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Veronica Speedwell #2

A Perilous Undertaking

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London, 1887. At the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task--saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Ramsforth, accused of the brutal murder of his mistress, Artemisia, will face the hangman's noose in a week's time if the real killer is not found.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural-historian colleague, Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer. From a Bohemian artists' colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed....

345 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 10, 2017

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About the author

Deanna Raybourn

33 books7,407 followers
New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn is a 6th-generation native Texan. She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Raybourn makes her home in Virginia. Her novels have been nominated for numerous awards including two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, the Agatha, two Dilys Winns, a Last Laugh, three du Mauriers, and most recently the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She launched a new Victorian mystery series with the 2015 release of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, featuring intrepid butterfly-hunter and amateur sleuth, Veronica Speedwell. Veronica has returned in several more adventures, most recently AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTOR, book seven, which released in early 2022. Deanna's first contemporary novel, KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE, about four female assassins on the cusp of retirement publishes in September 2022. (Please note: Deanna is not active on GR.)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,523 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,486 reviews79.1k followers
September 24, 2022
I'm kicking myself for not giving this series a chance sooner. No really, I'm not a huge reader of historical fiction, but the fact that Deanna Raybourn has effortlessly blended aspects of the Victorian era with humor that transcends any decade has me completely hooked. She has flawlessly created the most excellent of flawed characters and I cannot get enough of Stoker and Veronica. If you haven't read the first book in the series, A Curious Beginning yet, I would highly recommend beginning there. Throughout this novel there are major spoilers from the first book that would not only make it impossible to go back and read the first as intended, but also cause you to be rather confused during this story.

We pick up not long after the end of book one in this installment-Stoker and Veronica have chartered an exploration that gets temporarily benched, as their benefactor has become injured in the most hilarious of ways. Never fear though, our dynamic duo is once again pulled in as amateur investigators in the implication of the wrong man for a murder amongst the members of high class society. They are called to find the correct murderer but have limitations on how they can do their job, both from the person who has hired them and the police. What follows is a rip-roaring riot of fun, action, chase scenes, and of course Veronica and Stoker's witty banter and budding romance. These books are perfect for the reader who enjoys a lighter mystery and likes substantial comic relief with a touch of romance and emotion to boot.

I don't like to write long reviews of sequels, and dislike even more touching on the plot specifics, but I just have to add how much I enjoyed the little snippet of background we receive on Stoker and his childhood. Raybourn knows just how to write each scene in perfect balance of snappy humor and genuine "touchy feelies". I know historical fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy novels that have a little bit of everything, without the language feeling too lofty or antiquated, I implore you to give this series a try. You may find yourself as surprised as I was to have added a new favorite lighter crime series to your TBR. Highly recommended and dreading that I'll finally be caught up with the next book; I'm not excited about having to wait almost a year for the fourth installment! ;)

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy.

Buddy read with my sister Irina!
Profile Image for Riley.
429 reviews21.7k followers
December 9, 2021
amazing re-read!! this series is the best
this quote had me smiling so much <3
"You are worth a thousand of them Veronica."

the slow burn of veronica and stoker's relationship is everything

okay I rarely read books in the same series back to back but I am loving this one so much I really don't want to read anything else. I could read 20 of these books and it still wouldn't be enough
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
676 reviews6,924 followers
May 19, 2023
April 2023: 4.5⭐️
Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/MrU2exNWEJA

"No, I am better than a husband. I am your friend."Bury me with this line. The asexual/aromantic in me is screeching into the sun. I adore them. Simply and truly, I can't imagine a reading-life where they haven't taken complete advantage of. Do yourself a favor and become acquainted with these two hooligans.

January 2022: 4⭐️
Reading Vlog: https://youtu.be/2vf4HqIG5z4

I am officially obsessed. This is filling every bit of my heart that was gutted by Miss Fischer's Murder Mysteries ending. If you liked that show, PLEASE read these books. It's so similar but they actually have smut moments. There is tension and it is so damn GOOD!
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,547 followers
February 4, 2020
“When I most had need of you, you did not leave me. Whatever this thing is that makes us different, this thing that makes quicksilver of us when the rest of the world is mud, it binds us. To break that would be to fly in the face of nature.”

I had fun reading this 2nd volume from Veronica Speedwell series despite its several plot flaws and over the top characters and situations.

Veronica is a Victorian adventuress, a lapidopterist and an amateur murder investigator. Together with natural history expert and partner, Stoker, she embarks in a new mystery that will take them even closer to peril than the previous novel.

I like Veronica's humor and the witty banter between her and Stoker. I like that she is and experienced lover, she is not afraid of men but in the same time I am annoyed how she thinks carnally of almost every male she encounters. I do enjoy the mystery and some of the characters are interesting, it is a fast pace adventure story.

What I did not like is Veronica's exaggerated independence, it is unrealistic for the period. Also, I think the romance part takes too much space and it makes the mystery part less important.

I will continue with the series when I will fell the need for a quick, easy candyfloss mystery with romance included.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,645 reviews1,512 followers
February 7, 2017
Or my title A lepidopterist and taxidermist and the case of the dirty sex club

Historical Detective stories aren’t my normal reading but I ran into Veronica Speedwell last year and found her scientific examination of the world fascinating and funny at times. Plus there was Stoker a very broody and broken man reminiscent of Pirate with eye patch and tattoos, a cast out of friendly society after his adventures abroad. The two of them together teamed up for a fun adventure in a Curious Beginning.

The first book of this series was a lot of fun. Veronica is definitely a character and she is incredibly funny and frustrating to certain people at times. In this book we get to delve deeper into both her family background and Stokers. In a lot of ways they have much in common on that front along with their scientific predilections you can see why they work together so well.

I found the sexual tension between them a little delicious but I’m hoping that it doesn’t take too many more books for it to blossom into more as I think they are perfect for each other even if it would break Veronica’s rules if she were to sleep with an Englishman especially while in England.

I also enjoyed some fun side characters in the form of a little old Lady Wellington that has come to stay with their Lord Benefactor. She is hilarious and says what she wants when she wants. I loved her immediately.
“Have I shocked you? Remember I was born in a different time, Miss Speedwell. Virginity is Queen Victoria’s legacy. The rest of us are not quite so blinkered,” she told me. “Take my advice and get rid of yours as fast as you can.”
I briefly toyed with the notion of telling her I had discarded mine on a hillside in Switzerland during a very pleasant interlude some seven years past.
“And if you’ve any sense, you will hand it to him,” she added with a meaningful glance down the table towards Stoker, who was shouting remarks into Mr. Baring-Ponsonby’s ear trumpet.
Just at that moment, Stoker turned, his gaze curious. “What are you two talking about? You look quite flushed.”
“We were discussing horseflesh,” Lady Wellingtonia said. “And how difficult it can be to find a good mount.”
His response was sweetly naïve. “If you need a recommendation, I know a fellow or two.”

Oh, I desperately want them to hook up and fall in love. But alas I think there are some books to go on that even if there was some extremely funny situational comedy involving dildos and a ‘love chair’ at the historical equivalent of a sex club. Reading Stoker blush at such a place while Veronica was all semi-innocent scientific curiosity was hilarious.
“There is no sociology here,” Stoker corrected, his voice still tight. “These are not phalluses— at least not the sort meant for study.”
I blinked at him. “Whatever do you mean?”
He was blushing furiously. “They are . . . Oh God, I can’t even say the word.”
“What word?”
“Dil— No, I can’t. I can tell you in Greek. These are olisboi. Or if you prefer, in Spanish, consoladores.”
“Consolers? But how could they console . . . oh. Oh!” I peered at the collection in renewed interest. “So they are not for study or ceremonial use but for practical application. How very intriguing.”

Poor guy, I’m pretty sure his trousers got a little tight watching Veronica with all of those objects of pleasure around.

The mystery of who killed Artemisia was a pretty good one. I liked the process of eliminating the possible suspects and I did guess who the real killer was kind of early on but not the how and why of it. Even thinking I knew did not detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

The banter between Veronica and Stoker is also just a good time. They are truly perfect together and know each other for exactly who they are. Right now they are best friends and you can tell that at all times. Veronica does have quite the soft spot for him even when she is tormenting him.
The young man looked to me, and it seemed an appeal. I stepped forward to pour oil upon the troubled waters. “Pay no mind to Stoker. He is in a frightful temper, but I am afraid that is often his mood, so there is little point in waiting for a better one. Won’t you come in?”

This was a pretty good second story to a series and I did enjoy most of it. I’m hoping that this isn’t like a TV detective series where it takes the couple seven episodes to hook up *cough*Bones*cough*Castle*cough*. I enjoy this little diversion into the past with an amateur Lady Detective and her accomplice a lot and so I’ll continue with the series gladly to see what other trouble they can conjure up.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
512 reviews3,474 followers
January 27, 2019
This series is so much fun! I absolutely love Veronica and Stoker. I think the sequel was a bit better than the first book and I enjoyed the plot more. I sincerely look forward to reading the next book.

I think part of the excitement of reading this series is that I very randomly found it based on the cover and decided to read it. I didn't even read a synopsis before starting the first one. It reminds me of the days when I would wander the library and B&N picking up random books to read.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,937 reviews797 followers
August 1, 2017
A Perilous Undertaking is a sequel to A Curious Beginning, but this book can read as a stand-alone. Though I do think it could be practical to read the first book to really get to know the characters since Veronica Speedwell, well she has an interesting family situation.

In this book, we get a deeper insight into both Veronica and Stoker's families. And, we finally learn why Stoker doesn't want to have anything to do with his family. Veronica meets a relative. However, she knows that the one person she really wants to see can she never met. I do hope that one day they will be able to meet, to be honest.

The case was interesting, however, the conclusion felt a bit like a letdown. I guess I just wanted a more shocking conclusion to the case. This felt like a very "proper" case ending. If the ending had been a bit more intriguing and intense would I perhaps have enjoyed it better. However, I did enjoy the progress of the book, the investigation into who murdered Artemisia. Veronica and Stoker are a great team and it will be interesting to see how this "relationship" will progress.

There are so many funny scenes in this book that left me smiling. Veronica may now and then seem a bit too modern for the setting, but I can't help but to adore her. She is refreshingly frank. And of course, stoker as well, especially when he gets embarrassed.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy for an honest review!
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
3,002 reviews1,649 followers
June 15, 2021
This is second in a series and character and story arcs continue from the first. So I definitely recommend reading in order.

Having read the first, you know more or less what to expect. And Raybourn delivers, for the most part. I love Veronica and Stoker's banter and their growing trust. And though both have rather modern ideas about things like conservation and the evils of hunting (and guns overall, really) Raybourn takes pain to support those with emotionally resonant foundations.

What doesn't work quite so well is the plot of this one. Okay, the plot works fine as a plot. But it was nowhere near as engaging as the first book, probably because it isn't as personal to either of our protagonists. Yeah, Veronica is tasked with investigating a murder and her relationship with her "family" is at the heart of that request. But it's still rather removed and with significantly lower stakes (for our heroes, if not for those murdered or accused of murder).

Also, did we really need the drug scenes? Yeah, opium and cocaine are both topical for the time period, and at least Raybourn doesn't glamorize anything. But there was also no room for the depth buried under those topics for the time period, either, so it was still kind of surface and didn't serve enough of a plot purpose to justify its presence, either. All of which makes it seem bigger than it really is, so please don't take this as a substantial knock on the story. It just grated on me enough to want to tag it in a review.

Anyway, this was still a good story and I just love the interactions between Stoker and Veronica. So this is still a solid four stars and I'm still interested in picking up the next, particularly if I can find it in my library (where I found this one).

A note about Chaste: Parts of the plots of this one are the debauchery of the nobility, so there are discussions of orgies and sex and folks getting up to nekkid shenanigans. And some of the scenes are set in a "grotto" that was themed for sex. So there are phalluses and bawdy lamps and frank talk of sex. But there's no explicit sex at all in the story. That still counts as chaste to me, but I'm likely an outlier on that one.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,840 followers
March 5, 2020
veronica and stoker stop being insufferably arrogant and proclaim your undying love for each other challenge

this series literally has me by the throat fkldsjflds and i don't know how to put into words the emotions it put me through but i stayed up very late in order to finish reading it and i think that's what true love looks like

anyways review to come but in the mean time i'll just be sitting here screaming for the next book bc i need to binge these books badly (we'll suffer the consequences of finishing them all later)

4.5 stars!
Profile Image for Mei.
1,882 reviews424 followers
February 7, 2017
I liked this second book less than the first. Not because if was bad, but because I was expecting much more!

Yeah, I know, I know...

Anythow, the book is interesting, sometimes fun and not at all TSTL moments in it!

I liked the characters too, most of all Lady Wellingtonia! WOW, what a dragon-lady!

There're a ton of hints of a case of lust/attraction between Stoker and Veronica, but nothing really comes out of it .

The mistery is interesing and convoluted. It starts slowly, with little clues, but, as the story progresses, it becomes more and more intriguing! The culprit is a realy surprise!

Also in this book, both Veronica and Stoker keep their secrets, but we find out more about Stoker's than Veronica's, even if her biggest one came out in the last book! And she still resents her natual father's whole family for not acknowledging her in any way, but at the same time she knows that that's a really impossibility!

I'm still looking forward to the next book in the series!
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews1,013 followers
January 3, 2017
Originally reviewed here @ Angieville

I decided to start off the year with a read I felt was sure to satisfy. That's the space I'm occupying right now, guys. I need something new and I need something that's going to just make it right. Tall order, I know. But I've been a fan of the first Veronica Speedwell mystery for awhile now, and I was definitely eager to rejoin Veronica and Stoker's company to see what adventure they might find next. Deanna Raybourn has been my go-to author when it comes to Victorian mysteries for awhile now. Together with Sherry Thomas, Anna Lee Huber, and Laurie R. King, she brings the nuanced character development and effortless charm that I so enjoy to historical shenanigans and foul play.

Veronica Speedwell has been thwarted in her latest plans for further world exploration when her host trips over a tortoise (truly) and sustains a compound fracture, the likes of which make their journey to the South Pacific impossible for the foreseeable future. And so she and Stoker are stuck cooling their heels in the back gardens, cataloging museum items and generally trying not to get on each other's nerves. But their pasts (most definitely plural) and murder do tend to find them. Before long, Veronica has accepted a most mysterious request from a very royal source to investigate the grisly murder of a local artist and exonerate the man who is set to hang for the crime. Stoker (as per usual) is less than thrilled with Veronica's audacity on his behalf. But not so much that he isn't soon along for the ride.

A Perilous Undertaking starts off at just a cracking good pace. It was immediately excellent to be back with our intrepid leads, and I was intrigued by the ongoing exploration of Veronica's royal connection woven into this second mystery. Veronica is at her best, in my humble opinion, when she is at her most acerbic. Thus, her early interactions with both Scotland Yard and the mysterious Lady Sundridge assured me all would be well. The other genuine attraction of this series lies in the tempestuous but true relationship between Veronica and Stoker. And when it is just the two of them, things do feel right.
He shook his head. "You are mad. And I am madder still for letting you talk me into this."

I gave him a wry smile. "We will be like Arcadia Brown and her faithful sidekick, Garvin," I said, invoking our favorite literary detective. Stoker claimed not to enjoy popular fiction, but ever since I had introduced him to the lady investigator's adventures, he had devoured them while still pretending to be above such diversions.

He narrowed his gaze. "If you are expecting me to brandish a pistol and go haring off with you, crying 'Excelsior!,' you will be waiting until the crack of doom," he warned. "I am only doing this because I know there is no point in attempting to talk you out of it, and you will need someone to watch your back with a murderer on the loose."

I grinned at him and lifted my glass in salute. "It begins."

You see? And begin well it does. The problem for me arose soon after, once investigations truly got underway. Things simply . . . slowed down. Not that they weren't out and about in pursuit of their goal, but nothing truly seemed to progress. Not their relationship, not their roles within the larger picture, not the complexity of the mystery itself. I have always loved allowing mysteries to unfold in their own time, but the secret at the heart of this one was sort of glaringly obvious from the start. No matter how many players joined the fray, I knew who it was and why. And the problem wasn't so much that but the fact that they were tired reasons. In fact, so many of the elements of this jaunt felt tired to me. Every one of Stoker's actions was "lavish." Every new character on the scene remarked upon the very same set of Veronica's characteristics. Every new bit of "shocking" evidence hailed from a sort of laundry list of standard Victorian tropes. Opium den, check. Den of iniquity, check. Jealous wives, check. My dismay grew with each passing page. The thing is, we readers are already one book in at this point. We know the specific ways in which our heroine gleefully flaunts her society. We already love her for them. We do not need to be bashed over the head every other paragraph with why they make her unusual. We would like more in the way of introspection. And that is how it felt. Like all of the labels and the general exclaiming over them stood in for actual character development. Even between Veronica and Stoker, I felt cheated out of more depth. They bantered. They aided and abetted each other. But they never grew. There were a couple of moments that were clearly meant to accomplish this, but to me they felt manufactured in the extreme, particularly their timing and the way in which they were presented. I finished, but I finished disappointed on the whole. Mine is, I realize, a very personal reaction to this book. So if you enjoyed A Curious Beginning (as I very much did), you might give A Perilous Undertaking a try. It could be your cuppa.
Profile Image for Liz.
191 reviews57 followers
February 23, 2018
This is one of those books that you can just settle right into and enjoy every page. A Perilous Undertaking is the second in Raybourn’s latest series which follows Veronica Speedwell and her scientific partner/friend Stoker.

In a nutshell
Lovable characters with depths yet unexplored. Many hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments. Snappy dialogue. Well constructed mystery with an array of interesting suspects.

Veronica: Intelligent. Determined. Imperious. Sharp-tongued. Funny. Caring. Stubborn.

Stoker: Smart. Moody. Loyal. Compassionate. Stubborn.

When these two butt their stubborn heads, it’s supremely entertaining. Theirs is not a romantic relationship, although there’s room for that down the road. Raybourn writes brilliant 19th century female leads, bent on not submitting to the narrow strictures society has placed on them. Stoker is the perfect partner in her escapades, each taking turns leading the charge and backing the other up as required.

Just good fun!
Profile Image for Lena.
1,152 reviews255 followers
April 21, 2021

3rd Reread - it felt a bit slow this time around but still enjoyable.

I love these gaslight murder mysteries with a zing of passion. I am hooked!

Next month. Next book. Excelsior!

Reread one month later in audiobook!
Profile Image for Kate.
560 reviews79 followers
November 7, 2017
Unfortunately, this sophomore entry into this series falls far short of its predecessor. Here's hoping book three is a vast improvement.

2.5 stars. I am disappoint.


Finally, finally getting to read this! I hope it's as good as the first book.


Wait a minute....release date 2017?! That was scheduled for September this year!



Oh, did you ever see such a lovely cover? GAAAAAAAH.



I cannot wait to read this sequel! I got an ARC of the first one (A Curious Beginning) and I am hooked! Can we at least see a cover?


Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,478 reviews1,896 followers
December 16, 2017
That was the true measure of his character; even at the height of his irritation he would never let me fall.

I'm throwing this on the romance shelf for my own sanity. We'll get there one day. And in the meantime.. their friendship is flirty, sure, but it's also solid and true and that's romantic, okay? Fight me.

"We need to be menaced by a better class of criminal. This one cannot spell."

In some ways I think I liked A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING both more and less than book one. I actually didn't enjoy the mystery as much as the first in the Veronica Speedwell series (though I'm completely surprised by the fact that we've had a certain unmasking already) not only because I didn't enjoy some of the newly introduced characters -- we aren't supposed to, of course, yet still they annoyed me -- but also because I totally guessed the villain from the beginning.

"I can think of no finer beginning to an investigation than being threatened with bodily injury."

What did make this one better were the interactions between Veronica and Stoker. I say better but it's what I'd only describe as the kind of pain masochists enjoy. There were many a shouty-cap message to my bookies who have already read ahead (thank you ladies, thank you for holding my hand) and I foresee many more to come in book three. Their relationship, for all that we're not calling it one yet, did grow and evolve a bit. More importantly it solidified. It had moments of bitter disagreement, casual flirtation, newly learned secrets, and heartbreaking realizations. But it was also fun and felt very real.

"I don't care what bad blood there is between you, you do not get to tell me whom I see. You are not my husband!"
"No, I am better than a husband. I am your friend."

I'm hoping for a stronger emphasis on the male side of this pairing for book three, though. As much as I love Veronica's modern (for the time) voice and quirks and the family entanglements that have taken sorta-center stage for the first two installments, we need more Stoker. I want more Stoker. Please and thank you.

4 "good heavens! I have never seen so many penises in one place" stars
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,010 reviews378 followers
February 10, 2017
4.5 Stars!
The Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, likes it predecessor The Lady Julia Gray Series, has quickly become a favorite. It has absolutely everything I loved about Raybourn's Lady Julia series except for all of the March's themselves but Veronica and Stoker are quite a match for Julia and Nicholas.

The first book was so much fun and I knew I had found a new love in the series, spin off or not and with this second book, it just proves that I was not wrong in the slightest.

Full of all the things I loved about the first book, this truly was so much fun. Filled with intrigue, danger, a mystery that kept me on my toes, and Raybourn's wonderful prose and feisty women, I couldn't help but be enchanted.

This series is truly is vastly becoming a favorite and one I look forward to each new release.

*ARC copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Melki.
6,047 reviews2,390 followers
June 4, 2021
"We both know that my life is an unconventional one. I might look and speak like a lady, but my choices have placed me beyond the pale of propriety. I have traveled alone. I am unmarried. I live without a chaperone, and I work for a living. These are not the actions of a lady."

Truer words were never spoken by the unladylike, but unfailingly high-spirited, witty, and intuitive heroine in this second Veronica Speedwell adventure. Here she's been asked to solve a murder, and free an innocent man who's been sentenced to hang. Her working partner, and possible-though-not-yet love interest, Stoker, isn't keen on the idea.

"We are not investigators," he pointed out, his tone decidedly more acid. "We are natural historians."

Like the first book, this tale is filled with crackly dialogue, with the two main characters taking delightful verbal swipes at one another. I had to laugh out loud at this line:

Men, I had often observed, were never happier than when they believed they were imparting wisdom.

Let's hear it for mansplaining, and no, I'm not saying all men do it, but it sure fits my husband to a tee.

This was another fine entry in the series, and it's made me even itchier to check out number three.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
979 reviews853 followers
May 13, 2020
Another stellar ridiculous favorite, even when the plot went off the rails into insane land.

Humor: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★

This is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series, so if you haven't read the first one check it out! (My review of it here.)

Veronica Speedwell and her partner-in-detection, Stoker, are at it again with a rolicking novel filled with antiquated sexual puns, drama, no-nonsense feminism, and seriously insane antics. I LOVED IT.

In this escapade, a gentleman is charged with murder...but did he do it? From a very unlikely source, Veronica and Stoker find themselves strong-armed into the case. (But curiosity killed the cat, so they're interested in finding out the truth anyway.)

I think it's best to go into this installment with a little pre-prep as possible, as it's more fun that way. But trust me, it's hilarious.

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Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
575 reviews992 followers
December 11, 2016
A Perilous Undertaking is one of the best books I have read recently. I loved everything about it: the cover, the characters, the setting, and the plot. Veronica Speedwell and Stoker Templeton Vane make the perfect pair, sleuthing and otherwise, and are truly entertaining; they are both forward thinking, eccentric, unusual, and highly intelligent. I have not read the first in the series, but I had no trouble leaping right into this installment.

Veronica Speedwell, a Victorian-era lepidopterist (an expert on butterflies), is summoned to the Curiosity Club, an all-female club for intelligent and inquiring women. She is introduced to Lady Sundridge who engages Veronica to solve the murder of a local artist, Artemisia. Artemisia was the mistress of Miles Ramsforth, who has been accused and tried for her murder and will hang in seven days. Lady Sundridge wants Ramsforth freed and the true murdered brought to justice. Speedwell and Stoker take the case which leads them down some very winding paths including a grotto with an interesting past. Even though I predicted the murderer long before the mystery was solved, I truly enjoyed both the mystery and the resolution. A Perilous Undertaking is such a fun read.

Raybourn vividly and wittily creates each and every character. I enjoyed immensely spending time with them all and cannot wait for the next installment. She also depicts the setting so descriptively that I felt like I was in 1870’s England. That always add to my enjoyment of a book.

I loved A Perilous Undertaking and highly recommend it. Thanks to First to Read for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
May 27, 2018
I'm glad I continued with the series. Both book 2 and 3 offer well done intriguing murder mysteries. Slow boil romance between main characters and light humour add to the fun.
Profile Image for Ari.
849 reviews186 followers
January 21, 2023
If the mysteries themselves did not make these books worth the read (and they damn well do), then the hilarious banter between the characters would make them a win. I have begun to fall in love with these two.

Must. Devour. The rest. Of the series.
Profile Image for Maureen.
347 reviews83 followers
February 3, 2022
Very enjoyable series. I love the chemistry between Veronica and Stoker.
I liked how Princess Louise (Queen Victoria's daughter) makes an appearance and seeks the help of Veronica and Stoker.
We discover more about Veronica's past and Stoker's family.
Very entertaining read. A caper for Veronica and Stoker to solve before a hanging takes place.
Time is at the essence.
Fun read.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,762 reviews1,033 followers
January 6, 2017
4.5 stars.

A Perilous Undertaking
is the second book in Deanna Raybourn’s series of Victorian mysteries featuring the intrepid Veronica Speedwell, lepidopterist and lady adventurer and her friend and colleague Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, known as Stoker – the scion of a noble family from whom he ran away to join the Navy and who has since made himself a name as a natural historian.

Both characters were very well introduced in the previous book, A Curious Beginning, so while this one can be read as a standalone in terms of the mystery, readers will get a lot more out of the books if read in order, as the mystery, while entertaining, is, to my mind, secondary to the continuing development of the unconventional relationship between Veronica and Stoker. Added to this is the gradual drip-feeding of information about Stoker’s past - a past that has obviously been full of heartbreak and betrayal - which is both masterful and incredibly frustrating, as Ms. Raybourn teases us with hints without revealing all - although she does build on what we learned about him in the last book.

The same is true of Veronica. She does have her secrets, but seems generally much more straightforward. She’s intelligent, outspoken and adventurous; she has travelled widely on her lepidoptery expeditions, she’s – discreetly - taken lovers (albeit never in England and never Englishmen abroad), and at the end of the last book, was revealed to be the natural daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales. She is still coming to terms with that knowledge; she knows she will never be acknowledged, and nor does she want to be – and she is still furious at the fact that she was offered hush money (which she rejected) in exchange for never revealing the truth of her birth.

So when, at the beginning of this story she is summoned to meet with a mysterious woman who turns out to be her aunt Louise, Veronica is not best pleased. The woman is imperious, brusque and condescending, but she informs Veronica that without her help, an innocent man will shortly go to the gallows for murder. Miles Ramforth is a friend of the princess’ and he will hang for the murder of his pregnant mistress in a week’s time – but Louise knows for certain that he is not guilty and wants Veronica to prove it. Louise makes it clear that she will not reveal the reason that she is certain Miles did not commit the crime – and I admit that I rather wanted Veronica to tell Louise where to stick it, because she was obviously withholding crucial information.

Anyway. Miles and his lover were part of a well-known ‘commune’ of bohemians and artists who gather under the auspices of the famous painter, Sir Frederick Havelock at Havelock House in London (which the author based on the home of the renowned artist Sir Frederick Leighton), so it’s there that Veronica and Stoker begin their investigations. There’s absolutely no doubt that Ms. Raybourn knows how to write a rollicking mystery story which keeps twisting and turning right up until the last moment, but it’s the relationship between Veronica and Stoker - and Stoker himself, such an adorable mixture of brooding, sexy and sweet – that are the big draws for me.

The author has cleverly engaged in a bit of role reversal, with Veronica usually being the one to make a risqué comment or engage in a bit of flirtation while Stoker is the one to blush or change the subject. Veronica makes absolutely no bones about her interest in men and sex – and there is quite a lot of talk about carnal matters in the book – and it’s very clear that although she’s definitely interested in getting Stoker into bed, her “no Englishmen” rule keeps her from extending that particular invitation. Plus, there’s also the fact that neither of them has ever experienced the sort of relationship they are building between them, and neither of them wants to risk it. Ms. Raybourn does an excellent job in conveying the truth and depth of their friendship; there’s the real sense that these are two people who understand each other at an instinctual level:

“Whatever this thing is that makes us different, this thing that makes quicksilver of us when the rest of the world is mud, it binds us. To break that would be to fly in the face of nature.”

In spite of that, however, the sexual tension between them is intense and if and when they do get it together romantically, I can see them continuing just as they are in every other aspect of their lives. They are strong, fiercely intelligent characters who aren’t afraid to challenge each other and don’t give a fig for what anyone else thinks of them; they trust each other absolutely and depend on each other without being dependent on one another, if that makes any sense. They know the other is there for them; they don’t need each other precisely, but they both recognise that their life is richer and more complete now they’ve found each other.

Those are all the really good things about the book. But there are a few things that bugged me enough to make me lower my final grade a bit. In my review of A Curious Beginning, I said of Veronica:

there were times I felt she was bordering on caricature and her unconventionality began to seem like artifice. I got that she was an unusual young woman quite early on and didn’t need to be reminded of it quite so often

And I’d say the same thing here. Almost every character has something to say about Veronica which – even when it’s intended to be insulting – is meant to show how thoroughly Unconventional and Not Proper she is. And if it’s not someone else, then it’s Veronica herself extolling her eccentricity and achievements, which strays dangerously close to Mary Sue territory. The thing is, this is the second book in a series, and while I know that authors who write series also have to try to write each book so that a newbie can jump in, those of us who have read the first book are already well aware of Veronica’s idiosyncrasies and the way she enjoys flouting the conventions of society – so we don’t need to be hit over the head with it quite so frequently.

I also feel that while we get to know a little more about Stoker’s past – we meet all his brothers (there are three of them) in this book – Veronica is pretty much as she was in the first book and her character has developed little. Right at the end of A Perilous Undertaking, she reveals something to Stoker that she is not ready to discuss, so there is potential for growth in the next story (I hope); but ultimately, I’d have liked a little more character development and introspection instead the continual reminders as to how wonderful and unusual Veronica is.

But the things I liked definitely outweighed the things I didn’t, and this is still a book I’d recommend to fans of the author and historical mysteries in general. It’s very well written, the dialogue and snarky banter between Veronica and Stoker in particular is excellent and the mystery element is nicely plotted and executed. While it didn’t work quite as well for me as the previous book, it’s an enjoyable read and I’m already eagerly anticipating the next in the series.
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,253 reviews393 followers
September 8, 2016
4.5 stars

So as many of you might have noticed, I have been on a Deanna Raybourn book binge read!

I first discovered Raybourn’s books a few years ago when I read Night of a Thousand Stars, which I thought was pretty good as a stand alone book.

It wasn’t until last year that I rediscovered Raybourn and picked up the first Veronica Speedwell book and absolutely fell in love with the series.

Needless to say, I’ve been waiting a long time for this book to come out…..I literally couldn’t wait until January for it to come out, fortunately for me I got my hands on an ARC of the next book!

One thing that distinguished Raybourn’s stories from many others are the eccentricities of the characters. In this series I love that Veronica isn’t the quintessential ‘lady detective’. She’s a lepidopterist (someone who studies butterflies) and Stoker is a naturalist/taxidermist…..so they aren’t the typical amateur detective and lady sidekick duo that solve crimes.

They basically just rely on their scientific minds and form hypothesis like the scientists that they are. I love how unique that is. While they are not the typical detectives, they are still able to solve the mysteries using methods they use in science…..it’s just not the typical approach and I love that Raybourn strays from tradition and explores different approaches to mysteries.

The other thing that I love about her books is she does a brilliant job creating sexual tension between her characters but spreads it out over the books rather than wrapping it up neatly in one. In this book, Veronica and Stoker continue to figure their attraction to one another. It’s evident that Veronica feels and attraction to Stoker and he reciprocates her feelings but there are ghosts between them that must be resolved before their relationship can grow into something more. I love how there are still loose ends to resolve in future books. The tension and attraction between the two is palpable and intense….I simply love them together and hope the sexual and romantic tension continues to build in future books. I can’t wait to see how their relationship evolves.

My only complaint with this book was it took a little bit to get into the actual mystery. The mystery didn’t really start until quite a few chapters in so I kind of felt like the beginning was slow for me however once the mystery started there were a ton of little tidbits to keep me engaged and interested.

I felt like there was a lot of plot building that wasn’t necessary, not only that but there wasn’t a lot of recap from the previous book. I personally had forgotten some details from the first book and I think I would have appreciated this book more had there been some cues to remind me of the previous story. Besides those two things, the book was absolutely wonderful. Veronica is a heroine that has completely grown on me and I absolutely love her sass and brashness. She is a heroine for the ages and if you love your lady detectives ‘sassy’ and unique then I highly recommend picking up this series. There are tons of things to love about this one!

See my full review here
Profile Image for Carole (Carole's Random Life).
1,799 reviews487 followers
December 27, 2016
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life.

I enjoyed this book but I didn't think it quite lived up to the first book in the series. I had a really hard time getting into the book at first but once the story got moving, I found myself really enjoying it. I think that the characters in this series are amazing and this book lets us get to know them just a little better than before. Overall, this was a very enjoyable read.

Veronica Speedwell is such a fun character. She is extremely intelligent and not afraid to live by her own rules instead of bending to society's dictates. She is called upon by a member of royalty to look into the murder of an artist. The man that has been accused is scheduled to hang very soon even though some believe he is innocent. Veronica enlists the help of her friend, Stoker, to help her discover the truth about the death.

I really enjoyed the fact that Veronica and Stoker are not the average pair of detectives. Veronica is an expert on butterflies and Stoker is a remarkable taxidermist. They are both intelligent and inquisitve and well suited to solving the puzzle of the murder. They have wonderful chemistry together and truly make a great pair. This isn't a romance although they both seem to have feelings for the other that they seem to be supressing.

This was a smart book with a really complicated puzzle to be solved. It is nice how the reader gets to be with Veronica and Stoker at every step during the process to solve the murder. I loved the way that there were quite a few funny moments to keep the book nicely balanced. Veronica and Stoker both have complicated backgrounds which added some depth to their characters and gave me something to think about and helped explain some of their motivations.

I would recommend this book to others. It is the second book in the Veronica Speedwell series but I do think it would work as a stand alone. I look forward to future books featuring Veronica and Stoker!

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via First to Read.
Profile Image for fleurette.
1,407 reviews124 followers
June 9, 2022
In last years, it is rare for me to read another book in a series right after finishing the previous one. But that's what happened with this book. I liked these characters so much in the previous book that I wanted to stay longer with them.

Veronica and Stoker are working together again on a very serious case in which an innocent man may be hanged. And even faster than last time, the stakes become very high, and the lives of the pair of main characters are at risk. The book is fast-paced, which I really appreciate.

Veronica and Stoker are the same pair of great characters we met in the previous book. And the dialogues between them are still hilarious. We also meet some members of the Stoker family as well as some other interesting characters. Stoker also tells a little more about himself.

What I regret the most is that the romance between the two main characters in this book hasn't made much progress. I was hoping that something would start between them after all. But sadly, in this book their potential romance unfolds even slower than in the previous one. I'm afraid that may be the case in next books as well. And it works a bit as a lackluster for me.

I will definitely continue this series, but I think I'll take a little break before the next book this time.
Profile Image for Mary-ellen.
337 reviews28 followers
July 28, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the Veronica Speedwell series!

This instalment has Veronica and Stoker trying to solve the mystery of who murdered Artemisia. Miles Ramsforth is set to hang for the murder when Veronica and Stoker are called in to ascertain whether Miles is really the guilty party. What could be more fun than Veronica and Stoker on an adventure through a sex grotto, opium den, funeral house and an art house? We get a little more of Stoker’s story, more of the would-be romance and a lot of laughs.

Deanna Raybourn is a skilled writer. Her mastery of character and voice is outstanding. She can turn an ordinary sentence into something delicious with a single well-chosen adjective. And she does it again and again. I lost count of the number of times I laughed while reading this.

I’m looking forward to the next one!
Profile Image for Robin.
965 reviews224 followers
March 3, 2020
I absolutely adored this sequel! I'm so mad at myself for waiting a full year after finishing book 1 to continue on. This book picks up right where book 1 left off and I loved being back with these characters. This book is so strong in both it's mystery aspects as well as it's amazing characters. One of my favorite things about this series is how connected I am to each and every character in here. I obviously love Veronica and Stoker (otp status for sure) but the side characters are also impeccably developed. There were so many amazing side characters in here that I really hope we get more of (Aunt Wellie I'm looking at you). Because they characters are so engaging, I never spend a single moment theorizing about the mystery. Instead I'm just taken on the journey and I love that. I cannot get enough of this series and am in the process of binging the rest so I can read the latest book when it releases shortly!! Highly, highly recommend this series is you love classic whodunits, sassy characters, all the romantic tension, and Victorian England. This series is a damn gem.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,684 reviews569 followers
February 1, 2020
Deanna Raybourn is one of my favourite authors and her "Lady Julia" series is a favourite of mine as well. I was thrilled to read A Curious Beginning, the 1st book in another of her series, set in Victorian England, introducing fearless adventuress Veronica Speedwell.
Veronica is fiercely independent, sassy, outspoken and highly intelligent. Her brazen defiance sets her apart. Then there is Stoker, the male protagonist, who is a dark brooding soul, full of mystery and good looks. Together they make a extraordinary team. Witty back and forth banter, feisty discussions and a battle of wits lead to a blooming connection that I can hardly wait to see progress.
In A Perilous Undertaking Veronica is implored to take on an impossible task. A society art patron is accused of the vicious murder of his mistress and will face the hangman's noose in a week if the real murderer is not found. Together with Stoker they race against time to find the true killer. The investigation proves to be a perilous undertaking and quite an adventure.
Excitingly unpredictable and interspersed with wit this 2nd novel in the series has left me craving for more.
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