Sunday, August 1, 2021

Review: An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn

by Deanna Raybourn
Release Date: March 2, 2021
2021 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593197264
Audiobook: B08B45X5KW
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
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.
My Thoughts
An Unexpected Peril is the next entry in the Veronica Speedwell series, and while I definitely thought it was an improvement from the previous instalment, there were still some problems with the overall story as well as with the character development. This is a series that I really, really loved when it was first published, but this book, and the one preceding it, have been a bit disappointing both in terms of character development, especially with relation to Veronica, as well as plot.  
Can I just say that Stoker is still my favourite character in this series?  He is eccentric and quirky, but so fascinating as a character; I just look forward to what he is up to every time I open up a new book and have to laugh at his antics.  This is the first time though, where I questioned his relationship with Veronica as I just did not like her in this book.  Yes, they worked through their disagreements like adults, but  her inner monologue was all about having to give up her independence and about being shackled to someone else which came across as selfish and petulant and turned me right off .  Oh, I understand that she was scared as she was on the verge of entering a committed relationship, and as someone who values their carefree life this would be frightening, but unfortunately, it didn't come across very well and she was so annoying that I was at the point I was hoping they would break up. She doesn't deserve him, not by her actions in this book.
The plot was better than the previous instalment, but that edge-of-your-seat excitement of the first four books was definitely lacking.  I did have hope in the beginning that it would return to the usual deduction-type mystery of the earlier books, but lost that hope quite early on.  I sort of feel like the author is struggling between the mystery and the relationship between Veronica and Stoker and doesn't know quite where to put the importance, and it is showing as both areas were weak.  There were sections that I did enjoy, like the personal struggles of the princess and the descriptions of the climbers. The overall plot of the novel wasn't horrible; it's just that the author sets things up, but doesn't go anywhere with it so it gets boring, fast. 
An Unexpected Peril is one of those books long-time readers will want to read, but also may be disappointed as it lacks both plot and character development.  I wasn't a fan of Veronica and how she was portrayed in this book; if it was meant to show the struggles of a woman trying to keep her independence while entering a committed relationship during this time period, it didn't work as she lost my empathy quite early on with her behaviour.  Because this book focused a lot on women's rights, I also think the author lost an opportunity to highlight this because the focus seemed to get lost; I felt like the author changed direction about the plot partway through the book and didn't know how to get back on track by the end, or what track she really wanted to go, which was unfortunate.  That being said, I will read the next book in this series as I won't be able to refuse the foreshadowing the author dangled in this book about what could be in store for us in the future.