review about it because so much went on and law school got horribly in the way. Suffice to say, I am obsessed with this series. Before I had this blog, I had the pleasure of reviewing the first book in this series, A Curious Beginning, so honestly there’s no excuse for my tardiness.
From the publisher:
London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.
His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.
But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.
Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .
First of all, Raybourn is an expert of the period piece. She ties in all of these elements from late 19th century UK that I love, like the colonial aspects of the time and the fad of Egyptian expeditions and mummy viewing parties (yes, they were a thing). Even the relationship between Veronica and Stoker echoes the time, with Stoker’s stiff reserve and feeling of ridicule in the face of high society very apt. The only thing out of place is Veronica’s plucky, independent nature, but her character is well-written and the characters around her are in keeping with the period enough that you don’t have to suspend your disbelief all that much.
I would say the best thing about this series is definitely the characters and their interactions. While Veronica does come dangerously close to the stereotypical woman ahead of her time, semi-floozyish lady detective, Raybourn expertly navigates away from much of the trope, showing Veronica instead as a strong and independent woman that enjoys flirtations and acknowledges her own sexual identity without sleeping around. Stoker is a little more in the mold of brooding and handsome leading man with a dark past, but he too breaks the mold, with this book exploring Stoker’s past marriage, the pain he carries, and the betrayal of a best friend.
Veronica and Stoker’s friendship is what carries the reader from book to book, even when the mystery suffers a little in the middle from stodginess or convolution. One of the best lines in the book is from Veronica to Stoker:
Because there is no power on earth that could make me abandon our friendship. There is no deed you could confess so dark that it would make me forsake you. You said of us once that we were quicksilver and the rest of the world mud. We are alike, shaped by Nature in the same mold, and whatever that signifies, it means that to spurn each other would be to spit in the face of whatever deity has seen fit to bring us together. We are the same, and to leave you would be to leave myself.
Geez, that tugs at the heartstrings. Despite some ups and downs and miscommunications that are almost comically Pride and Prejudice-esque, you can always count on Veronica and Stoker to pull through. Do I want there to be a romance? Abso-friggin-lutely. However, their friendship and sleuthing partnership is worth the read.
As I mentioned above, the mystery plot does suffer from some sagging in the middle, and Veronica’s heritage interspersed in the background feels thrown in at times. This doesn’t take away from reading nearly enough for me to detract points for that.
For fans of period pieces, strong heroines, cozy and not-so-cozy mysteries, or all of the above, I highly recommend, along with the rest of the series. Four waves, and a great series to binge read on Spring Break. Pick this one up before book four, A Dangerous Collaboration, comes out on March 12, 2019!
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