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…
Deanna Raybourn continues her series of late-Victorian historical mysteries featuring the intrepid lepidopterist Veronica Speedwell and her piratically handsome, enigmatic associate, Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (Stoker) in A Treacherous Curse. The big draw of this third instalment was the prospect of at last getting to know more about Stoker’s chequered – and sometimes heartbreaking – past and what exactly happened to turn him into a social pariah with the blackest of reputations. We’re also treated to a mystery concerning a missing Egyptian artefact and an ancient curse – and the two storylines are inextricably linked by virtue of the fact that one of the parties involved is none other than Stoker’s ex-wife, Caroline.
A Treacherous Curse can easily be read as a standalone, but readers will gain a far greater understanding of the still-evolving, complex relationship between Veronica and Stoker by reading the novels in order. I’ll also say now that there are likely to be spoilers in this review for the earlier books, so proceed with caution if you have yet to read them.
If you have read the previous books, then you’ll know that Veronica and Stoker have been employed by the Earl of Rosemorran to catalogue his family’s vast collection of art, artefacts, natural history specimens and mementoes with a view to eventually curating a museum, and that they both work and live on site at the Belvedere, a ‘singularly extraordinary structure’ in the grounds of Rosemorran’s Marylebone estate. Although they have separate apartments, their living arrangements are regarded as being somewhat unorthodox, but then they’re unorthodox individuals, both fiercely independent free-thinkers, estranged from their families and not really caring about the strictures of society. These commonalities are just two of the things that bind this unusual pair; from almost the beginning of their association, each recognised in the other a kindred spirit, and Ms. Raybourn has done a splendid job of developing their friendship and strengthening their unique bond, a bond that relies on an almost soul-deep connection and a love for each other that goes far beyond the romantic and sexual attraction that continues to crackle between them.
“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.”
(Stoker in A Perilous Undertaking)
Veronica and Stoker are surprised when they are approached by Sir Hugo Montgomerie of Special Branch and asked to look into the disappearance of John de Morgan, the man who had once been Stoker’s closest friend. De Morgan was engaged as photographer for Sir Leicester Tiverton ‘s most recent expedition to Egypt, but departed unexpectedly and was accompanied back to England by his wife – whose very public divorce from Stoker some years earlier saw Stoker disgraced and vilified.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.