So… I have been in a bit of a slump. Blame it on the weather (what is this hellfire?!), blame it on work/wedding stress, blame it on a lackluster current book (RTC, but still not sure what the hype is for These Violent Delights…) but I have not had the inclination to sit down and do what normally brings me so much joy – write about amazing books. Thankfully, I belatedly remembered that I never reviewed An Unexpected Peril by Deanne Raybourn, book six of the spectacular Veronica Speedwell series. I have reviewed a couple of books in this series, most recently reviewing book 5 last year, and this installation was just as amazing as the rest. So thank you Raybourn for inspiring me to write again – I anxiously await book 7 (no pressure!) Without further ado…
From the Publisher:
A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.
January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.
Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her.
What I Loved:
- The Premise. Veronica Speedwell is the illegitimate daughter of the future king of England, and in An Unexpected Peril, Veronica gets to pretend to be the Gisela princess of Alpenwald. And of course, Veronica nails it. She is a natural, and wonders what it would be like to be a princess. I loved the level of humanity this brought to Veronica, who is often a bit aloof when it comes to her family legacy. I loved the familial between the Alpenwald princess and the British royals, and the scenes between Gisela and Veronica were the most fun. This was one of the best ways to show how Veronica would be if she got to live her legacy, and I can completely picture Raybourn tying this book into future ones if Veronica ever meets the rest of her family for real.
- Veronica’s Self-Awareness. I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I loved how Veronica had intense moments of self awareness in An Unexpected Peril. Veronica is an independent, worldly, restless woman, and I empathized a lot with her internal struggle that she may get bored, or that something has fundamentally changed since she has fallen in love. Other readers saw this as cold and unfair to Stoker, but I think that Veronica being honest with herself is more fair and healthier for their relationship in the long run. Also, Stoker can handle Veronica’s ups and downs.
- The Political Intrigue. One of my favorite themes of the Veronica Speedwell series is the politicking that constantly occurs, both at the forefront and in the background. This installation was no exception, and now it included different countries. I loved Alpenwald and its relationship to England, the ever-present threat of France and Germany, and the back door treaties and elbow rubbing. Veronica got to sit front and center and deal with an international incident. Gold.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
- The Pace. Unfortunately, the Veronica Speedwell fandom has become a bit spoiled. Each installation has been more and more adventure-filled, and now we have An Unexpected Peril, which solely takes place in London with mostly political dangers instead of life and death adventures. While I enjoyed it a lot, this installation occasionally dragged, particularly in the middle.
- Lack of Veronica and Stoker. Don’t get me wrong, Veronica and Stoker had a lot of page time. However, they didn’t get a lot of them time. All of their interactions were fun, quippy, and with an undercurrent of love. They are one of my favorite book couples. And yet here, they spent the entire book solving other peoples’ problems and not nearly enough time with just Stoker and Veronica alone. I think, like a lot of fans, I was hoping that now Veronica and Stoker are officially an item, we would see them being adorable (or sexy) together more, instead of just hearing about their relationship. TL/DR, the Stoker/Veronica relationship was too tell and not show here.
God, I love the Veronica Speedwell series. I find it hard to stay objective when it comes to a historical fiction/cozy mystery/feminist lit crossover, but it is safe to say that this series is top notch. Even though An Unexpected Peril was not the strongest book in the series by far, I still recommend it over many other books that have come out recently. Four waves out of five! If you haven’t started the Veronica Speedwell series, I highly, highly recommend reading book one, A Curious Beginning. Pick up your copy of A Curious Beginning here, and if you ARE up on this series, get your copy of An Unexpected Peril here!